Mon, 11 Dec 2006
The Linux weekend was interesting even for me, altough the intended audience was people who are not familiar with Linux (I think this was an organizational mistake). One of the most interesting presentations was about the window manager named Beryl. At first I thought it was an interesting but useless eye-candy, but after discovering that there are Beryl packages in Fedora Extras, I have decided to give Beryl a try.
I have installed it on my laptop, which has a GPU supported by X.org even with 3D acceleration. It took me a nontrivial amount of time to configure it to do exactly what I want, but I was pretty surprised that things I want from a window manager are either doable with Beryl, or even are the Beryl's default behaviour. For example, I want to have a "maximize" button in the window decoration, which when pressed by the left mouse button maximizes the window, the middle button does a vertical maximize, and the right button does a horizontal maximize - this is exactly what Beryl does by default.
Beryl surely needs a further development: with the virtual desktop plane (as opposed to the desktop cube) there is no keyboard shortcut for "switch to the virtual desktop on the left and bring the currently focused window with me". Or the communication with the GNOME desktop switcher (the panel applet) is weak both with desktop cube and desktop plane.
I find it hard to think about the virtual desktops as "the desktop #1", "the desktop #2", etc. I have a 3x3 plane instead, and I think about the desktops as "the upper left desktop", or "the desktop on the left from the current one". So the desktop cube is not very usable for me, as I need many desktops (in fact I use virtual desktops instead of minimizing windows). On my primary workstation, I have 3x3 virtual desktops on each of my two monitors. However, on my home computer or on my laptop, where I don't work permanently, the desktop cube with four sides is pretty usable, and I went for Beryl on these two computers. On my primary workstation, Sawfish remains as the WM of choice.
So if you don't need many virtual desktops and have a supported GPU, give Beryl a try. I find it to be more than an eye-candy. Animated menus, for example, can simplify navigating on the desktop - it is immediately clear (by animation) where the !@$# pop-up menu came from.