The default desktop looks pretty plain, though, and this can put new users off. I want to briefly cover the basic Window Maker desktop in its default configuration in this post, then show how much can be done to improve the look and even the functionality of the Window Maker desktop very quickly and easily. My hope is that those who are contemplating Window Maker will know what they are getting 'out of the box,' and what is easily possible - so that new users won't make the mistake of abandoning one of the finest window management tools available just because it starts out life as a bit of an ugly duckling.
So...Here is a (nearly) default Window Maker desktop, with a few annotations:
As you can see, this is a very spartan, if not downright ugly, default look. This can be easily transformed into a much more attractive desktop, as I will show in a moment, but before we turn our ugly duckling into a desktop swan, let's examine the basic attributes. I've labeled each of these in the screenshot, so we'll begin with the column of icons on the far right of the screen. The topmost icon is the 'dock.' It's purpose is to serve as an anchoring point for so-called 'dockapps' (dockable applications) and, by default, Window Maker provides two of these.
The first default dockapp provided by Window Maker is a terminal emulator. Window Maker generally uses an rxvt-type terminal (such as aterm, xterm, or rxvt itself) but can be any terminal emulator you prefer. My personal preference is currently terminator - you can use any terminal you like.
The third icon from the top is the wmprefs application. wmprefs is a tool for configuring most of the options in Window Maker, such as the initial positioning of application windows on the desktop, the default fonts used in titlebars and the menu, among many other things. In a future post, I will cover wmprefs and its many uses.
These three dock icons - the dock itself, the terminal icon, and the wmprefs icon - are the only three icons in the default dock. Other dockable applications can be added, though, and in this screenshot I have added two. The fourth item down the dock in the screenshot is a the wmcalclock dockapp. By its name, you can probably guess that this is simply a calendar/clock application that provides (wait for it...) the date and time.
The final dockapp shown in the screenshot is the wmsystemtray application. This application "captures" background applications and daemons - such as the volumeicon and wicd daemon shown here - and places them "inside" the icon for easy access and viewing.
Any application a user wishes to permanently dock (so that it will automatically appear on the desktop) must first be started from the command line in a terminal or from the 'run' dialogue in the menu. Once the application is started, its icon will appear at the bottom left of the desktop (by default - this can be changed as well). The screenshot shows two terminal instances open at the bottom left of the screen - and any app that you start will provide an icon in this initial location. To make an application a permanent part of the dock column, you simply left-click-and-drag the icon to the bottom of the dock column, and the icon will be 'attracted' to the dock. The app icon will remain there permanently until the user removes it, and it will reappear after each re-boot in the same location.
The other major default feature shown in the screenshot is the 'clip.' The clip is a mini-dock that is workspace-specific. In other words, users can attach application icons to the clip just as to the dock, but the clipped icons only appear on the specific workspace on which that instance of the clip appears (some folks call these 'desktops' although 'workspace is the preferred nomenclature). Users can have as many different workspaces as desired (I use six - the default is one - but it is easy to add more; we'll cover this in a future post).
There you have it - the default appearance and very basic features of the Window Maker desktop. Now, before you despair, here are a couple of examples of just how good Window Maker can look. Compare these with the default configuration and see if you can uncover some of the customizations involved. We'll be discussing how to accomplish these customizations in appearance and functionality in future posts.