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Tiling window managers and awkward programs

I like tiling window managers for a number of reasons. I value simplicity and they don't waste resources and screen space with lots of icons and other stuff I don't need or want. As I say elsewhere, my current favourite is spectrwm.

But one problem with all the tiling WMs I've tried is that they tend to fall down with some programs, such as the gimp and xsane, which open several floating windows. Even worse, some, such as xaos, simply segfault. You can get round the difficulty to some exten by using floating mode but it isn't ideal. The problem has been frankly acknowledged on the spectrwm mailing list, where the developers say it will be worked on when there is time but it isn't a priority. On the i3 list the developer says that tiling WMs are not really suitable for floating windows.

(Note added 21.2.2016: spectrwm is currently working fine with tiling programs so I don't need to do what is written below, but I'm keeping it because it may be useful to someone.)


So what is the solution if, like me, you prefer tiling WMs but do sometimes need programs that open multiple windows?

One tiling WM, ratpoison, takes an intriguing way out, by making it possible to switch window managers on the fly. I don't know of any others that do this but it's easy to achieve the effect yourself. I have a script called wmswtich which runs the following command:

xinit .xxinitrc -- :1 &

The .xxinitrc file is a duplicate of .xinitrc except that it uses icewm instead of spectrwm. Running the script produces a second version of X. With spectrwm this is in F2 and the script takes me there automatically, with icewm running. To go back to spectrwm (in F1) I press Shift-Alt-F1 or else simply exit icewm if I've finished using it.

This should work for any tiling/stacking WM combination, of course; these are just the ones that I use.

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