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We have already mentioned that Window Maker is a window manager There are other window managers out there, such as the infamous FVWM, Enlightenment, AfterStep, and the list goes on. All window managers perform the same basic tasks, which are to create, place, keep track of, and draw borders around the windows on the screen. Beyond this, they can become quite different in their various abilities.

Window Maker firmly adheres to the behavior and functionality of the NEXTSTEP™ user interface. The developers have put forth a great deal of effort in capturing the essense and beauty of the original design, and have incorporated some new ideas of their own. This has always followed the philosophy of keeping to those features which fit well into the overall design, while limiting the amount of “feature creep” that tends to bloat other window managers. A summary of the main Window Maker features are presented below.

Core (usability)

  • Almost complete ICCM compliance
  • National language I18N support (over 11 locales)
  • Built-in icon dithering with support for 4bpp and 8bpp displays
  • Popup menus that support keyboard traversal, which can be “pinned” to the root window
  • Support for GNUstep, GNOME, and KDE window hints to better integrate with those desktop environments
  • Support for Motif™ and OPEN LOOK™ window hints to better interface with applications based on those toolkits
  • Built-in GUI configuration utility that eliminates the need to hand edit config files
  • Application Dock (similar to NEXTSTEP/MacOS X Dock) that can be configured using drag and drop
  • Workspace Dock (aka Clip/Fiend) which is a workspace specific Dock extender
  • Support for rudimentary session management
  • Rudimentary support for the X RandR extension
  • Support for dockapps (equivalent of applets or epplets)
  • Ability to change all preferences and menus on-the-fly without having to restart the window manager
  • Support for multiple workspaces (aka “virtual desktops”)

Extras (eye candy)

  • Built-in themes support
  • Over 13 types of window decorations, including custom defined
  • Support for XPM, PNG, JPEG, TIFF, GIF and PPM icons (no conversions with external programs) with an alpha-channel
  • Support for setting the root window background (via the wmsetbg utility)
  • Optional superfluous animations, such as window shading, customizeable icon miniturization effects, slide/scrolling menus, and much more

Despite all of these features, Window Maker is not resource intensive and remains stable across many UNIX varients. It is extremely flexible, and many options can be included or excluded at compile time. This means that you can easily tailor Window Maker to meet your needs; whether you are a minimalist wanting to save resources, or an extremist that likes to theme everything in sight. A screenshot of a typical Window Maker workspace is here.