Olvwm on Ubuntu

Olvwm (the OpenLook virtual window manager) is a positively antique window manager originally for SunOS, which I liked very much for its focus-strictly-under-mouse behaviour, thin window borders and pop-over window sliders. OpenLook was deprecated when the (in my opinion: ulgy and bloated) CDE desktop conquered the world, but modern Linux distros are capable of supporting the antique OpenLook applications again. So I gave it a try.

Installing is as easy as “apt-get install olvwm”. In /etc/lightdm/lighdm.conf, I’ve got the block


In /usr/share/xsessions, I’ve got the file olvwm.desktop, which contains

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Open Look
Exec=olvwm -f

That’s all it takes, and you have a pretty blank, autostarting window manager.

To start applications, you can add commands to your right-button context menu by editing <tt>$HOME/.openwin-menu</tt>. Since I’m totally happy with xterm, mine’s here:

"Root Menu" TITLE
"Shells" MENU
        "Shells" TITLE
        "bash"  exec x-terminal-emulator -title bash -e bash
        "ksh"   exec x-terminal-emulator -title ksh -e ksh
        "tcsh"  exec x-terminal-emulator -title tcsh -e tcsh
"Shells" END PIN
"Clock" MENU
        "Clock" TITLE
        "xclock"        exec xclock
"Clock" END PIN
"Browsers" MENU
        "Browsers" TITLE
        "Chrome"        exec google-chrome
        "Firefox"       exec firefox
"Browsers" END PIN
"Utilities" MENU
        "Clipboard..."  exec xclipboard
        "Refresh" DEFAULT                       REFRESH
        "Window Controls" MENU
                "Open/Close" DEFAULT    OPEN_CLOSE_SELN
                "Full/Restore Size"     FULL_RESTORE_SIZE_SELN
                "Back"                  BACK_SELN
                "Quit"                  QUIT_SELN
        "Window Controls" END PIN
        "Window Menu..."                        WINMENU
        "Restart olvwm"                         RESTART
"WM Utilities" END PIN
"Exit from X..."                                EXIT

With its tiny amount of overhead, waiting for the desktop is not an issue. According to a comparison, olvwm consumes only 1.2MB of main memory, compared to Gnome’s 150 and KDE’s 200.