back to article GNOME project considers adding window tiling by default

The GNOME desktop is considering adding support for automatic window tiling. This could be a significant productivity boost for the most common Linux desktop environment – as well as further afield. In a lengthy and interesting blog post entitled Rethinking window management, GNOME developer Tobias Bernard discusses the …

  1. ArrZarr Silver badge
    Windows

    Killer app

    As dumb as it might sound, The edge snapping tiling was Vista's killer app for me. Not the 64-bit nature of the OS, not the aesthetic, but being able to work on 2 things side-by side using the full screen without faffing about with window sizes.

    I only realised how much I relied upon this feature when I went to university (2010), where the Computer labs still had XP installed.

    I kinda just assumed that this was default behaviour for all OSs now. It's been 16 years.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Killer app

      [Author here]

      > I kinda just assumed that this was default behaviour for all OSs now.

      It is. I think you're missing the point.

      The point here is not edge snapping: as you say, virtually everything does that now. The point here is moving beyond simple edge snapping.

      For example, one of the big differences is what happens when you resize a window which has been snapped to one edge of the screen.

      In a first generation window management system that supports edge snapping, when you resize one of the windows, you resize only that window. Any other window next to it becomes a window underneath it, partially obscured.

      What are true tiling window manager does is to resize them both in a single operation: One gets bigger, one get smaller. Once you try this, it is rather wonderful, and you want it everywhere. (oh, of course, you may hate it – as Trev hated aero snap — and just want to globally turn it off; that is a legitimate choice as well.)

      The next step from managing two edge snapped windows, or possibly if you're using something fancy that supports quarter sized windows, three or even four corner snapped windows, is the more difficult case of managing three or more windows. On a widescreen display this is very desirable. So, to give an example, you might have windows in three columns: one on the left edge, one on the right edge, and one in the middle which isn't edge snapped in any way, but you wanted to remain tiled with the other two. That's where the stuff suddenly gets harder. That's where edge and indeed corner snapping is no longer adequate, and you need some smarter solution.

      That's what they're grown people are considering trying to do here, and that's why I wrote about it.

      Windows 11, much as I dislike it in general, actually has a pretty good stab at doing this. I linked to a Microsoft demonstration of it in the article, and I'd encourage watching reading that and watching the videos therein.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Once you try this, it is rather wonderful

        No it [redacted] isn't.

        I just want windows to be the size and location that I put them. MY CHOICE not that of the deranged developers.

        1. ianbetteridge

          Re: Once you try this, it is rather wonderful

          Yes, how dare they make an optional feature that you can turn off. Don't they know Gnome is created for YOU and YOU alone?

          1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

            Re: Once you try this, it is rather wonderful

            GNOME is created by and for developers who hate users.

            1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

              Re: Once you try this, it is rather wonderful

              No, Gnome is created for its creators. If you want something that they don't think is right, tough. You want it because You Are Wrong.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Once you try this, it is rather wonderful

                @Missing_Semicolon

                Absolutely right!! These are the folk who trashed the excellent GTK3. The real snag was that GTK4 WAS NOT BACKWARDS COMPATIBLE with GTK3.

                As a result, I'm absolutely not rewriting all my GTK3 stuff........and the Glade team seem to agree with me!!.....thank goodness!!

            2. georgezilla

              Re: Once you try this, it is rather wonderful

              Or by people who think that they are smarter, know better, then the "average" user?

          2. georgezilla

            Re: Once you try this, it is rather wonderful

            " ... an optional feature that you can turn off ... "

            But if it's "optional", why should the default be "on"? Why must everything be to "opt out"?

            If I actually want something, I turn it on, if it's an app, I add it. Imagine if EVERY option was on by default. What a cluster fuck that would be.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Once you try this, it is rather wonderful

              "Imagine if EVERY option was on by default. What a cluster fuck that would be."

              Assuming we are still talking about Gnome here, isn't that going to be the choice of the distro maker as far as default OOTB goes? So whichever Gnome based distro you use, it's either defaulting to on or off and you get to either pick a distro based on that decision or stick to you distro of choice and if you don't agree with their default setting, just switch it on or off to suit you. Or just choose a desktop that isn't Gnome at all. Ain't choice wonderful?

