Nearly three years ago, Spencer Janssen and I started work on xmonad, a tiling window manager for unix that would do what we want, automatically, so we could just concentrate on hacking code, without the window manager getting in the way. The project’s been quite successful — the most downloaded app on Hackage for the last couple of years, and thousands of users. It even has its own twitter, blogreddit and facebook accounts.

Originally I thought of this project something as the anti-GNOME: small, learn, and every part just does one thing only, but well – in the Unix tradition. And it has stayed lean. Around two thousand lines of Haskell for the core system, but with the benefit of hundreds of extensions in the contributor’s library — everyone’s config file is potentially a library module new users can import.

Over the years, GNOME and xmonad have started playing well together to the point that there’s relatively seemless interop between the two projects: you can use the full GNOME environment, and swap in xmonad as your window manager, or use a minimal environment with xmonad, adding in GNOME tools that help you.

Playing well with others is good for your open source software.

I’ve now finally switched my xmonad configuration to use a number of gnome apps, to support the core dynamic tiling provided by xmonad. Here’s my config file:

import XMonad
import XMonad.Config.Gnome
import XMonad.Layout.NoBorders
main = xmonad
    gnomeConfig {
            terminal = "term"
          , layoutHook  = smartBorders (layoutHook gnomeConfig)
    }

Yeah, that’s it. import XMonad.Config.Gnome, add smart borders, and overide the terminal to be my urxvt wrapper. xmonad is configured in Haskell, or languages Haskell can interoperate with.

My session is started up from .xinitrc as:

gitit &
gnome-panel &
gnome-power-manager &
dbus-launch --exit-with-session xmonad

I use gitit as my personal wiki, and then put a few things in the gnome-panel.

I’m really happy with how easy it now is to use xmonad with all the regular GNOME apps that people would like to see. This kind of friendliness to the dominate tools of the day is good for the project — and good for our users.

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