Default window manager switched to CTWM in NetBSD-current

September 28, 2020 posted by Nia Alarie

For more than 20 years, NetBSD has shipped X11 with the "classic" default window manager of twm. However, it's been showing its age for a long time now.

In 2015, ctwm was imported, but after that no progress was made. ctwm is a fork of twm with some extra features - the primary advantages are that it's still incredibly lightweight, but highly configurable, and has support for virtual desktops, as well as a NetBSD-compatible license and ongoing development. Thanks to its configuration options, we can provide a default experience that's much more usable to people experienced with other operating systems.

Recently, I've been installing NetBSD with some people in real life and was inspired by their reactions to the default twm to improve the situation, so I played with ctwm, wrote a config, and used it myself for a week. It's now the default in NetBSD-current.

We gain some nice features like an auto-generated application menu (that will fill up as packages are installed to /usr/pkg), and a range of useful keyboard shortcuts including volume controls - the default config should be fully usable without a mouse. It should also work at a range of screen resolutions. We can add HiDPI support after some larger bitmap fonts are imported - another advantage of ctwm is that we can support very slow and very fast hardware with one config.

If you're curious about ctwm, check out the ctwm website. It's also included in previous NetBSD releases, though not as the default window manager and not with this config.




Why not something based on Xcb? Switching from an Xlib wm to another Xlib wm isn't much progress.

Posted by Rando on September 29, 2020 at 07:11 AM UTC #

FluxBox would've been nicer and it would also resurrect the project. Even tho FluxBox is just works on new and old computers and has it's core features what you expect from a desktop (multiple windows, menus, icons if you want, transparency, themes, fontconfigs) it could be improved. I pointing to the lack of proper multi monitor setups, configuring is still painful and time consuming, transparency does not always work with the menus (its not their fault tho), exit does not always work, it could have at least some basic tools built in like a clock, calculator, notepad but still my favorite VM since 20 years.

Posted by Elena on September 29, 2020 at 12:39 PM UTC #

congrats!!! ctwm and/or cwm rulez

Posted by CTOSian on October 01, 2020 at 12:02 PM UTC #

Props for the orange on grey colour scheme. Carrying the branding through onto the desktop seems like a good idea.

Posted by Will on October 03, 2020 at 07:15 PM UTC #

I think NetBSD out of the box idea is different. After installation you get system with minimal set of tools to easy start configuring system to your needs. TWM opens a way to less opearate keyboard and more terminals to enable installing applications. It is still hard for average users. The NetBSD Guide by Federico Lupi helps a lot. Other thing is configure TWM for everyday work and it demands experience. Examples of TWM I have found in Internet are not good. CTWM gives one example of an configuration. Some people don't want to make MS Windows from Unix but maybe it would be easy way to do a fork (not version) of NetBSD "NetBSD for novice". It could contain: configured windows manager, installed printed system like cups, libreoffice to enable read and print documents from other systems, internet browser, mouse based file manager, photo editor. Wishes of users would drive development of this variant. It could enable people to do basic tasks and gradually learn NetBSD.

Posted by guest01 on October 14, 2020 at 11:18 PM UTC #

Oh sorry. I.. I like it.

Posted by guest01 on October 24, 2020 at 01:24 PM UTC #

I guess this is your default config: ?

Posted by Unixery on November 03, 2020 at 02:33 PM UTC #

At first I was a little taken back. Then I started playing around with it. Now I love it. I have been (and probably always will be) a huge openbox fan. But this is nice. Good choice.

Posted by Ron on November 05, 2020 at 06:07 PM UTC #

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