            2. ArrZarr Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: Once you try this, it is rather wonderful

              Conversely, if every optional bit of functionality was off by default, the user experience would be rather awful out of the box (and you wouldn't know about a lot of functionality that is available without explicitly looking for it).

              Therefore a balance is required, and while you may disagree with where the balance should lie, you can still turn it off.

        2. Mage Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: could be a significant productivity boost

          How does it boost productivity? We had this decades ago on Gem, Windows 1.0?.

          Android sometimes does it.

          "I just want windows to be the size and location that I put them." — I agree.

          I have a 23.5″ 4K screen and I STILL don't want tiles or snappy windows.

          While I'm ranting can I mention popup windows that have no "close"? Windows that are only closed by tap or mouse click outside the Window. Stupid on Android and creeping elsewhere. Stupid lazy programming.

          Or scroll bars that don't match desktop, or hide unless hovered/touched?

          Seems to me a lot of UI designers are now clueless.

        3. JoeCool Bronze badge

          Why couldn't the tiling be user defined as an option ?

          Oh right. "Gnome".

          Why ask the user what they want, when you can mandate an API and then use questionalble data from it to enforce rules arbitrarily coded by the developer.

          Wait, did I just write out the dictionary definition of "Gnome desktop" ...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Killer app

        This. Global resizing good. Snapping bad.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Killer app

        "...of course, you may hate it.. and just want to globally turn it off; that is a legitimate choice as well."

        GNOME has a bit of a reputation of making choices for you. It's nice to hear that you will be able to turn this off if you prefer working in another way.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

      5. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: Killer app

        I don't see the delight in windows snapping. I move a window in just the wrong way, and BAM it's taking half the screen.

        Mate has the ability to define keyboard shortcuts for various kinds of tile. I use the otherwise-dusty numeric keypad to push windows to the side or to the corners (all the numbers except 5), so it happens when I want it, not when I hold the mouse wrong.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Killer app

          "I don't see the delight in windows snapping. I move a window in just the wrong way, and BAM it's taking half the screen."

          Doesn't that just happen once you release the mouse button though? I don't know. I use KDE on my main desktop and XFCE on the laptop at home with four virtual screens so don't want or need snapping since I sometimes want to drag a window to the next virtual screen left or right. I use Windows at work on a very wide curved screen and find the snap a bit of a pain when it's not what I want but since I see the "preview" of what will happen if I let go the mouse button, then I don't let go and drag it back a bit. Although with my work flow I usually end up preferring the browser and Outlook snapped side by side on the big screen and teams on the laptop screen. Even with the very wide screen, I'm not sure it's wide enough fro three apps vertically tiled without reducing the global zoom setting and my old eyes probably won't like that :-)

      6. unimaginative

        Re: Killer app

        I use KDE withatiling extension, and yes, it is alot more than tiling or a two window split, even quarters.my favourites are three columns (1to 3 windows per column) and spiral. You can see everything i a project on one virtuak desktop.

        That plus multiple desktops and knowing the keyboard shortcuts makes managing complex workflows a lot easier.

      7. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Killer app

        Windows 10 does do that.

        When you snap one window to half-a-screen, it immediately asks which window you'd like on the other half.

        If you pick one, resizing either causes the other one to resize & move to keep the tiled split.

        I'm not sure when this feature appeared, but it's been there for several years.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: The edge snapping tiling was Vista's killer app for me

      And for me it was a right PITA. We all have different use cases and having one imposed on us (and likely without any way to turn the effing thing off) is just wrong.

      Gnome is a lost cause to me. When Gnome 3 came out and screwed us over big time, I gave them the finger. Since then they had IMHO become even more [redacted]

      Not all of us want the Windows UI on Linux but that is what the Gnome idiots seem to think.

