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Chapter 17. An Alternative Window Manager: fvwm2

Among the more appealing characteristics of a Linux system are its flexibility, its independence from industry-dominating standards, and the degree of control a user has over his own working environment. Most flavors of Linux come with a default desktop environment replete with handy tools and menus and a consistent look and feel. The most widely used of these desktop environments are GNOME and KDE, the customization of which are detailed in Chapter 15, "GNOME", and Chapter 16, "KDE", respectively.

Both of these environments put a PC-like wrapper around what is basically a no-frills Unix-based system suitable for personal computers. For some people this is a good thing. But if you don't want a lot of dialog boxes cluttering up the screen, and you're comfortable editing configuration files to customize your environment, you might instead try the fvwm2 window manager.

fvwm2 is the latest generation of a window manager called fvwm, but in neither case has it been entirely clear what fv stands for. Virtual seems a reasonable guess for the v. fvwm predates both GNOME and KDE as a program that can provide multiple virtual screens to expand your desktop real estate. But the meaning of the f in fvwm has led to much speculation. In fact, among the latest group of the program's developers are a number of cat lovers who claim the f stands for feline.

The first important concept you should understand in order to work with fvwm is that your desktop can be larger than the area of your screen. In fact, fvwm2 can let you have acres of desktop real estate in the form of virtual screens, or pages. In a typical default environment, you might have a single desktop composed of four virtual screens/pages arranged in a two-by-two grid.

You can run applications on any of the screen pages you want and navigate the entire desktop in a variety of ways. And if the default environment doesn't suit you, well, you can specify a grid of any size you like. How about three screens across and two down? No problem.

And if that isn't enough space for you, you can also have multiple desktops, each composed of multiple pages! You might use separate desktops for different applications or different projects, whatever you like. fvwm2 provides the tools for you to navigate whatever space you design.

fvwm2 is also customizable in a vast number of other ways, some of the more significant of which this chapter will summarize. What it all boils down to is maximum workspace and maximum flexibility.

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