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From the Desktop: I Stands For Ice, Ice, Baby and Introspection - page 2

Welcome to the Future

  • November 21, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

A lot of people new to Linux often point to KDE and GNOME as the desktop environments for Linux. This is absurd, of course, but the lack of robust features found in some window managers tends to reinforce this myth.

This is certainly not the case with IceWM, one of the most tightly run and robust window managers for X today.

We all have our personal preferences, of course, and I'm sure many of you will brand me some sort of heretic for stating this, but truth be told, I like this one a lot.

IceWM, a GNOME-compliant window manager, runs very well on its own, without the overlying GNOME layer. It is the default window manager linked with GNOME in the Debian distribution, so it's got a pretty big following already.

Some particular strengths of this interface are the taskbar and an easily configurable collection of setting files in ~/.icewm. Using some clearly written documentation available on the IceWm site, I was able to quickly get things set up the way I wanted them.

I realize that this is a comment I often make with other window managers, but you would be surprised at how many times I've had to whip out the secret decoder ring to figure out some of these configuration files.

The interface, at first glance, looks alarmingly like Windows, but once past that initial hurdle, it really is pretty functional. What was especially pleasing was the nice array of alternate themes contained in the default menu structure. These themes were inventive without being too distracting, like some of the more metallic GNOME themes can get sometimes.

Another nice feature of IceWM is the fact that it's pretty fast for all of the graphics it churns out. Granted, GNOME and KDE are no slouches in the speed department (though KDE2 troubles me) but IceWM ran a large number of applications without breaking a sweat.

IceWM is the creation of Slovenian Marko Macek, who, legend has it, created IceWM from nothing using C++. This makes it one of the few window managers out there that does not have a lineage of some kind. (Macek did not respond to a request for an interview before this article was posted, though if he does later, I will certainly give you his feedback.)

Looking at their Web site, though, one can easily determine that IceWM is a window manager that is very alive in development. Just last week (Nov. 15), the development team announced the release of Icedock, a Wharf-like application bar for IceWM. I tried it out myself, grabbing the statically linked binary files available on the site, and was pleased with its performance. The neat thing about this tool was it that fact that it supports Windowmaker and AfterStep docked applications, a statement I confirmed in my review runs.

IceWM falls into that category of interface that users tired of the heavy desktop environments should use when they don't want to go totally minimalist with something like FVWM. Use it when you feel like slimming down your interface and you won't be disappointed.


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