      XFCE all the way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The edge snapping tiling was Vista's killer app for me

        The thing with Gnome3 and beyond is that they moved to a more keyboard centric flow...I personally didn't (and still dont) find Gnome to be bad at all...itnis what it is. For me Gnome3 did what I wanted it to do...it receded into the background a bit more and got further out of my way.

        I used to love Gnome2, because I could switch tons of shit off and get it out of my face...Gnome3 to me was essentially what I was doing with Gnome2 but set up that way out of the box.

        The only thing that pisses me off about Gnome3 is the crappy systray behavior.

        I still turn off a lot of stuff...like search and so on, because when I tap the super key, I just want to be able to search apps and thats it...I've never cared about searching through my files because I use the command line for that where there are faster and far more superior tools available.

        All I want in a DE is that it takes up as little of my screen as possible and gets out of the way when I work...Gnome3 etc is exactly that.

        Your DE is a conduit through which shit gets done, nothing more.

        As for XFCE. I used that for quite a while on a laptop and whilst it was perfectly serviceable and worked just fine, it just felt a bit naff, cant quite put my finger on it, it was just never "slick", and the older my install got the weirder it became in terms of visual consistency.

        Yeah I know, I can customise it and fix that sort of shit...but when you're onsite somewhere and an update makes things go whacky and requires some tuning, you can't burn your customers time fixing it.

        The stock look is wank and I think the only fair comparison for DEs is what they look like and how they behave out of the box.

        XFCE out of the box is wank.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: The edge snapping tiling was Vista's killer app for me

          [Author here]

          > cant quite put my finger on it, it was just never "slick",

          This is a very odd and I think rather unfair comment.

          [1] Who cares about themes and "looks"? I care about how it works, not the cosmetics. I think that is what we are debating here, isn't it?

          [2] I don't know what Xfce looks like by default, because I use it on Xubuntu, openSUSE, MX Linux, Linux Lite, Mint, Debian, Fedora... and they all look different. So which vendor is it you are attacking here? I dispute that there *is* a "stock look*.

          Because you are on the attack.

          You go from "can't put my finger on it" to "looks wank" (very very negative, IMHO) in 2 paragraphs.

          (I could also argue that "putting your finger(s) on it" is the very definition of "wank" but that's a different kettle of fish.)

          I don't care about the look but you clearly do... so change it! It's very easy.

          [3] I find it more stable across version upgrades than any other desktop on Linux. Don't know what distros you are using, but then, you don't say. The big selling point of Xfce is stability.

          Overall your comment sounds like it fits multiple other desktops closer than it does Xfce, and all your comments strike much closer to home for GNOME than for Xfce to me.

          Which means that they are not specific criticisms at all. They're vague and general, like a horoscope: so bland and so general they apply to everyone, so everyone thinks they're tailored to them, when in fact they contain nothing concrete at all.

          Like your attack.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: The edge snapping tiling was Vista's killer app for me

            "I dispute that there *is* a "stock look*."

            I use it on FreeBSD and you could argue that the base install of XFCE on FreeBSD is the default "stock" look since it's not been fiddled with by "distro" devs. Having said that, I can't remember exactly what the default install looks like now. The first thing I did was to change stuff around to make it look fairly close to my preferred KDE look, which I also prefer looking pretty sparse. So I change the task bar to a "low profile" and put stuff like virtual screen applet and other stuff where I like them, menu button etc then stick warlockbar in a vertical config on the left. I grew up with 4:3 screens so anything wider often feels like it has "wasted" width, which is also why I like the look of that browser you wrote about the other day whose name escapes me right now, but isn't available on FreeBSD anyway and has the fancy sidebar although i can't quite cope with the way Firefox does vertical tabs. It's icky and half-hearted. :-)

      2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: The edge snapping tiling was Vista's killer app for me

        [Author here]

        This is a really odd comment to me. Half so right, half so wrong.

        > And for me it was a right PITA. We all have different use cases and having one imposed on us (and likely without any way to turn the effing thing off) is just wrong.

        As you wish. I love it and think it was the biggest improvement in Windows' window management in about a decade.

