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Old 10-11-2014, 07:35 PM   #1
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Someone explain Window Managers to me please

I've been doing some reading but Im getting more and more confused, I'd just like to be certain.

So I know you have 2 base GUI's as such, KDE and Gnome.

I also know there are many others, like Fluxbox, XFCE,LXDE, etc etc.

My question is this:

Are KDE, Gnome, Fluxbox, XFCE, etc all equals OR are the others all based on KDE or Gnome?

I.E can you have JUST fluxbox installed and be fully operational. Or do you need KDE/Gnome underneath and the others run on top/along side it?

I hope that makes sense? I'm not asking which is best, or which has what functionality etc. This is an architectural question really.
Old 10-11-2014, 08:41 PM   #2
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Window managers are x clients, so the server (or in this case the Xserver, the daemon service) is present but that is interpreted by the window manager that includes gui enviornment (desktop) software. Gnome and KDE managers CAN run each other on the desktop but only one can be run with the Xserver. However, you can have both KDE and Gnome installed and boot either at run time (the start)but the gui is either governed by KDE or Gnome once you have started it.
If you want to run GNU/linux on a slow system there are many recomendations out there.

Old 10-11-2014, 08:57 PM   #3
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I.E can you have JUST fluxbox installed and be fully operational
Sure can. That was when I ran a wbar & conky in fluxbox Window manager. Just Fluxbox only.


Think of it as a pile

On the top you have the desktop environments, Xfce, KDE, Gnome, Mate, Cinnamon etc. These provide a cohesive environment with configuration tools and in some cases a selection of specially created applications
Under them you have the Window managers. These draw windows. Desktop environments have their own window managers:

Xfce has Xfwm4
KDE has Kwin

There are also stand alone window managers such as


These can be used on their own or to handle the window drawing for a desktop environment. They are typically very lightweight and specialized. You do not have to stick with a desktop environment's default window manager. In the past I have run Xfce with Kwin which gave me all the funky effects but installed a huge amount of KDE and meant that many things had to be configured twice. I like to make things easy on myself.

Under that, you will have the display managers such as lightdm, kdm and gdm. These will give you your graphical login, start up your chosen environment and set up your session.

Under that you have xorg which handles all the low level stuff such as talking to the kernel and so on. There are some interesting things happening down here. A new display server called wayland is gaining traction. It's faster and lighter than the venerable xorg but lacks some of it's tricks such as running a program on computer a and showing the window on computer b. Canonical (Ubuntu) are also writing their own called Mir because... well I don't really know why but any guess I may make would sound paranoid and bitter

From Elija . A online bro of mine from Ireland.

Last edited by rokytnji; 10-11-2014 at 08:59 PM.
Old 10-11-2014, 09:02 PM   #4
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For the most part all of the common window managers are separate. They have no or little in common. A few of the third tier WM's may have parts in common or base in common but KDE and Gnome have little in common.

Just as you can have none installed you can also have only one. There is a slight problem however. Some gui based apps may require that you install parts of some other window manager to get it to run. Not the entire set but some subset. If you have KDE and want a gnome app to run you'd need some support.

To make stuff more complex one might code an app in QT. Then you may need support from QT in some cases. QT is not a windows manager just a way to make a gui based app.

Are they equal, no.

While X and variations of X exist and are used, the way they work is similar in some respects and much different in others. A few versions of basic windows like x still exist. MetroX, CDE and a few others are still out there.

Last edited by jefro; 10-11-2014 at 09:04 PM.
Old 10-11-2014, 10:30 PM   #5
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The short version is that Window Managers are designed primarily to start and stop programs. Desktop Environments provide widgets and gadgets (the terminology can vary) that do other stuff in addition to the primary function of starting and stopping programs. Window Managers tend to use much less memory and are more responsive than Desktop Environments.

Configuring Desktop Environments is done mainly through editing text configuration files in a text editor; Desktop Environments normally provide GUI applications for configuration.

Fluxbox is based on Blackbox, so Blackbox and Fluxbox share some similarities.

I am a big fan of Fluxbox. It is highly configurable, has a minimal system tray, and can be made quite beautiful to look at, though, out of the box, it defines plain. You can see some of my Fluxbox configurations, as well as a few other GUIs, here (don't be deterred by the name of the website).

Last edited by frankbell; 10-11-2014 at 10:32 PM.
Old 10-12-2014, 12:01 PM   #6
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I can't better rokytnji's account, but you might like to look at these pages

A very simple stand-alone window manager can be perfectly serviceable. The first GUI I ever had was Icewm, now used by AntiX, which I still like. But sometimes you need something fancy that just isn't available without a desktop, like the panel indicator that shows which of my 3 keyboard drivers is currently in use.
Old 10-12-2014, 07:22 PM   #7
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Thanks guys!!

Makes much more sense!


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