[SATLUG] Window Managers vs. Desktop Environments

Robert Pearson e2eiod at gmail.com
Sat Aug 21 15:36:27 CDT 2010

On Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 10:18 AM, Michael <mmorse757 at gmail.com> wrote:
> After becoming disgusted with KDE, I installed the Gnome desktop.  During the Gnome setup, it asked me if I wanted KDM or GDM as the default window manager and I picked GDM.  After playing with/using Gnome for a while, I decided I didn't like it any better than KDE.  Next - Xfce.  So far, it is a dream.  Basic, simple and fast.  I think I'll be using Xfce for a while.
> I noticed that I can still login with a KDE session while using the GDM window manager.  When I installed Xfce, it didn't ask me to switch window managers like when I installed Gnome.  My question is:  does each desktop environment (Gnome, KDE, Xfce) have its own window manager?
> Right now, I am running the Xfce desktop with (I assume) the GDM window manager.  Another question:  Does it matter what window manager you use?  I guess I am confusing window managers with desktop environments.   They /are/ separate components - correct?
> Michael
> --

This reply came from a thread titled "Choosing a Display Manager" and
dated "Sun, Apr 11, 2010 at 12:34 PM" which should be available in the
SATLUG mail archive. Several people on the list run multiple Window
Managers and Display Managers (formerly GUI). They pick the one they
want to start after boot up. Just search the mail archive for
"startx". I once used that process. It would be very easy with the
power, memory and disk size of today's machines. I got more interested
in Operating Systems than Window or Display Managers. Just a personal

On Sun, Apr 11, 2010 at 12:34 PM, Frank Huddleston <fhuddles at gmail.com> wrote:
> Greetings,
>   I'm trying to decide which display manager to run under the FluxBox window
> manager. I guess the generic one is xdm, but Gnome uses gdm, KDE uses kdm,
> and then I think there are a few others around. I've always used xdm just
> because it was the default, but a while ago I installed Ubuntu Studio and
> that runs with Gnome by default, and gdm.
>  I ran FluxBox over gdm for a while, then replaced it with xdm, just because
> it seemed to be less aligned with any particular windowing system. I run
> apps from everywhere: Gnome, KDE, X, whatever.
>  I understand that usually, the choice of the display manager is determined
> by the window or desktop manager, but in this case it isn't. So I'm asking:
> for the users who don't run either Gnome or KDE: how did you decide on the
> display manager? What are the factors which are considerations in picking
> one or the other?
> Thanks,
> Frank Huddleston
> --

This link may have some info you would find interesting---
"Window Managers for X"
This page breaks things down into "Window Managers", "Desktops" and "Other"

Bruce's use of startx is an excellent idea.
The most interesting idea posted about "which" Window Manager to use
was from Tweeks (Tom Weeks). In an email thread about which is best,
"KDE or Gnome". Tweeks said he uses both of them for different
reasons. "startx" allows you to do this.

My personal favorites of all time are at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
I was a big fan of CDE (Common Desktop Environment) which died with
the reputation of "bloatware". I found it much more configurable than
its predecessors (Motif, TWM, Open Look-->OpenWindows, etc.). These
were actually referred as a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Today it
is Window Managers and Desktops. Because they do more.
I loved the ease and power of FVWM configuration. The only reason I do
not use it and stopped using it was not knowing if there would be any
support in the future. No bloatware in FVWM and if there is you can
take it out in the configuration. Try doing that with KDE or Gnome.
Those libraries are so intertwined that not even an expert can cleanly
remove packages easily. Should not be that way.

I have not tried Howards excellent suggestion of XFce because I wanted
to stay in the main stream of consumerism for a while (KDE, Gnome).
Many former FVWM fans have migrated to XFce and like it. Some even
more than FVWM.

With regard to the state of KDE and Gnome, I prefer pre-4.? KDE. One
of the reasons I use PCLinuxOS is the KDE 3.5 Desktop.. I have tried
KDE 4.? and failed. I will try the KDE 4.? that will come with
PCLinuxOS 2010. Maybe Texstar will make it very KDE 3.5 like but I
doubt it. PCLinuxOS and Texstar are under fire from the people who
want "cutting edge" KDE.

All my desktops dual boot PCLinuxOS 2009 and either Ubuntu 9.4
(Jaunty) or Linux Mint Gloria (Jaunty equivalent) so I use KDE and
Gnome daily.
I still prefer KDE if I can keep the bloatware down.

I might go back to "startx" and load all of them that look interesting
but it is like editors. At one time I was an expert on 18+ different
editors. Now I try to use "vim" wherever and Kwrite on KDE and Kedit
on Gnome. I tried the "vim" everywhere approach and got bored. It just
worked everywhere. Neither Kwrite (KDE) or Kedit (Gnome) operate well
and do as many things without effort. The challenges keep my brain

[Down History Lane --> Future Look]
In the "old" days it was "Have GUI, will travel". Today it is "Have
Droid or Nexus One, Netbook Wireless link to my Cloud Service and
large USB Flash drives pluggable anywhere". The last may soon be
modified from "Netbook Wireless link" to "iPad Wireless link".

I always liked xdm because I learned about GUI's from X Windows. But
the times have changed.
"XDM is the default display manager for the X Window System. It is a
bare-bones X display manager. It was introduced with X11 Release 3 in
October 1988, to support the standalone X terminals that were just
coming onto the market. It was written by Keith Packard.
Because of its lack of user-friendliness, users of GNOME, KDE,
Enlightenment or Window Maker tend to use GDM, KDM, Entrance or wdm
instead of XDM."

If I were doing what you are doing I would go with the "X Display
Manager" for the Desktop I was using. The alternative is just more
work for very little benefit. It is fairly easy to write your own
(DIY) "?xdm" (call it FHdm or fxdm) but maintaining it is the problem.
No one has ever shown the slightest interest in writing a robust,
universal "xdm" or Xserver. There is no money in it. It will give you
great personal satisfaction for a while.

More information about the SATLUG mailing list