To be honest, when I first installed xmonad, I didn’t think I would like it. I felt it had too high of a learning curve and wouldn’t be worth my initial investment. I was quite wrong, I think my search for the “perfect window-manager” may be over, at least for now.
Xmonad is a dynamic tiling window manager. It’s basic job is to manage placement of your windows, however, it can be extended to incorporate many other features such as virtual desktops, transparency and panels. By default Xmonad comes with a very minimal install, you will have no window decorations or status bars. Most users will require some level of customization to reach the desired level of functionality.
Xmonad is configured using a haskell configuration file, which you will recompile and then reload (on-the-fly, no logout required). Rinse & repeat as necessary. I’ve personally always been a bit afraid of haskell’s syntax, and still don’t really understand any of it, but I’ve figured enough out to properly configure my setup. I spent the better part of a few weekends deep in the documentation for xmonad and pulling different bits from any other xmonad.hs file I could find online. Many times this resulted in a non-working configuration, but sure enough I figured it out. Right now my configuration is working, is somewhat documented and (I think) has a decent framework to add extra functionality later on.
Most users would also like to have a panel, or even a place for status icons to sit. Following the minimalistic approach, Xmonad does not include these features in it’s core. When there is a will, there’s a way though. Xmobar is the software I am using to provide a system panel. Trayer is the software I use to provide a status icon area. Both pieces of software are very well documented, and in my experience, very easy to integrate with your Xmonad configuration
As far as performance and stability, I don’t recall having any issues whatsoever. Even at the times when my system is under a full load, xmonad still performs quickly and reliably. I also don’t think xmonad has ever actually crashed on me, except for a few botched config files of my own doing. It definitely puts your mind at ease when you feel like the system is rock solid beneath you.
Going back to the extra functionality, I haven’t found anything more I could want. Sure, I spent a week or two adding all the bells & whistles to mess around. And sure enough, I’d end up removing them to clear some of the clutter. I’ve decided to take a bare-bones approach to window-management from now on.