Using the calm window manager

The calm window manager (cwm) is a "lightweight and efficient window manager for X11" written mostly by Marius Eriksen. It purports to "maintain the simplest and most pleasant aesthetic." Having used it for nearly two weeks it's hard to disagree.

The control keys are fairly simple (ctrl, meta, shift):

CM-Return   Spawn a new terminal.
...
M-Return    Hide current window
...
M-question  Spawn “exec program” dialog.
M-period    Spawn “ssh to” dialog.

There are 35 odd-ish key bindings. That's not too bad. cwm's "GROUPS" concept makes it easy to simulate "virtual desktops". Groupings can be traversed via arrow keys.

One can move windows about with key bindings one would find in vim (i.e., hjkl).

Configuration is pleasant and straightforward (.cwmrc):

command firefox  firefox
command shot     scrot
command pad      "xterm -e ed /home/rjpcasalino/yellowpad.md"

borderwidth 1
# Inherit groups 
sticky yes

# Define a “gap” in pixels at the edge of the screen. Maximized windows will not overlap gap area.
gap 24 0 0 0
# Ignore programs by name, not drawing borders around them.
ignore sbar_ip
ignore sbar_time

# miss i3? Snapping made easy:
bind-key CM-Right       window-snap-right
...
bind-key XF86MonBrightnessUp    "light -A 10"
bind-key XF86MonBrightnessDown  "light -U 10"

Commands can be called with C-question and allow one to open applications quickly. Likewise, M-period opens an ssh session which reads your .ssh/config.

Ersatz tiling can be achieved with key-bindings for window snapping.

Using cwm with NixOS

Using X without a Display Manager on NixOS isn't intuitive but easy to do nevertheless.

Here's my configuration XServer block:

  # Xserver 
   services.xserver = {
    enable = true;
    # We don't want to autorun X; we want startx 
    autorun = false;
    # Whether to symlink the X server configuration under /etc/X11/xorg.conf. 
    exportConfiguration = true;
    displayManager.startx.enable = true;
    windowManager.cwm.enable = true;
  };

Ryan Chan has a nice blog post that was helpful.

The contents of .xinitrc:

#!/usr/bin/env sh

xrdb -load $HOME/.Xresources

xterm -cr "#fff" -g 13x1+30+0   -hold -e sbar_ip &
xterm -cr "#fff" -g 17x1-0+0    -hold -e sbar_time &
xterm -cr "#fff" -g 4x1+0+0     -hold -e sbar_bat &

$HOME/.fehbg &

exec cwm

Obligatory screenshot:

cwm screenshot


Here's some links that are helpful if you're interested in cwm:

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page last modified: 2020-05-07