Returning to Musca

This might look like it’s the result of my run-in with Yakuake earlier this week, but I’m afraid it’s part of a larger, more dangerous trend — the circular motion that has brought me back to Musca.

Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. I used IceWM for most of the month, and I even put Openbox on the 600m today, but what has drawn me back around is the desire (need?) to use more applications without losing space on the screen. After four or five years at 1600×1200, I’m afraid even 1024×768 isn’t good enough for me if I have to use GUI-based applications.

And more often than not, it seems like GUI-driven stuff is an obstacle, not a convenience. There are always some things where a GUI is still just the easiest way to do things — I renamed about 120 audio files yesterday in the space of seconds with EasyTag, whereas it was taking me the better part of an hour just to get them arranged properly at the terminal. But for other things, it’s just not convenient to swing around the mouse to find one particular button to do a job.

Midnight Commander is quicker and faster than emelFM2 now. Building the Openbox menu seemed like a huge chore, even after I brought in menumaker to do most of the heavy lifting. dmenu-xft is a far better option, if I have to take into consideration the time it took me to click-click-click through ObMenu, instead of just typing in the name of the application.

And Musca is the best splicing of a graphical and console environment, for my purposes. I know Awesome, xmonad, dwm, etc., are all good stuff, but they seem like overkill for me — too many features when all I want is to split the screen four ways and nudge things around a little bit. Each tiling manager has its fan club, but Musca is clean and fast and simple enough to win me over.

It’s a little odd that the applications and window manager I used for months on a Pentium machine running an out-of-date version of X have pulled me back. Although the upside of migrating a software arrangement intended for a 120Mhz machine to a 1.4Ghz machine is an bewildering amount of speed. … 😀

14 thoughts on “Returning to Musca

  1. truzicic

    Hey, why don’t you use fluxbox? Config files are human readable and ready o edit at any time. And it’s lighter than openbox, whatever others say…
    And, there is nothing more simple, clean and cool than dwm…
    And suckless philosophy is appealing 🙂
    Sorry for bad English, I hope you understand me, hehe

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      I used Fluxbox a long time ago, before I tried Openbox. It never really fit me, and Openbox has always seemed more obvious or clean than Fluxbox. I can use it when I have to, but I don’t go looking for it.

  2. Armor Nick

    Musca really seems cool though. And although the above may be true, I personally think fluxbox looks horrible (nothing personal).
    I’m still addicted to the easiness of Linux Mint, but maybe I’ll do a minimal install of Ubuntu (or Debian) one day to make something like you 😉 .

  3. CorkyAgain

    I want to take this opportunity to thank you for pointing me to musca a while ago. I’ve been running it on my FreeBSD box since this summer.

    No other tiling window manager made as much immediate, intuitive sense.

    At first I missed the built-in layouts that dwm and other wm’s provide, and spent way too much time fiddling with window positions and sizes. Finally I asked about this on the musca mailing list and someone showed me how to use musca’s dump and load commands to save and restore a layout. Now I have a keybinding to create a dwm-like stacked layout, for example.

    I can honestly say that there’s nothing missing from musca that I need or want.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      You’re quite welcome. I have to agree that, as tiling managers go, Musca is just too straightforward and easy to learn. I started using it after Awesome and dvtm, and everything is just so simple and perfectly intuitive.

      I’ll have to take a closer look at the dump and load commands, now that you mention them. It’s rare that I have a particular layout that I stick to, but it would be good to know those things.


  4. éric

    Great post. Musca looks clean and simple. However, I’m sticking to ratpoison for a very simple reason (and it’s the same reason I gave up on awesome as well): I don’t like key chording in general. I prefer a series of keys to execute commands to avoid problems with RSI. If Musca would allow key sequences instead, it would be very appealing.

  5. Carlos

    I’ve used dwm a lot in the near past, after some happy ratpoison experience. Recently dwm went second on my top five when I fell in love with musca. That was because:

    1) I’m able to keep windows hidden (alla vim, emacs) and cycle them along the current frame, de facto getting a functionality pretty similar to tabbing (except that iteration is among windows in an entire group).

    2) The clean separation between frames and windows avoids the continuous and automatic rearranging of the layout typical of dynamic tiling wms (specially of dwm, a violation of least surprise principle). That is, when I open a new window I know how the resulting layout will look like (exactly as it did), where the new window will end and, most important, that the other windows will remain where they were.

    3) The ability to define a catchall frame.

    4) The cli interface to the wm, both introspective and imperative (actions), that allows for easy extensibility by means of bash scripts.

    5) No decorations. I can recognize people by their faces even if they don’t carry their names tattooed on their foreheads. Same for windows.

    6) Trays, launchers, panels and all the crap are responsibility of external tools… as it should be, period.

    7) Arbitrarily complex frame layouts can be created manually and dumped/restored to/from a file, with no need of waiting for or writing patches. Agreed, these are static layouts. But then I don’t care about dynamic smart ass layout algorithms that never do what I really want. To be honest, I don’t care about complex layouts at all.

    8) Super easy and flexible resizing of frames.

    9) Super easy north-south-east-west directional moving between frames (compare it with the awkward j/k dwm mechanism).

    10) Super easy north-south-east-west directional relocation of windows between frames (compare it with the limited zoom master dwm mechanism).

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  8. PeterStJ

    once again fallacies on your blog: using keystrokes to copy and paste being faster than drag and drop…

    try using compiz or osx for a day and find out how people from this century use copy/paste (hint with only one continuous gesture, not ‘at least 5 keystrokes’ : initiate copy mode, move from point A to point B to select the text, which just for the example I assume is one keystroke, however often it is not, exit copy mode, switch screens, paste. Hum… yeah, seems much easier and faster, especially if you have around 30 fingers and remember the keystrokes)).

    One thing I don’t understand: how your blog from a informative, rich technical help tool became the thing it is now? Every one of us at some point had to use at least one tip or technique described in your technical posts, I assume most of your readers found your blog exactly this way. In which case it is proven to be very helpful and solution driven. However, (at least mine) interest is soon dispersed just because you flood the reader with senseless posts about mindless experiments and most of all for evangelizing.

    I know this is your blog and you can do whatever you want with it. What I don’t understand is how you have so many commenters when the only real value of your blog is the software link at the top, everything else is just garbage.

    Time to remove you from my reader.

    Good luck.

  9. lyyx

    I know this is your blog and you can do whatever you want with it.

    “Which is why I just spent two paragraphs excoriating you. Oh, and good luck with your worthless fallacious garbage.”

    I love the sheer seething hatred on display here, though, on a completely innocuous post that’s no different from all the others – kmandla documenting his hobby.

    And, for the record – my Toshiba Satellite 1800-400 had its harddrive die on me, but I love the laptop as the first computer I ever bought, and it ran Musca as a WM even if I swapped the OS. Musca’s amazing, and I’m so glad the tutorial’s up again.

    1. eric

      Agreed: somebody to ignore completely. You obviously hit a button there… methinks he complains too much!

      In terms of your posts, keep them coming. I may not use many of the tools you talk about, but I do try quite a few of them and some of them (e.g. slurm recently) stick!


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