Re: GNU OpenStep

Andrew Sullivan (
Mon, 30 Nov 1998 18:42:52 -0500 (EST)

On Mon, 30 Nov 1998, John Lewis wrote:

> Is AS moving towards
> or away from the GNUstep 'standard' and how does windowmaker fit in.

In fact, the attempt to comply with GNUstep has resulted in one of the
most-complained-about features of AS: the ~/G/L/A directory structure.

There have been, off and on, various attempts to make AS an official (or
even _the_ official) GNUstep window manager.  It may yet happen.
Unfortunately, the actual GNUstep development (i.e. the full development
of an OpenStep-compliant environment) is not moving terribly quickly. This
is partially a result of the complexity of the task, and partially (I
suspect) because of the problems inherent in getting a flexible
specification like X to follow a fairly narrow standard like OpenStep:
since the X installations are highly variable, it makes it very difficult
just to stick the environment on top.  (A similar problem turns up under
things like CDE, KDE, and GNOME: you need to have environment-aware
programs in order to get everything to work.)

> It seems to me that resources are being squandered in developing 3 (or
> is it 4) similar window-managers. 

Um, what 3 or 4?

AfterStep is designed from, and remains based upon, fvwm-1.  The
advantages in terms of stability and backward-compatibility are
tremendous, but there is something of a performance hit (although
ever-improving on the performance front, thanks to the efforts of the
talented developers!  Thanks folks!).

Moreover, AS is exceptionally flexible: far more so than Window Maker is
allowed to be.  This is mostly because the WM folks want to cleave very
strictly to the old NeXTSTEP look and feel.  The result is that the
adjustments are rather hard to obtain.  Of course, not everyone will agree
with me, but I think that AS strikes a marvellous balance between
flexibility, configurability, size and performance.

As I understand things, there was something of a holy war over how closely
AS would stick with the NeXTSTEP look & feel.  That was part of the
reason, I'm led to believe, for the emergence of Window Maker.

And don't even start with E.  It's pretty, sure, but make sure you have
the latest hardware, or you're gonna take one honking performance hit.

There are, of course, yet other window managers with yet other design
goals: IceWM, for instance, is supposed to be terribly small.  Of course,
you have to re-compile if you want to change a feature, so it's not very
flexible.  Since the design goals are different, it's no surprise that one
sees different results.

> Wouldn't it be more profitable (in
> terms of getting bug-free and stable apps etc.) for all the developers
> to concentrate on one wm? 

Only if bug-free and stable is your only measure of "profit".  I think
that your definition is too narrow; and I invite you to try some of the
alternatives if you want bug-free and stable.  I'd not be surprised if you
returned to AS, given my experience with E.

> My preference is for the GNUstep look. The screenshot of the desktop
> on the UNofficial site is just a bit more exciting than I have been
> able to get with AS. The icons are snappier and the background more
> interesting than back.xpm which I am currently using.

Ok, but would you have the same problems customizing with WM?  If you look
at the various screenshots people have created with AS, I think you'll
find it obvious that AS is extremely configurable.  And, because of the
marvellously modular design, you can change just one thing without
affecting all sorts of other items.  (This is not a peculiarity to AS; but
try doing it under, say, Win.)

> FWIW I have created an Wharf icon for my swallowed pager which is a
> mimic of the actual pager. I haven't attached the xpm to this mailing
> as doing such things is frowned on in other groups I have subscribed
> to, if any one wants it I'll be happy to send it to the group or
> individuals.

I'm sure many people would like it.  Perhaps you could upload it to

Sorry to all for maundering on, but this seemed to me to warrant a careful
response.  And PLEASE, let's not have the nth thread of "Good-bye to AS
for the nth time"!


Andrew Sullivan | (better)| (worse)
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