Once upon a time, most Linux distros included a Window Maker version 'out of the box.' This is no longer true. So, how can you get Window Maker today, since OOTB Window Maker installations seem to have gone the way of the Dodo? In this post, I'm going to provide information on two Linux distributions that still offer Window Maker as a standard option. I will cover other methods for getting this great window management environment in a future post.
Window Maker Out-of-the-Box: Two Options
The first - and in my opinion the best - option for anyone wanting an OOTB Window Maker install is Liquid Lemur Linux (http://www.liquidlemur.org). In the interest of full disclosure, I need to mention that I am currently on the Liquid Lemur staff, so my remarks need to be taken with that in mind. I believe I can be objective, but you do need to be aware of my direct relationship with the Lemur project.
Liquid Lemur Linux is a young (very young - less than a year old) distribution that is the handiwork of lead developer DragonPalemoon. DragonPalemoon has many years of Linux development experience that includes full development responsibility for the Window Maker versions of two past distributions. His level of expertise shows in the Lemur Window Maker quality and 'finish,' even though the distro is still at RC1 as of this writing (late October 2011). As with any young open source project, there is a chance that the project won't get fully off the ground, so one (and in my opinion the only) possible negative in opting for Liquid Lemur is the concern that you might get left 'high and dry' if that were to happen. But offsetting this concern is the fact that Liquid Lemur is based on Debian Testing - and Debian isn't going away any time soon! Basing the distribution on the Testing branch of Debian makes Lemur, in essence, a 'rolling release' with no unpleasant 'point releases' to contend with (this is the approach that Linux Mint took with it's recent 'Debian Edition' BTW). So...if the distro were to fold, you would have, in effect, a Debian-based OS that you could keep up with just routine 'aptitude update / aptitude upgrade' maintenance of your install.
Lemur Window Maker uses the wmaker-crm fork of the original Window Maker project. Those of you who may be looking at Window Maker are probably aware that Window Maker's 'official' development is stalled at version 0.92 - which is the last 'stable' release available in most distros (including Debian, at least for the time being). However, developer Carlos Mafra forked the Window Maker project and is in active development now. The wmaker-crm version of Window Maker is at version 0.95, and a deb package is available at version 0.94 - which is the version used by Liquid Lemur.
Lemur Window Maker version is a 'base distro,' meaning that it is not chock completely full of all sorts of applications right out of the box, and that every effort has been made to keep extra libraries, non-essential packages, and so forth out of the iso. If you want to bloat the install later - that's up to you :) The off-the-shelf version does include a good number of applications, though, including Chromium, terminal and text-editing apps, Scite for developers, Xchat for IRC, and a good selection of dockapps for system monitoring, weather, and so on. Also, the installation process is scripted to allow users to opt to install pre-packaged lists of software for office productivity and other purposes - or users can access these software bundles through the 'ApeMan' utility that pre-scripts downloading and installing bundles designed for such things as office, media, graphic arts, and so on.
The Liquid Lemur Window Maker iso is available at the distro's homepage (see above). There are both i386 (32-bit) and AMD64 (64-bit) versions available. The kernel in use is the latest 3.0 available in Debian Testing, and is currently available in both 486 and 686 PAE-enabled versions. If you aren't sure whether to use the 486 kernel or to install the PAE-enabled version, open a terminal and do "grep pae /proc/cpuinfo" (without the quotation marks) and look through the output for "pae." If it's there, your CPU supports physical address extensions and you can use the PAE kernel (whether you have over 4Gb of RAM memory or not BTW - there's a lot of misinformation out there on this issue).
The second option for an OOTB Window Maker install may surprise some - it's that minimally-sized icon of the Linux World - Puppy Linux. That's right, Puppy has a Window Maker 'respin' called Next Puppy. The project is the brainchild of lead developer Iguleder, and from reading the multitude of posts on the Puppy Linux forum, he seems to be an experienced developer as well.
Those of you familiar with Puppy know that it is a very different sort of experience when compared with most other distributions of Linux. Puppy's main goal is to be small in size (around 100MB is the goal for iso size) and other goals include speed, and 'newbie friendliness.' Next Puppy meets the size goal (the iso file is around 90MB) but my trial run indicates that this particular Puppy respin is not as friendly as the stock Puppy Linux for new users. (Note: I have used Next Puppy off and on for the last two weeks to give it as fair a trial as I could). In fairness - I haven't been a new user for a while. Also in fairness - Iguleder's respin of Puppy does not appear to be geared toward new users in the same manner as standard Puppy Linux. For example, the installed application base is very minimal - it ships with Firefox, an e-mail client, a BitTorrent client, a text editor, a terminal, an archive manager and not a whole lot more. Users are expected to know what applications they need (and which are appropriate for this particular environment) and install them on their own. Not a problem for someone with a decent level of Linux experience, but a serious problem (perhaps) for new users. Another example - printing with CUPS requires configuring the boot manager to enable DBUS - not something most new users would feel comfortable doing in my opinion.
Next Puppy is based on the current stable release of Debian, and the Debian repos are available (at least in theory, I've had quite a time getting applications downloaded and installed using the unique Puppy Package Manager). This means that, as with Liquid Lemur, you get the comfort and stability of Debian. Unlike Lemur, however, you get the stable version of Debian, which means that the newer wmaker-crm Window Maker package is not available (unless Iguleder has modified wmaker-crm to work with Debian Stable - I haven't been able to determine this for certain).
The look and feel of Next Puppy is much more 'original Window Maker' than is the case with Liquid Lemur. You get the default three dock tiles on the right (dock, terminal, and wmakerprefs utility) and (for some bizarre reason) wmsystemtray (a dockapp that 'captures' backgrounded daemons and apps like the disc use monitor shown in the screenshot) is also on the right, but separated from the three 'standard' tiles by quite a distance. I don't know why Iguleder did this, but it's his distro and his preference, and it's easy enough to change. You get the 'clip' in the upper left-hand corner of your screen.
Opened apps (like the terminal instances shown in the screenshot) generate the default lower-left-hand-corner miniwindow. You also get the default one workspace (aka 'desktop') that Window Maker has always come with out of the box. Window behavior, mouse settings and keybindings - all are standard-issue Window Maker. In short, you might be excused for thinking you were back in 1999 breathlessly awaiting the Y2K catastrophe everyone was predicting back then.
Next Puppy is a good implementation of Window Maker, though, and Iguleder has done a very good job integrating Window Maker with the Puppy Linux approach to Linux. If you want to just play around with Window Maker for a bit, Next Puppy might be a good option. On the other hand, Liquid Lemur ships as a live CD and is therefore available for 'playing around' as well. Next Puppy is available for download HERE.
Anyway - there you have it - two ways to grab a Window Maker desktop right this minute, without resorting to the more complex methods that are available (and again, I'll discuss those down the road). My final recommendation is for Liquid Lemur, but you probably knew that was coming. For those of you who may want a non-Debian or non-Puppy approach, those are available, but require a good deal more work than either Lemur or Next Puppy. I'll post on alternatives in the future.