April 20, 2019

From the Desktop: C Stands for ctwm... and Confrontation - page 2

Ambush at the PTA

  • October 17, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

That is a great motto to have when you explore the world of X window managers, because there are a lot of them out there that just really stretch the bounds of diversity.

ctwm is certainly one of the more divergent window managers out there. An extension of the venberable twm (which, for many years, was the most usable window manager in X and actually predates Linux; it stands for either Tom's window manager or the tab window manager, depending on who you ask), ctwm offers similar root menu and window placement attributes to twm. It goes beyond twm, though, by offering named workspaces to the user--up to 32 virtual screens.

When windows first appear in ctwm, they show up as a "wireframe" that allows putting the window anywhere on the desktop. Iconify these windows by clicking the dot control in the title bar and open them back up again by clicking the icon. All pretty standard stuff.

Resizing windows is a bit tricky, and I had to find some documentation to achieve it. It's done by clicking on cascading windows button in the title bar, dragging the cursor over to the edge getting moved, and releasing the mouse button when the outline of the window is the size you want. Not the most intuitive thing to do, but simple enough once mastered.

This is definitely a window manager that's handy to use when you have a lot of windows up and running. The AutoSqueeze function was particularly handy. It shrinks a window to the title bar or to a horizontal line if the window has no title bar. The windows get squeezed automatically when they lose focus and unsqueezed when they regain focus. This cleared up a lot of clutter on the desktop.

Configuration of AutoSqueeze, and any other attribute on the ctwm desktop, is accomplished by editing the $HOME/.ctwmrc file. The documentation on how to do this was easy to find and not too difficult to use.

Ctwm is the brainchild of Claude Lecommandeur, the "c" in ctwm. Lecommandeur got the idea to expand upon the twm desktop after his experience with a Hewlett-Packard interface.

"Many years ago, I used to work on a HP workstation with Vuewm window manager. This window manager has the notion of workspace, a virtual screen, and you can switch from one workspace to another with a simple click," Lecommandeur explained. "Then I switched to a Sun workstation and I missed this feature a lot. I decided to add it to the twm window manager and ctwm was born."

It is the workspace model that sets ctwm apart from the other window managers, Lecommandeur noted.

"The notion of named workspaces is very useful. You can classify your windows in an elegant manner. This is different from a single large virtual screen a la vtwm or fvwm. Workspaces have a name and you can refer to them by their name," he said.

Right now, the future of ctwm is up in the air, as Lecommandeur appears to be busy with other concerns. There are some goals he has in mind, though.

"Things to add [in the future] are KDE and Gnome support," Lecommandeur said, "but I don't know if I'll find time to do it."

Ctwm falls into that category of simplified window manager that users either love or don't really use a lot. No one actually seems to hate it; it's too compact and utilitarian to earn that degree of dislike. In all, a useful window manager to try if you like your GUIs fast and simple.

In next week's desktop, we come to E in our alphabetical tour of window managers. And E stands for eye candy, which means Enlightenment.

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