Ten years with the Ratpoison window manager
I started using Linux in 1996. After having used FVWM, FVWM95, KDE (first generation) and Blackbox, I switched to Ratpoison in 2008. I liked the way it worked, and because I was using GNU Screen for a lot of years and Ratpoison uses similar key bindings, I didn't have a long learning curve.
After switching to Ratpoison I never looked back, and since than Ratpoison has been my window manager of choice.
What I like in Ratpoison:
- Now mouse needed
- Every window gets maximized to full screen
- Very lightweight
- Extremely efficient
Some people pay money to have a 'no-distractions' editor. With Ratpoison in the default mode (every window gets maximized to full screen) every application is in 'no-distractions'-mode.
Off course it is possible to do a horizontal or a vertical split and have two or more applications on the display. But in day to day use, I never use this option. Neither in GNU Screen of Tmux, by the way. I prefer laptops with small screens, like 11.8 or 12 inch. In Vim I default to a text-wide of 72 characters (:set tw=72), so even on a 11.8 or 12 inch display there is room left for another screen. but I prefer to focus on the window I am working in.
Depending on the OS, I use
ratmenu. On OpenBSD I use
ratmen, on Debian I use ratmenu. On the internet floats a small
shell script called
that sends the output of
ratpoison -c windows to ratmenu. I have made a similar script
in awk, that functions both on OpenBSD as on Linux. I only
have to make sure the script uses the right menu program
(ratmen or ratmenu), everything else works fine no matter
There are only two menus that I use, a menu to switch to another window (with the awk-version of the windows script) and a small hand made menu, f.e. to show the battery status, to set the volume on OpenBSD (no alsamixer there). Also I have some key bindings to start Firefox, Iridium, to go in w3m to my personal private wiki, to open a favorite Gopher site in lynx, to ssh to some important servers, and so on. Also to make a screenshot through xwd and imagemagick.
I use only a small number of applications, and the most important are started through a Ratpoison key binding, the other from the command line interface.
Lessons from experience
Ratpoison is great. Since I started using Ratpoison I never had the urge to look for another window manager.
Name your windows. When you have a lot of
st lines in your windows menu, it is hard to
choose which one you want to switch to. So, either by
hand or by scripting, give your windows a name as soon as
Gimp is not a friend of Ratpoison. The only time I make use
tmpwm command in Ratpoison, is before I start Gimp.
Newer Gimp versions can be put in a one-window mode, when you
have accomplished this, Gimp can be used in Ratpoison, but
a upgrade of Gimp can break this.
I hardly use the split command, either for horizontal or vertical splits. There is a ratpoisonrc-config floating on the internet to show a calendar in the ratpoison bar. In the beginning I did have this in my .ratpoisonrc, but I did use this almost never, so I dropped this.
When I want to see a calendar, I just open a terminal screen
Just use it. What ever you need to learn to work efficient with Ratpoison, you will learn it very quickly by just using Ratpoison. After a small time, you get accustomed to Ratpoison. And if you are like me, you never want to go back to another window manager :)