        > Gnome is a lost cause to me. When Gnome 3 came out and screwed us over big time, I gave them the finger. Since then they had IMHO become even more [redacted]

        Agreed.

        > Not all of us want the Windows UI on Linux but that is what the Gnome idiots seem to think.

        That is just back-asswards.

        The *entire point* of GNOME 3 is to be as _unlike_ Windows as they could be, because MS was threatening to sue over "about" 235 patent violations. I examined this in depth over a decade ago:

        https://www.theregister.com/Print/2013/06/03/thank_microsoft_for_linux_desktop_fail/

        > XFCE all the way.

        I agree. I really like it. I'm using it right this second.

        But XFCE 3 onwards are a direct ripoff of Win95. That's why I like them: KDE imitates the bloated Win98 and does it badly. Xfce imitates the lean mean Win95 and does it well.

        GNOME 3 was a direct response to a legal threat because GNOME 2 was a copy of Win9x.

        You claim one thing but then argue the reverse.

        BTW, Xfce 4.x does the window-snapping thing you claim to hate as well.

        1. druck Silver badge

          Re: The edge snapping tiling was Vista's killer app for me

          If only we had a window manager which faithfully imitated RISC OS, it would be heaven on earth.

          1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

            Re: The edge snapping tiling was Vista's killer app for me

            [Author here]

            > If only we had a window manager which faithfully imitated RISC OS, it would be heaven on earth.

            It would need to be a whole desktop suite, because the WM needs to interact with the filer and so on. But IKWYM and I do miss those days.

            OTOH, playing with RO on my Pi 400 recently, I'm shocked by how clunky and difficult some stuff is. Keyboard control is sorely lacking, and while there are some hotkeys and shortcuts, when they exist they're weird and nonstandard... which is fair, inasmuch as it predates the standards being set, but hey, times move on and a toggle somewhere to choose between CUA shortcuts and Acorn ones would be great.

            I'd love to see an updated ROX Desktop, with some modest usability tweaks, and the 0install stuff ripped out. (Sorry, but it flopped, and there are alternatives now. Embrace AppImage and just roll with it.)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Killer app

      Gnome has had snapping windows and Vista like tiling since before Vista.

      The tiling referred to in the article is akin to i3wm style tiling...which is even cooler but classic tiling WMs have a major drawback...they are an absolute twat to configure...but once done they can look and function brilliantly.

      Go take a look at /r/unixporn to see the type of stuff people do.

      I love using tiling window managers, but I hate the inconsistencies in appearance. Bringing this functionality to Gnome would be amazing because essentially you'd be able to have your cake and eat it because you could use either window arrangement method when it suits rather being stuck with just one.

      The real killer feature would be the ability to set one workspace as a tiling setup and leave another as a standard window setup...or even allocate it by monitor.

      In usually have a metric shit ton of terminal windows open and they would benefit from some automagical tiling because I often lose my terminals and just CTRL+ALT+T another because it faster.

      I can't go full time to a dedicated tiling WM because of the sort of Dev I do...working with browsers and responsive layout testing is an absolute faff on a tiling WM...not to mention that sometimes your flow breaks when you land in a pane that has overlapping keyboard shortcuts...yeah you can rebind them, but that just potentially shifts the overlap elsewhere.

      1. AJ MacLeod

        Re: Killer app

        Personally I hate tiling but it sounds to me like you should have a look at zellij for taming your terminals. I far prefer to have one thing on the screen at a time and switch between terminals using a more traditional multiplexer (tmux these days, GNU screen previously) but if you like having multiple terminal tabs and also multiple terminal panes, zellij is very straightforward to use.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Killer app

          [Author here]

          > you should have a look at zellij

          I've tried it. I like it better than tmux or dvtm but Zellij is a pig to install and brings in a tonne of Rusty stuff I don't want.

          But the thing with all these terminal multiplexer things is... _that's what my desktop is for_. They are great on the console when I haven't got X11, but if I do, I don't need a windowing system inside my windowing system.

