Rulers of windows:

Bins are inexhaustible

Alex Fedorchuk continues to extract objects from the bins of history window managers, in support of the theme rooms.

The second half of the 90s — a period of rapid development of window managers: all the existing group of them (with one exception, which I will mention at the end of the article) emerged at this time. Including the most vivid, in my opinion, members of the family.

In the footsteps of legends

Who does not remember the old man Krupsk? Sorry, old man NeXT’a? But … come burn the NEP, and the names of the heroes of the information revolution is gradually forgotten. So just as NeXT’s hardware architecture and NeXTStep OS as it is not often remembered today. But this platform has become a legend during his lifetime … The fate of the hardware component of the platform, I say a few words in the box. Here we will focus on the continuation of business software component — OS NeXTStep. What is the place to be was not in a proprietary OpenStep — the joint brainchild of a company named NeXT, and Solaris: she was destined to become a victim of abortion in early pregnancy. And not even the MacOS X — despite the common origin, descent at the genetic level between them was not so much. And about the continuation of the old man NeXT’a from the world of free software.

Interface OS NeXTStep distinguished, on the one hand, the functionality of the other — the elegance, so since then and surpassed (in my opinion). And because he first served as a role model, giving rise to a whole line of window managers. The first of these was the AfterStep (under development since 1996). It was based on the code FVWM, but the look he was brought into line with those of NeXTStep. It would seem that a procedure similar to the work done previously fvwm95 (see. LXF173) — but the result was not comparable. Although AfterStep not gained much popularity, it is still developing, and around it has developed a small but loyal community.

If AfterStep had at its core code FVWM, the second follower NeXTStep, WindowMaker, was designed «from scratch» by Alfredo Kojima (Alfredo Kojima), since 1997. And the window manager originally designed for cross-platform environment GNUstep — trying to play a free OpenStep, the unborn child of the very union of NeXT and Sun, which commemorates the above.

The medium itself GNUstep landed on the back burner — at times appear only its implementation on the core Linux (which, incidentally, was typical of all ambitious projects, to which the GNU antelope reaches their hooves). A WindowMaker as a window manager for the X’s, because of its undoubted merits (and elegance, with a habit, ease interface, speed, undemanding to resources) quickly gained a well-deserved popularity.

Not the least role in the spread of WindowMaker’a was the fact that it was originally included configuration utility Wprefs, works in graphic mode: the need for manual editing config no longer there. Although the ban on it is also not imposed. In addition, for it was developed and complex utilities, which marked the first step towards an integrated desktop (but further steps in this direction was not followed — WindowMaker and stayed by the window manager).

In this millennium WindowMaker few decayed. Including because when all progressive humanity began to move en masse to UTF8, remained faithful to the eight-bit encoding. However, in the middle of the zero years Release of 0.95.0 with Unicode support — but then many years of WindowMaker’a could not hear anything. According to tradition he was a regular set of graphic media a number of distributions, present in their repositories, official or other, but on the former popularity, however.

It seemed that the condemned to WindowMaker quiet and unnoticed death. Suddenly a miracle happened: in January 2012, a new development team was announced resuscitation of the project and a new release — 0.95.1. And after the next of these faith-window manager started to go regularly — the last to date (0.95.4) is dated January 2013.

Starting this window manager development was supported by the maintainer of some distributions. And in early June of this year I saw the light LiveCD based Debian’a, which acts as a WindowMaker desktop environment.

A period of stagnation in WindowMaker has had an undeniable influence on the two most modernistic modern working environment: cut me to pieces, but the idea of ​​a large volume of buttons on the panel to launch applications along the side wall of the screen in Unity and Gnome Shell has its origin from him. Although the developers of both media do not like to talk about it out loud. And, in order to finally chop off the ends of succession, moved the panel to the right (where she had a place to be in WindowMaker’a default) to left.

Line boxes

At the core of the interface all window managers mentioned in the previous article, I lay some prototype, «native» (as twm) or came from «another world» (Windows, NeXTStep). However, in their family has a completely original line — at least, the prototype for her, I have never seen anywhere. This — the so-called Line * kbox’ov.

The ancestor of the family, Blackbox, was developed by Bradley Hughes [Bradley Hughes] in 1997 as a kind of implicit response to IceWM — even easier in terms of resource consumption, yet minimalistic in its interface, even easier to set up and use, but still not carrying any traces of foreign influence. In other words — the embodiment True Unix GUI superlatives. And I must say that posed himself the task of Bradley performed brilliantly — the simple and rigorous design of its solutions is reduced to two elements: a narrow managing panel, serving for switching desktops and running applications, and working space, from which right-click calls a context menu that allows you to run applications and perform initial configuration Blackbox’a. More fine-tuning is performed by correcting the configuration files.

Blackbox quickly gained popularity, and as a result has become overgrown with additions in the form of numerous desktop and interface elements (such as output means of launching the icons on the desktop). There were also a means of self-tuning — bbconf. However, in the Blackbox, after the first period of «storm and stress», in fact, nothing has changed, and all for the same reason: something radically improve without a change of paradigm it was no longer possible. A paradigm shift has led to the fact that it ceased to be himself.

As a result, in the first half of the zero years the development of this window manager stopped — its latest version (0.70.1) on the official site dates back to November 2005. However, by itself it is not dead: maintainer most popular distributions are holding it in their official repositories at the same time maintaining compatibility with new versions of its libraries (benefit dependency among Blackbox’a not small, but very few).

