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gargamel 08-18-2012 05:38 PM

Window managers in Slackware14 RC 2 and locale settings
Hi there,

I'd like to share a couple of thoughts regarding changes with 'smaller' window managers in Slackware 14 RC2 with you.

For the first time ever, Fluxbox, FVWM and Window Maker come with auto-generated applications menus. Which is great! While for experienced users, who don't like these default settings, it is no big deal to wipe the settings and replace them with their own, it is much harder for a novice user (or lazy guys like me) to start configuring a window manager from scratch.

Interestingly, none of the applications menus are quite complete, though, and the gaps are at different places. Also, there are differences in support for localisation.

  • The categories in the applications menu are not translated, despite a German locale setting I get "Office" instead of "Büro".
  • Instead of LibreOffice, there is and/or StarOffice. The menu entries are apparently based on a fixed list of application names, which currently has no clue of LibO, yet.
  • Kaffeine is lacking the "Multimedi" category. So not all installed applications are picked by the routine that creates the "KDE menu" for Fluxbox.

The applications menu is also not quite complete, but all relevant stuff is included.
However, the menu occasionally struggles with special characters and UTF-8 encoding. Instead of the ü in "Büro" there is some unreadable character. Not always, abut sometimes. This is especially remarkable, as FVWM is the only one that has UXterm, the Unicode enabled version of xterm, in the applications menu.

Window Maker
What can I say? I am simply impressed. I had some sympathy for it, in the past, but something was lacking, all the time, preventing me from using Window Maker on a regular basis. But now, for the first time ever, and on any distro, Window Maker is a real winner!
At last, there's a preset, dynamically generated applications menu, and the GUI tool for setting up Window Maker works without major flaws or functionality gaps. Also, the version now included with Slackware 14 RC2 comes with a few quite appealing themes and styles.
  • Translations appear to be quite complete, so in the applications menu I see "Büro" for "Office".
  • The applications menu includes 3rd party software, such as Kaffeine.
  • However, although the menu is more complete than the one generated for Fluxbox, there are still a few gaps. For instance, I miss Kmix in the "Audio" category.

Please take my criticism as what it is: Just minor complaints, nothing too serious. However, I wonder, what the differences in the menus are caused by. My expectation (and obviously wrong understanding) was, that application menus are generated based on open standards (FreeDesktop etc.). If that was the case, and all WMs would stick to the standards, they should come up with exactly the same menu structures, and with the same application categories. But it turns out, that my expectations were obviously too high, here.

After all, the upgrades for the smaller window managers turn out to be a big leap forward in user-friendliness! This is particularly true for Window Maker, which has now replaced Fluxbox as a smaller alternative to Xfce, here. Of course, I hope for packages or SlackBuild scripts for all the nice little dockable apps available for Window Maker, now! :) (And yes, I know that these can be used with the Fluxbox Slit, too, which makes them even more valuable).

Having said all that, now, why do I still stick with KDE as my preferred daily work environment?
There are several reasons, but a striking argument is, that support for internationalisation and localisation is superior to everything else I know of. To my knowledge, KDE is the only environment where it is possible, that
  • users can configure the desktop for their respective language individually
  • with a GUI tool
  • independent of the system locale and language settings

This allows me to have all my favourite desktop applications in my own language, while I have English language in the CLI when I am root, and get the original command line error messages. This is a big advantage, as I can search virtually any *nix repository, forum, mailing list etc., when I have a problem. With a German language setting, the chance to find a helpful post would be much smaller. On the other hand, normal users, not necessarily very computer-literate (and me, too, I have to say), are usually happy, when a word processor supports dictionaries, hyphenation, date/time and currency formats, and comes with a GUI for their native language.

Of course, it is not too hard to write a ~/.profile, that sets the locale, for an experienced user. But for non-experts, the options would be to
either do nothing special and just use the system locale
or have someone support them

I wonder, why noone has written a small GUI tool that allows a user to pick their language from a drop-down list (or similar) and creates a ~/.profile from that. Before you return that argument to me: I have no clue of GUI programming, unfortunately, but I believe that such a program isn't overly difficult to write for someone who can do the settings dialogs for Window Maker or Xfce. If someone would pick up the idea, I'd appreciate the result. ;)

So much for now. I hope this all wasn't just a waste of time and space, so I'm looking forward to your feedback and remarks.

Best regards


P.S.: Thanks a lot to Pat, the crew and all the people who helped with these upgrades (I think GazL was credited several times in the Changelog)!

EDIT: Corrected spelling from Windowmaker to Window Maker, following advice in the Wikipedia article on Window Maker:

MadMaverick9 08-18-2012 09:30 PM

Go to "" in Firefox and you will see squares in the window title where the japanese characters are. Unless you select a Unicode font like "Arial Unicode MS" for the window title, Windowmaker as well as Fvwm will show squares in the window title for characters that are not in the font selected.

Even when I select "Sans Serif" as the font for the window title, which is an alias that includes japanese, chinese, etc. fonts, the window title will show squares for any non iso-8859-1 characters. Because it seems to use only the first font in the alias.

On the other hand, Xfce works correctly.

Does anybody have an idea how to solve this problem in Windowmaker/Fvwm without modifying the source code?

I have the following set in "/etc/profile.d/":

export LANG=en_DK.UTF-8
export LC_CTYPE=en_US.UTF-8
Sorry if the above is not clear. Fonts is one area of Linux where I am still learning.

It's not that I can actually read all these languages, but seeing squares just doesn't feel "right".

GazL 08-19-2012 01:12 AM

I don't think it's a code issue. Not every font will have a glyph for every possible unicode character. A quick test showed that setting the font to "WenQuanYi Zen" will show the correct characters for that page in the windowmaker title, but I suppose there may be characters in other languages that might be missing from that font too.

I suspect xfce might be using multiple fonts for it's title as needed. Even if you set the font to dingbats the Japanese characters show correctly and i wouldn't expect a specialist font like that to include them.

gargamel 08-19-2012 11:48 AM

I just explored Xfce 4.10 a bit more, and now I have a desktop that really fits my likings with it. Some of the improvements in 4.10 are really a relief compared to earlier versions.

One thing I noticed, though, has, again, to do with foreign (from the perspective of native English speakers... ;)) languages. In Thunar I see some "folders" with special icons. These folders are "Desktop", "Documents", "Downloads", "Music", "Public", "Templates" and "Videos". While all other folder symbols are blue, these are brown and have symbols on them. E. g., the Downloads folder has an arrow pointing downwards on it.

Now, when I rename any of these folders in order to translate their name, the special icon is replaced by the standard folder icon. No symbols. When I create a new folder named "Documents" it is created with the special icon with symbol, again.

Does anyone know, where these icons are drawn from, and how it would be possible to use them in other languages than English?

Thanks, regards


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