simple/classic window managers (WM) or desktop environments (DE)?

David Chmelik dchmelik at
Tue Aug 2 11:12:05 UTC 2022

I used graphical user interfaces (GUIs) since 1993 and still abhor turn 
they took '95.

Starting '97 I gradually switched to UNIX/*BSD (FreeBSD, NetBSD) then GNU/
Linux (still prefer UNIX (stabler design/kernels)) and by mid-0s used them 
50% time (mostly NetBSD, Slackware) then in '10s exclusively (mostly 
FreeBSD, Slackware, trying OpenBSD servers, DragonFlyBSD, Tribblix & 
OmniOSCE IllumOS UNIX desktops).

First I used X/TWM on FreeBSD, NetBSD & Slackware which is great: likely 
fastest WM... soon used KDE3... was okay until KDE Plasma (KDE4 in 2007, 
most people I know immediately quit permanently) so started using TDE 
(KDE3 fork, now KDE4-influenced) & XFCE sometimes/often, much more this 
year.  I also tried Enlightenment (E) and over 30 WMs/DEs available for 
Slackware (and last Summer FreeBSD) and apparently E is good but needs 
more configuration... didn't like anything else but heard ICEWM, i3WM, 
FVWM*, LXQt may be okay/good--if can configure from scratch or premade 
(any available?).

However I prefer MLVWM (inspired by classic Apple, as is KDE3 partly), 
(Ns)CDE (apparently inspired by Windows 3, win3, but NsCDE is based on 
FVWM* so maybe a WM not DE)... they're all back!

Are any WMs (preferably) or DEs (possibly, if fast) like a mix of MLVWM, 
(Ns)CDE, maybe KDE3/TDE?

What I mean is win3-style program groups, and taskbar with systemtray & 
classic Apple-style system menubar (preferably) underneath, application 
menubar underreath.  Program groups are superior to win95-style start menu 
(I abhor as much more difficult/sensitive/accident-prone) but latter 
optional as long as doesn't replace program groups, and submenus longer 
than screen have fast/full/onscreen/column cascading and not just newer 
(inferior) slow/partial/offscreen/scrolling cascading.

I hate all GUI animations (other than shown while main GUI isn't ready but 
starting, like classic KDE3) but a few effects are okay though most are 
overrated/useless trends/fads or (animation, etc.) time-wasting/slowdown.

In the case I use widescreen (16:10 or 16:9 though my main KVM switch 
monitor is fullscreen (4:3)) one useful effect (from Apple or Windows?) is 
snapping programs to one-half or one-quarter screen (as I have 4K so 
typically only use it all when making graphics but use half screen for 
programs average users use) and when doing that KDE has a related effect 
'snap helper' that shows screen centre (vertical & horizontal).  

Another useful effect was KDE's display window moving geometry (showed 
window length & width and maybe position but if not would be good).

Another useful-sounding effect was KDE's track mouse which claims displays 
a mouse cursor-locating effect when activated, but never worked for me...  
viewing configuration says it's set to <META> key, which if you play 
classic roguelike fantasy/dungeon game NetHack, was a UNIX term 
translating to IBM PC-compatible 101-key keyboard <ALT> key... recent 
years maybe people ignorant of UNIX/GNU/Linux history redefined <META> to 
one the two new 'Windows keys' I don't have (and never will)... but would 
still like this effect.

Mostly I'd like a WM/DE that can work with 101-key IBM-style PS/2 or AT or 
even (don't have one, but highest-quality) XT keyboards.

I tried many other effects in past, but some goods ones (in addition to  
window moving geometry) may be gone but if not trends/fads were more 
trouble than they're worth: decades ago I tried translucency then ended up 
with some transparent programs so disabled most effects since (use to 
disable all at once, but  KDE5 makes you do dozens one-by-one).

(Ns)CDE lately seem to have also copied win95 by adding several start 
menus, when one was bad enough and program groups are superior... at least 
in (Ns)CDE they don't disappear every time so if I start 20 or 30+ 
programs (typical) it's like program groups all in one go (and being 
reminded what else I may want to use until minimizing groups) rather than 
typical win95 & KDE & XFCE start menu over & over and one can only view 
one group a time (then disappears each time or if a program takes 'current 
focus') rather than all (and need not disappear) and if the system slows 
you may give up waiting on a submenu to open.

However, (Ns)CDE still seemed extremely difficult to configure with too 
few options.  KDE3 was good because had advanced configuration wizard 
including asking if one wanted Apple or Windows or other aspects, and 
eventually let one setup multiple screens & backgrounds (including 
slideshows on gradients).  (Ns)CDE have no familiar styles and 
make assumptions about screens & backgrounds (don't recall where to 

(Ns)CDE improved because lately I can run KDE Dolphin file manager in one 
or both (didn't use to work or at least not with proper file/directory/
image previews).

Only thing kept me using KDE through KDE5 is powerful systemtray 
especially night colour control which is unequalled, and I like KDE's 
taskbar launchers that disappear to change into current task boxes.

However since KDE4 I noticed if you run something more than 10 programs 
(or definitely 15+) KDE4 halts--still true with KDE5--so never really has 
been 100% production-ready for power users (in sense of general/polymath 
scientists, Renaissance people, others who do almost as much).  If you 
open 30 programs very slowly you will likely have no problem.  They 
thought it was task manager so I deleted it and started my 18 most-used 
programs at once in a script which halted KDE but worked so perfectly/fast 
in XFCE I kept script for launcher.  XFCE can also run RedShift night 
colour control which with configuration/improvements/bugfixes XFCE is 
likely much superior KDE replacement as long restores what XFCE hid/
replaced forking CDE (win3 aspects)... or does anyone think (Ns)CDE or 
revived MLVWM (if tried?) or something else that's only a WM (not DE) 
would be faster?

Recent year even many XFCE users I know prefer older XFCE (many same 
people who immediately quit KDE Plasma permanently)... though I have more 
powerful PC than some of them, occasionally if I do most I would do in 
XFCE there may be barely-noticeable slowdown such as in start submenus 
opening but seems possibly best balance between features & speed.

Forget GNOME/MATE--never liked since early days it was all text-file-only 
configuration on RedHat, though I do like GNU Image Manipulation Program 
and Eye of MATE viewer.

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