Since I’ve made the move over to Ubuntu on the laptop, I’ve been quite happy with the default GNOME window manager. It’s a clean interface, and very simple to use. The problem is that it’s …. well, just a little bland looking, and takes up rather more memory and CPU time than I’d like. Granted, it’s faster and more efficient than KDE, but it’s still a slouch compared to other WMs out there.

I went on a trek around the net to find a beautiful, fast alternative, and found this review of fvwm-crystal.

I remember FVWM from early Red Hat days with a shudder. It looked like it had been designed by a committee of colourblind anarchists (thick pink window borders! Oh, the horror!), and did precisely nothing to tempt me away from my beloved green-on-black text console.

fvwm-crystal is the same old fvwm, but with enough bells, whistles and drop dead gorgeous themes that the past is forgiven, in spades. It’s so memory-light that it barely even registers on a top‘s process list. In comparison, GNOME it usually somewhere close to the top of top. If you see what I mean.

That’s not to say it’s just another window manager with some nice wallpapers – it’s also got a handful of excellent tricks up it’s sleeve. Firstly, it can be configured to look like damned-near anything else (including Windows and Mac OSX) if that’s your bag. There’s also a quake-like console that drops from the top of the screen with a press of ALT-`, much like tilda. Oh, and there’s an mp3 player built into the default menu bar at the top of the screen. It works with my laptop’s power-management too. Nice.

I’ve been using it since yesterday, so teeth are still being cut on the way it works, but so far, I’m very, very impressed. My only (minor) niggle is that there’s no obvious volume control, so I have to fire up alsamixer just to change the volume. I’m sure there’s an easier way though :)

In all, fvwm-crystal gets 10/10, and looks set to live on the laptop for a very, very long time.

UPDATE: Volume now works. I installed aumix and can now change the volume with ALT-, and ALT-. I’ll change that to the laptop’s own volume keys later, but that’s fine for now.

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