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From the Desktop: Amiga, We Hardly Knew Ye - page 2

Looking at AmiWM

  • October 4, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

Since the last release of AmiWM was in 1998, this window manager is currently based on Amiga OS 3.2. At first glance, there is not a lot to see in the AmiWM desktop, just a menu bar at the top of the screen.

The Workbench premise is a pretty simplistic one: you get a menu to launch your stuff and a desktop to hold your stuff. That's it. No taskbars, no desktop menus, just something small and fast to run your X apps when you want them.

And this is by no means a full emulation; in fact, some of the menu commands in the Workbench menu set are there for purely cosmetic reasons, forever frozen out. This drove me slightly nuts at first, since I thought something was wrong.

The most operative menu item is the Tools menu, which you can add application launch commands. I liked this feature, since I could add just the apps I wanted. To configure this menu, and any other aspect of the desktop, all you do is open the file /$HOME/.amiwmrc in a text editor and edit the settings found there.

I found this configuration very simple, once I figured out the syntax. The man amiwn command was helpful, as were the sample amiwmrc files I found on the Internet. This last method was the best one to follow, since I could easily borrow someone else's configuration techniques and incorporate them into my own file.

This is not a flashy window manager, and nor will it ever be. This is a GUI that should suit users who don't want to contend with endless menus and a multitude of configuration settings. Because of its lack of size, AmiWM is extremely fast and barely touches system resources to operate. Console users who begrudgingly need to use the GUI every once in a while will appreciate the simplistic features and the speed, since these users prefer to get in and get out of GUIs in a hurry.

The future of AmiWM is not going to be one of change anytime soon. Although the Classic OS 3.5 has been out for some time, the last update to AmiWM was in 1998. According to the creator of AmiWM, there is no strong need for upgrading at this time.

"I've already added support for the new icon format (although I haven't made a new release yet, so you won't find it in the dists)," Comsteldt wrote in an online interview, "Apart from that, none of the improvements in 3.5 are particularly relevant..."

Busy with other projects, Comsteldt has put future development of AmiWM on hold for the time being.

"Generally, I won't spend much time on updating AmiWM as I have lots of other fun projects to invest my time in, but if I get some really great idea for an improvement, who knows?" he wrote.

Despite this slowdown, AmiWM is still released with current distros and it continues to gain exposure to the Linux community. The Amiga and Linux user communities share a common passion for their respective operating systems. And while neither one will ever convince the other that it uses the one true operating system, it's still nice to see the strengths of the old Amiga platform benefiting Linux today.

In next week's From the Desktop, we'll look to see what is inside the Blackbox window manager. Hopefully it won't be some physicist's dead cat.

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