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Which tiling wm - dwm or xmonad?

Update: My current favourite WM is spectrwm. Please see Four tiling window managers: spectrwm, i3, dwm, xomonad.

I used xmonad for several weeks and liked it a lot, but I decided to have a closer look at dwm. This is the tiling window manager from which xmonad forked a few years ago and the two are still quite similar in terms of appearance and function. You can change from one to the other almost seamlessly.

So if they are so similar, why think of making a move? Mainly, easy of configuration. Xmonad is written in Haskell, and although I did manage to get my configuration file working more or less as I liked it was quite hard work and there were still some problems. For example, if I wished to have new key bindings the process of doing, this seemed impossibly complex and non-intuitive. Even when I did get things working, I had little idea of why it worked and no real understanding of the code.

But would dwm be any better? It is written in C, which I don't know - in fact, I'm not a programmer. That put me off even looking into dwm originally, but when I did so this time I found that I could work out what most of the lines in config.h (the file you have to edit to customise dwm) were doing. Simply by writing lines that were similar to those in the default config.h I was able to achieve what I wanted, including adding or modifying key bindings. The site, which produces dwm, has examples of configuration to help you out if you get stuck.

Are there any disadvantages in using dwm instead of xmonad? Not really. Both are excellent window managers and, as I say, there is nothing to choose between them in terms of basic functionality. Xmonad has a lot of third-party modifications available but I don't need them (and usually find them difficult to get working when I do try them out). Xmonad seems to have a large and helpful user community (though dwm also has a user community and, to judge from its mailing list, quite an active one too).

So, to conclude: dwm and xmonad would both be good choices for a tiling window manager. If you know C it would be natural to choose dwm. Even if you don't, I think you would find dwm easier to configure than xmonad; at any rate, I do. For me this gives dwm a slight advantage over xmonad.

There are details of my experience of setting up dwm on my linux page.


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