          1. AJ MacLeod

            Re: Killer app

            Well my mileage varies - I ditched tabbed terminals / tiled terminals years ago for multiplexers and have never looked back. One big reason is that I can trivially access exactly the same sessions on my main desktop PC from anywhere using virtually any device; my laptop, other people's Windows PCs I am working on, my phone - so long as I have at least a basic Internet connection and ssh client I'm sorted.

            My desktop is for managing the GUI based programs I rely on; one virtual desktop for my web browser, another desktop for my accounts software (GNUCash) and another desktop for graphical remote desktop software or GUI access to VMs as occasionally required. The bulk of my work happens within that tmux session though...

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Killer app

        "The real killer feature would be the ability to set one workspace as a tiling setup and leave another as a standard window setup...or even allocate it by monitor."

        As I was reading your post, I was formulating a reply in my head to add exactly that, then, of course, I reached that bit of your comment and end felt both elated that you thought of it first and deflated because you thought of it first.

        It would be great to have virtual desktops that could be configured entirely differently in that way. So much more choice.

    4. Rich 2 Silver badge

      Re: Killer app

      I find the edge snapping feature one of the most irritating UI things ever invented

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Killer app

        THE most irritating feature being when you can not switch the damn behaviour off (or on again, but at your discretion)!

    5. I am David Jones Silver badge

      Re: Killer app

      I find windows snapping in Windows great. Four intuitive keyboard shortcuts, so useful.I was astonished that on my MacBook Air I have to faff about hovering or long clicking over a green microdot.

    6. Mage Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Edge snapping

      I hate it.

  2. nematoad

    Don't think so.

    As arguably the single most popular desktop environment across Linux distributions...

    Widely used may not equate to popular.

    I've seen a lot of adverse comments over the years about the habit of the Gnome developers habit of taking useful feature away and then when asked why the reply goes along the lines of "My way or the highway."

    I think that the desktops coming from the Mint team are more popular even if not so common. Basically what these do is work with the user and do not issue diktats from the developers.

    Yes, there may be times when an innovative approach is needed but remember the UI is a tool, there to do what you want and then get out of the way. Change for changes sake is not always a good idea.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Don't think so.

      Yeah. Windows is widely used, but that doesn't mean it's popular.

      1. ianbetteridge

        Re: Don't think so.

        False analogy. Windows is widely used because if you want to run Windows apps, you have to use it*. There's no such limitation in Linux. If you want to run KDE, or whatever those weird WM's that look like somethign from the 90s are, you can – and still run the same apps.

        (*Yes, I know about Wine. No, I don't think it makes a difference to the point I'm making)

        1. YetAnotherXyzzy

          Re: Don't think so.

          I agree, though it should be pointed out that the Gnome team are doing their very best to pester and bully application developers into making their apps Gnome-centric and thus not working very well on other DEs. I've had to move on from several otherwise good applications because their Gnomeiness just didn't play well with any DE but Gnome. Although it is a false analogy today, Gnome's dream appears to be to make it true.

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Don't think so.

      [Author here]

      > Widely used may not equate to popular.

      Well, yes, I do personally agree here.

      The snag is that, to run with your example of the desk tops in Linux Mint -- Cinnamon, Maté and Xfce -- the first only runs under X11 and doesn't support Wayland at all, and the other two struggled significantly with moving to Gtk 3, just in time for it to be abandoned as GNOME moved onto Gtk 4, and only XFCE is really working on Wayland support at all. I'm not aware of any significant effort toward Wayland support from the MATE project.

      The fact that Miriway has some extremely limited support for running one or two isolated MATE components is one of the reasons I wrote about it:

      https://www.theregister.com/2023/07/28/mir_canonicals_wayland_compositor/

      1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Don't think so.

        "moving to Gtk 3, just in time for it to be abandoned as GNOME moved onto Gtk 4"

        Yeah, GTK/Gnome and their Cascade of Attention Deficient Teenagers project management.

  3. thosrtanner

    Why would I want all my windows tiled? Yes, sometimes I might want two half screen apps stuck together when comparing files. But mostly, I want two or 3 windows in full view depending on what I'm doing and the rest of them - well, I'd like to see if something has happened (or, given our network stability, something nasty has not happened), while I work on the others. AND to see my background in the rest of the space.

