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Gnome is great but can be an overkill and slow things down.
I'm thinking of not loading gnome (commenting gnome-session in .xsession) and using a lighter WM (window manager) instead of metacity.
Any suggestions on such a WM?. Requirements:
* easily configurable (defining hot-keys, pop-up menus) by text files (no code recompilations)
* compatible with wmctrl
* small memory and CPU footprint
* fast, stable
* no/minimal eye-candy.
Well, I'm going to chime in with Icewm, and Fluxbox is also a good choice, as noted above.
You could install a few of the light-weight WMs mentioned above and give them a test-drive and see what you like.
I have KDE4, Icewm, and Fluxbox environments on my computer. I use Fluxbox or Icewm when I want to actually get things done, without the distractions of KDE4. I can't decide whether to keep Icewm or Fluxbox installed, so I've kept them both for the past 5 years.
It does both stacking and tiling window management and is configured in lua.
Most people aren't interested in learning lua (even thought it is a very simple language), and most people seem to prefer to manually manage windows with their mouse rather that have their window manager do it for them.
LXDE was already mentioned, but I'll mention it again, as it's my current favorite desktop environment. If you really just want a window manager, openbox is used by LXDE, but not dependent on it in any way. Another wm you might want to consider is jwm (the default wm for Puppy Linux). Then there's always e17.
Configurable menu, configurable hotkeys, fast, small, and versatile.
It has been my window manager of choice for at least three years.
You do not have to remove and replace Gnome or KDE or any other desktop environment or window manager. Heck, my Slackware box has about seven or eight environments. If I need to, I can switch into KDE or XFCE, but Fluxbox is my default on all my computers.
I only use Fluxbox without any other desktop environments or windows manager and it works great. It even looks pretty good in it's simplicity. I never understood those desktop filled with graphics, icons and taskbars like you have to maneuver a space rocket and not an usual computer.