Window Maker provides one of the most productive computer work environments out of the box. It's hard for me to imagine a workflow that Window Maker can't accommodate.  Whether your work demands full-screen visibility of one application at a time (I'm thinking graphics design here) or, like me, you tend to have multiple windows with different applications and you switch from one window to another, Window Maker can make your workflow easier, faster and more pleasant.

Keyboard shortcuts to launch frequently-used apps or commands can make your workflow more efficient by reducing the need to open menus, find the menu entry, and (finally) click on the entry to launch an app or execute a command. In this post, I'm going to describe the keyboard shortcut features in Window Maker.  Keep your own preferred workflow in mind, and see if making use of this toolset might enhance your efficiency.

Built-In Keyboard Shortcuts

The quickest and easiest way to see which shortcuts are built-in to Window Maker is to open the Preferences app and take a look at the "Keyboard Shortcut Preferences" panel. In the Shortcuts Preferences panel you'll find a list of built in shortcuts - some of which have keystrokes defined and some of which do not.  Those already defined have a small check-mark to the left of the description.  For example, F12 opens the Applications Menu by default. Window Maker has sixty-three (!) pre-defined shortcuts. Look through the list and you may find one or more that you need.  If no keystroke combination has been assigned to an available shortcut, you only need to click the "capture" button and enter the keystrokes you would like to use.

In the list of pre-defined shortcuts are many that have become common across a variety of desktop environments.  For example, Alt+Tab window focus switching is included by default in Window Maker, and Ctrl+Alt+"right arrow" moves you to the next virtual desktop.

Adding a Custom Keyboard Shortcut

The ability to add keyboard shortcuts (or "keybinds" if you prefer) is certainly not unique to Window Maker, but it's trivially easy to add these in Window Maker compared to some other environments I've seen (and used).  Before you add a shortcut, look through the shortcuts Window Maker already has by default by accessing the "Keyboard Shortcut Preferences" panel I just discussed. 

If a shortcut already has a keystroke combination assigned, you'll have to disable it or redefine the keystrokes before you can use those strokes for a custom shortcut. You disable a default by clicking the "clear" button.  Redefining a shortcut requires that you "clear" the entry then "capture" your new keystrokes.

Most of the built-in shortcuts use the Mod1 (Alt) key plus one or more other keys, so make sure you have a decent knowledge of these before you start adding your own.

Most "custom" shortcuts are used to launch specific applications, so I will describe the process with that goal in mind. To add your own keyboard shortcut for an application, go to the "Applications Menu Definition" panel in the Preferences app.  Select the application item in the menu for which you want to create a shortcut, then use the "capture" button to capture the keystrokes you want to assign to that item.  In the screenshot, I've assigned Mod1 + W to open Firefox.

Another tip - Window Maker has a "run..." menu item (it may be "execute..." in your distro). This menu item opens a dialog box that can be used to launch any application by typing in the executable command (for example, entering "vlc" in the box launches the VLC Media Player).

I recommend assigning a shortcut to the "run" dialog. In my experience this can be very helpful when you want to launch an application without taking your hands off the keyboard to grab the mouse and access the menu.  For those applications that you use regularly but not often enough to justify adding them to the dock or clip - or assigning a dedicated keyboard shortcut - this can speed up your flow considerably.  I use Mod1+F2 to launch the "run" dialog (I think Gnome uses the same keybind).

To sum up - making use of the pre-defined keyboard shortcuts can help streamline your workflow.  The ability to easily add your own custom keyboard shortcuts makes Window Maker even more efficient for you - so give keyboard shortcuts a try.  I think you'll quickly find them indispensable!

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  1. You can put in your autostart file:

    /usr/bin/gnome-settings-daemon &

    to get a better gtk look in WM and also use the volume, mute, next keyboard buttons.

  2. I prefer to add a shortcut gRun, much better from wm run


Anyone who has used Linux for more than six months has at least heard of Puppy Linux. In fact, Puppy Linux is often the first distribution people use. Puppy has been around for nearly 10 years (that's longer than Ubuntu, by the way) and I have used it off-and-on over the past decade as well. Periodically, I download the latest Puppy release and burn it to a CD or USB drive - just in case! Since Puppy can run entirely in RAM with no HDD installation needed, having a Puppy around the house to use when I've borked something on a system is nice. Also, I just flat like Puppy Linux, although it does have some quirks (at least, to me) compared with more "mainstream" Linux distributions.