    If they want to do something useful, please stop new windows grabbing focus. Because that is incredibly annoying. I start something because I'll want to look at it later, and then go on doing something else in the same (or different) window. And this new thing popping up after some random delay and grabbing the keyboard unexpectedly causes all sorts of problems.

    1. ianbetteridge

      Tiling is sometimes useful when you're working on a task which requires you to keep an eye on two different windows or applications at the same time, or need to keep two things in view. I use PopOS, which has a nice built in tiling system you can turn on and off with super-Y. I probably use it about 10% of the time, and the rest of the time I'm mostly just working in one application. I don't understand the fervant "tiling is the one true way" nonsense that you see spouted all too often, but it is occasionally useful.

    2. Rich 2 Silver badge

      A proper tiling wm is great once you get used to it. Oh the joy of windows not obscuring other windows and not having to constantly move and rearrange windows just to get on with your work

      If you have multiple desktops and a really easy way to switch between them then leaving a window full screen or having only 2 or so windows on the screen is really not a problem; it’s an asset.

      Try i3 wm for a while. Other tiling WMs are also available. Definitely don’t judge the idea by whatever debacle Gone comes up with

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We recently discovered a problem at $WORK, where a particular application would take a minute (15 seconds or so) for certain operations, so it was perfectly normal to switch windows and work on something else during that time. Unfortunately, this app grabs the focus for about 2 seconds during that time, then returns it. If you happen to be typing during those 2 seconds, not only would your text not be in the window you think you're in, but it would be inserting that text in the problematic application even if you don't have write access there...

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    What I really need is multiple desktops

    The last time that I looked gnome did not have that - one of the big reasons that I stick with Mate.

    1. ianbetteridge

      Re: What I really need is multiple desktops

      I'm not sure if I'm missing something in what you're saying, but Gnome has had mutliple desktops (workspaces) for quite a while.

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: What I really need is multiple desktops

      [Author here]

      > The last time that I looked gnome did not have that

      When was that, 1998?

      GNOME 2, 3 and 40 all have virtual desktops. I even rather liked the implementation in GNOME 3, although it only worked well if you had just 1 monitor. So of course they've broken it in 40.

      But it is there and always has been.

      1. alain williams Silver badge

        Re: What I really need is multiple desktops

        But in Gnome 3 all that I could ever manage was for the different workspaces/desktops to be up/down. In Gnome2/Mate I can arrange them in a grid.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: What I really need is multiple desktops

          [Author here]

          > But in Gnome 3 all that I could ever manage was for the different workspaces/desktops to be up/down. In Gnome2/Mate I can arrange them in a grid.

          Huh? Hang on a second.

          [1] That is a totally different complaint. First you said "there are no virtual desktops".

          Then, when challenged by several people, you admit that there are and you know how to find them but you don't like the *arrangement* of them?! WTH?

          [2] Who cares what the arrangement is? MacOS only has them in a horizontal row. So what?

          [3] You neglect that there's a good reason: you can't have a fixed grid if you don't have a fixed number. The innovation in GNOME 3 was a floating number of them, which I personally think is a very clever idea and actually quite well done. Shame the toolbar thing didn't and couldn't go on the right if you have 2+ monitors in a row.

          You are trying to totally change tack mid-stream and that does not wash. Pick a story and stick to it, or be ready to have your argument challenged or even mocked.

          1. alain williams Silver badge

            Re: What I really need is multiple desktops

            I do care a lot about the arrangement. My standard is 12 desktops (arranged 3 x 4), I run specific applications (eg web browser, email, ...) in specific desktops. If this is hard to do (as with modern Gnome) then the availability of desktops is useless to me - thus my comment about them not being available -- yes, very bad wording.

  5. ianbetteridge

    What's interesting is how much the Mosaic version looks and acts like Apple's Stage Manager, which also attempts to stop windows overlapping too much, keeping more windows visible. Where it differs is that the default on the Mac is for newly-opened apps to open in their own "space", which is sensible given that a lot of apps make assumptions that they can take up as much space as they want.

