Saturday, 6 August 2011

Mix it up or stick to one?

Obviously, I'm on about desktops again. This time it's not anything specific as such though.
One of the best points I've always held about Linux is that immense amount of choices you have - this Window Manager over that one, the text editor from there instead of there, and so on.
It could be said that in places there is too much choice, and that the overwhelming number tends to be, well, overwhelming. But that's a topic for another time.

Like anyone else, I like thing to work my way. This means that while I'm now running a KDE4 desktop - which hasn't managed to disappoint me yet, a fair feat given past experience with this troublesome DE - not all my apps are KDE, or even QT based.
For example, while I'm running KWin as the window manager, the effects don't seem to want to stay on, even if all I want is the compositing. And of course, even if I can get that to work, the moment I start to use Portage, it disables them again because the compiling uses too much resources.
Compare this to Metacity with it's own built in compositor. It only disables itself if you tell it to, and doesn't get in the way at all. On the other hand, there's no standalone application to set the window border without pulling in a lot of Gnome.
Now, while KDE offers the option to use another Window Manager instead of KWin, besides having to remember how to set themes for that Window Manager, it also isn't going to integrate well.
The solution? I'm running KWin, with effects disabled and using 'xcompmgr' to give me Metacity-like compositing that doesn't turn itself off, though I have a handy plasmoid that looks like a little switch. Turning it on starts up xcompmgr, and turning it off kills it. There's a similar plasmoid available on that does this for KWin's own, but this one can be customized to do anything really.
Problem solved.

The programs I use also tend to be similar. Chromium is a GTK+ based application, as is GEdit, but both of them have a few things about them that I like and want to keep.
Konqueror has, rather impressively, managed to overcome both Chromium and Firefox as the default web browser (and file manager too, an invaluable feature for me) but I keep Chromium around because sometimes it does have it's little issues.
Similarly, while Kate and KWrite are decent applications too and also have their good points, GEdit is a long time friend of mine - it's familiar, I know it, and I know how to make it do what I want.

Some people say this is wrong, and one should stick to apps from one single toolkit, but with GTK+, QT, and ETK (Enlightenment, in case you're wondering) not to mention any other toolkits I've not noticed and of course anything running through Wine, you're never going to be able to get one single unified toolkit. There'll always be people who like applications for one toolkit, while running a desktop for another.
So in short, don't feel that because you're running one desktop, you can't choose applications from another toolkit. They may not look right, and sometimes they may need a little work to make them play nice. My workaround to compositing proves that.
But never be put off doing it - mix things up, go with what you want regardless of what others suggest.

In slightly unrelated news, has anyone ever managed to get KDE 4.7.x to emerge successfully on Gentoo? It doesn't seem to want to play nice with me. Not that I have any problems with the 4.6.5 I've got now, except a periodically segfaulting Konqueror, but I feel like giving it a try.

Right, that's all. Keep rocking, people.

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