A while back, a Puppy developer created an experimental version of Puppy using Window Maker as the default window manager. Puppy normally uses Joe's Window Manager (JWM) and offers the option to use ICEwm in many of its releases. Being a Window Maker user, seeing a version of Puppy with Window Maker as the default was exciting. Unfortunately, the experiment never resulted in a stable release.

Enter Puppy Linux developer 01micko, and "Slacko Puppy," a Puppy release that is "binary compatible" with Slackware's repositories. About a year ago, I downloaded Slacko Puppy 5.3.3, which is built to be compatible with Slackware version 13.37. I've had it on a CD and USB drive - and as a "frugal" install on one of my laptops - ever since. Occasionally I will boot into Slacko Puppy and make sure things are updated and still running well. One of these occaissions led me to poke around in the Slackware packages available for installation on Puppy, and behold! There was Window Maker!

So I did what any self-respecting Linux user would do - I immediately installed Window Maker and spent the next couple of hours figuring out how to set Slacko Puppy up to use it instead of JWM as the primary window manager. Not all that difficult, and reading through some of the posts on the Puppy Linux Forum (thanks, Google) helped me figure out what was needed. Here's the basic process:

1. Install Window Maker from the Slackware repositories using Puppy Package Manager.
2. Open a terminal and run wmaker.inst (a script that sets up Window Maker for use)
3. Open Rox Filer and see if wmaker.inst has provided a new ~/.xinitrc (it should have, and it should have renamed your original file to .xinitrc_original or .xinitrc_old).
4. Change the name of .xinitrc_original to .xinitrc_jwm (optional - helps me remember what's going on though).
5. Still in Rox - go to /etc and look for the file "windowmanager." This is a text file with just one line saying "jwm."
6. Rename /etc/windowmanager to /etc/windowmanager_old (or whatever you like).
7. Open /etc/windowmanager_old in an editor and change "jwm" to "wmaker" (no quotes) then save the file as /etc/windowmanager. This is necessary for Puppy's shutdown and reboot scripts to work. If you don't do this, you'll have to exit the session then fool around in a terminal to shut your system down (and Puppy doesn't recognize "shutdown -h now" or "shutdown -r now" for some reason, so this isn't trivial).
8. Reboot - you should find yourself in Window Maker instead of JWM.
9. Add a "shutdown" command to Window Maker's menu using WPrefs. You'll need to add a "run" line and use this command - wmpoweroff. Optionally, add a "reboot" command using wmreboot.

Here is my Slacko Puppy desktop with Window Maker:

I don't know how well you can see the open terminal - but I'm running htop and it's showing that Puppy is using only 70MB of memory - and that's with VLC media player running along with some background processes. At "idle," I'm seeing only 45-50MB of memory in use. Truly impressive!

You'll want some dockapps to go along with your new "Window Maker Puppy." Some of these are available here:  

I had to compile wmsystemtray (from the Slackware 13.37 source) and there are other dockapps that would not install properly under Puppy and had to be compiled manually (for instance, wmtime). Because of this, you'll need to install the "devx" SFS package and load it at boot time. Best to do this while you're in a "vanilla" JWM session - although you can run Puppy Package Manager and the other utilities (including the "boot manager" that let's you load SFS packages on startup) from Window Maker. There is a decent tutorial on compiling in Puppy here:

The other thing you'll need to do right away is to edit the menu using WPrefs. If you open your ~/.jwmrc file in a text editor you can find all of the needed commands to launch everything in Puppy's menu (and there's a BUNCH of stuff in Puppy's menu!).

So - not as simple as "apt-get install wmaker," but still very do-able.  Cheers!

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  1. Hallo,

    sorry for my bad english ( from germany... )
    I'm using Ubuntu 12.10 and i installed WindowMaker.
    Ubuntu uses pulseaudio and so the laptopkeys to regulate the sound volume doesn't work.
    You know any solution ?

  2. ...i found a solution: volti
    After installing of this tool eerthing works fine

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