The bulk of my systems are console-driven, and on the one that does run a graphical environment, I don’t use a display or desktop manager or login manager. There are some very good ones out there — SLiM is something I’m familiar with, as a result of working with some ultralight distros, and Qingy is another one with a long-ish history.
But mostly the need just isn’t there. I send the boot process straight through to the desktop via /etc/inittab, and beyond that, there’s no reason for me to use a display manager.
Now if I was to use one, this is what I would install:
That’s the Console Display Manager, or CDM. It was announced in an Arch Forums thread started a couple of years ago, and began as a bash-only text-based login manager to take over the jobs of GDM, KDM, xdm, etc. As I have it installed, it still requires you to login at the prompt, but bounces you first into a menu like the one you see above, and let’s you pick your destination from there.
Configuration is in /etc/cdmrc and is very well described, so you shouldn’t run into too many problems setting it up. It’s tuned for Arch Linux of course, with a PKGBUILD in AUR, but it should be fairly easy to export to other distros — especially since it comes with practically no dependencies.
One thing I would like to try, but I haven’t yet, is to cue CDM to different shells instead of desktops. It seems like it should be possible to trigger zsh or dash or what have you, in the same manner as the X environment. Again, I haven’t actually done that, but it might be a bonus for people like me, who don’t really want X in the first place.