Blackbox continues to develop in another way — in the form of their descendants. Of them survived to this day two: Fluxbox and OpenBox. Both are generally retained minimalist interface parent, but enriched his next innovations.

For Fluxbox’a (pure clone Blackbox’a), emerged at the turn of the millennia, the most important of them was able to combine the shared applications (for example, a terminal text editor and a browser) in the group «of interest.» And move within them using tabs — tabs already present, rather than those of their prototypes that were twm. By the way, this feature is still unique, not only for window managers, but also for desktops.

Appeared later (in 2002) OpenBox also initially was a clone Blackbox’a, that is, based on his code base. But then he was re-written in pure C (Blackbox, and Fluxbox are written in C ++), than acquired distinctiveness, although it retained minimalist interface forerunners. However, the main component of its identity — a graphical configuration tool ObConf. It provided him a place window manager in a production environment LXDE, whose self-tuning means was (and continues to this day) some napryazhenka. But this — in the following articles.

And Minimalist …

It would seem that minimalistic interface than the Blackbox’a, think hard. But there is no limit to perfection in any direction — no complication, no simplification. What we now illustrate.

There was once a window manager — wm2 (which stands just: Window Manager 2). Designed by Chris Gangnam [Chris Cannam] in 1996, he was distinguished even easy, and I would say, unassumingly. For only provides moving windows, change their size, hiding and closing. No other functions he did not have — or virtual desk is-tops, nor the means to launch applications or icons or configuration tools. And because his appearance was originally predestined. In particular, the rating feature was its vertical orientation of the title bar. Probably, these features (or rather impossible) the author was missing. But Spitzaku Bill [Bill Spitzak] — no, although he was also close to the idea of ​​minimalism and liked the vertical orientation of the title bar. So he added wm2 necessary functions — Advanced management tools windows launcher application from the context menu, the desktop support virtual desktops in unlimited quantities. As a result, turned FLWM (Fast Light Window Manager).

Introduced in FLWM and configuration tool context menu run the program does not require even editing configuration files. It was enough in the directory ~ / .wmx / create subdirectories corresponding menu items of any desired structure (up to ten levels deep). And put them in a symbolic link to the executable file necessary applications. After that, in the context menu there are new items.

Last author’s version FLWM (1.02) dates from 2006-th house. However, inherent in it the idea of ​​minimalism developed and perfected by Robert Shingldeker [Robert Shingledecker], the developer of a minimalist distro Linux — Tiny Core. It is in this form FLWM included in the repository of a number of distributions (for example, openSUSE and Ubuntu).

Rulers tiling

As I said, «a period of storm and stress» in the development of window managers came in the second half of 1990s. And at the turn of the millennium it seemed that all of the ideas in this direction have been exhausted. The ideas have been implemented in a reasonable successful window managers have received spread and reached the stage of the charge-perfection when «good to improve — only to spoil.» A window manager based on the ideas of the foolish or just bad, quietly left the scene, and even the memory of them jammed. In addition, the massive influx of new users from the world of Windows (because the more they simply nowhere to take) caused a decline in interest in window managers in general — an era of integrated graphical environment for migrant-looking «sills» more familiar. And Linux users first call, plenty enough to edit the config file and rc-increasingly moored in a quiet desktop harbor. A window managers are increasingly becoming an instrument enthusiasts.

However, enthusiasts, as you know, because so called, that everything related with enthusiasm. Including interfaces. They got bored again and reconfigure box’bi FLWM ‘bi. And in the first half of the zero years, they have come up with a new paradigm for the windowing — tiling, implementing it in their middle as many of tile (or frame-based) window managers.

At the heart of tile managers is the same idea as that of the console utility screen: split into several independent areas (frames) like floor covering tiles [tiling], each of which runs an application. Actually, the programs of the group concept of «window manager» applies rather arbitrary: they provide control of not only windows, as those same tiles — screen area in which the windows open. What could be static, with rigidly defined dimensions of tiles, and dynamic, in which the size of the tiles change when scaling windows running in their applications.

Distributing large widescreen LCD-monitors made the idea of ​​tiling is very relevant, and tile managers are widespread. A tiling elements were involved and integrated in some environments (Xfce; at least in KDE). However, I am of tile managers almost never used — for my task is more like the principle of «one desktop — one window.» So to describe their history I can not; I hope that someone from the experts and fans of tile managers will fill the gap in my historical review.


Summarizing the history of window managers, cite the great Russian poet AK Tolstoy:

«What’s your ballad?» —

Another asks virgin.

— Oh, my life, to fret,

Really, that is not for the chorus!

So, I wrote two notes on the same topic, in order to dispel one common misconception: that GUI developers ‘X’ just did that borrowed and copied solutions from Windows and OS Macintosh’a (few people now remember that before Mac OS X are called simple — System with the addition of a version number).

The situation was just the opposite: with the exception of the common roots of the GUI, grows out of Xerox PARC, all the other attributes of modern graphics interface, which is now self-evident, for the first time have spread it in window managers for the X Window System. This active use of three mouse buttons, and multiple virtual desktops and virtual screen resolution, and control panel, and shortcut menus, and more. The track record of Windows, you can enter only the dubious honor of the invention of the Start button. And for the greater glory Mac’ovskih systems has always been not to create new paradigms, and skillful and successful implementation of the existing ones.

Like this post? Please share to your friends: