Window Managers

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The window manager and it's related software as pagers, trayers and so on, is a core part of the UI accessibility/usability.

Actually you may virtually choose the window manager you prefer, but in the reality distros are heavily patched for a specific one and a specific graphical toolkit.

SHR/OM2009 uses E17/Illume, Hackable:1 uses MatchBox, other distros adopt LXDE or XFCE4.

Actually SHR/OM2009 does not provide alternatives in their feeds, you may try to use Angstrom feeds but this is discouraged as it may break your system.

Debian based distros, instead, already have all the needed software packaged and compiled, so it's easy to try all them.

Here we analyze various window manager to help users and distro maintainers choosing between them.


This is the "future", all bleeding edge distros adopted it.


  • a very nice GUI
  • highly configurable with easy interface
  • finger friendly
  • has integrated application launchers, file manager
  • authors worked in openmoko, so they know better community needs


  • not compatible with freedesktop systray specifications
  • not EWMH compliant (at least actually, as E16 is we suppose it will be compatible in the future)
  • no support for docking windows
  • not stable version released, distro maintainers have to mediate between updates and system breaking, see SHR-Unstable
  • not easy theming (for peoples not familiar with edje)
  • poor documentation


  • find/test/patch/package some standard sys tray gadget to allow tray application run fine
  • bore the authors to implement EWMH specifications :)
  • bore distro maintainers to update E snapshots only when needed :)
  • use the highly configurability of Illume to simulate EWMH interaction, for example with global shortcut to close/kill window, toggle fullscreen, this needs more key events, the topic is discussed in Better handling of AUX/Power buttons


Matchbox is the "legacy" window manager in the embedded world, very light, a bit older then other solutions.


  • sys tray specification compliant
  • EWMH compliant, so you may write your software to drive it
  • very light
  • well tested
  • simple theming
  • good documentation


  • with default settings it's not finger friendly
  • not easy to configure, some parameters have to be passed on the command line
  • some features are experimental, but it seems they are quite stable
  • the major part of applets does not work on freerunner (battery for example)
    there is another issue with mb-applet-battery, it suspends the display, breaking fso idle notifier set state busy call to set full brightness, the applet should be patched to use fso to request battery status and to not dim the display


  • to make it finger friendly you need a specific theme, you may use the one in Hackable:1
  • for good interaction you have to use EWMH software, neod is one of them, but it is not FSO compatible, and use hardware directly
  • the matchbox-desktop application launcher has some usability issues
  • we should think to write a new launcher and a fso-compatible neod to improve user experience.

Other window managers

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