    1. AJ MacLeod

      It has always felt to me like Apple's window management has never been less than totally chaotic. From the darkest days of the 90s (I never suffered with Apple exposure in the 80s thankfully) through to the current day, Apple's desktops invariably stick windows exactly where I don't want them (and usually somewhere I have to struggle to find them.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ah, like "maximize" really turns that window into its own desktop? So a 3-finger swipe changes from the "real" desktop with all the non-maximized windows, to the first maximized window, then to the second...

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Like Windows 10 I have to use at work. It seems entirely random where a new window opens up. Picture it. Two windows tiled on the big super-wide screen and one full screen on the laptop below. Outlook is on half of the big screen, Click "New Mail". Where does the new mail compose window appear? Anywhere. Literally anywhere, although most commonly and most perplexingly, on the laptop screen, a different physical screen to the one where the main Outlook window and therefore my eyes are. And Windows "knows" that screen 1, the laptop is physically below screen 2, the big monitor. Weird!

  6. robinsonb5

    Interesting that the first paragraph of the blog post accidentally touches on the real problem with traditional window management as it's implemented today:

    "In this metaphor, each app can spawn one or more rectangular windows, *which are stacked by most recently used*..."

    That, right there, is your problem - the assumption that any interaction with a window must cause it to pop to the front. That hasn't always been the case - and for as long as I can remember even Windows has had a workaround for the problems it causes for drag-and-drop. (Try it: open a filer window in Windows and in Linux, open a smaller window on top, and try and drag a file from the large window into the small one. On Linux the large window will immediately pop to the front, obscuring the drop target. On windows the pop-to-front is deferred because the click initiated a drag-and-drop.)

    There were heated arguments about how to solve this in the Gnome 2 days, but as usual more heat than light was generated.

    My own preferred way of working when developing is to have a text editor running full screen, and a terminal window on top of the lower-right ninth of it - with raise-on-click disabled so it doesn't vanish every time I click in the text editor. If I want to see the full editor momentarily I can just click its titlebar, or middle-click the terminal window's titlebar (unless its a CSD window - rant for another day!)

    That's apparently such a radical way of working that of the main desktop environments I think only XFCE makes it available as an option to the user.

    (MATE's window manager can do it to, but you have to find the setting using dconf-editor - where it's accompanied by a rather antagonistic and no-longer-entirely-accurate message[1] left over from Metacity. Reading that message for the first time back in 2008 or so was the moment I first realised that my ability to use the computer the way I preferred was going to be limited not by technical matters but by politics.)

    All that aside, there are some interesting ideas in the blog post and I look forward to seeing what comes of them.

    [1] this one: https://github.com/mate-desktop/marco/blob/master/marco.pot#L431

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      " rather antagonistic and no-longer-entirely-accurate message[1] left over from Metacity"

      Blimey that's aggressive!

    2. druck Silver badge

      You would love RISC OS. The only action that brings a window to the front is clicking the the title bar (or an alt click anywhere else if you can't see the titlebar), you can click, type, drag to or from a partially hidden window - it works so well.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "On Linux the large window will immediately pop to the front, obscuring the drop target."

      Using FreeBSD here with both KDE (desktop) and XFCE (laptop) here, and that definitely does not happen here. The windows under the mouse gets focus, but it doesn't "leap to the front" at the same time. That sounds like a WM setting that you may want to investigate and hopefully change. Or maybe it's an inherent property of the DE/WM you are using. It's definitely not the default setting in KDE or XFCE so if your Linux distro is using either of those DE/WMs, then the distro maintainer changed the default.

  7. Simian Surprise

    They're overcomplicating it again

    > need for additional metadata about the contents of a window in order to decide where to put that window.

    Bollocks.

    I use i3wm, which is tiling only* and it puts things where I want them, because I put them where I want them. I guess this makes me a "power user" because I don't mind pushing C-M-arrow on occasion?

    And I'm pretty sure much of the group of people who don't like Windows's management thereof might also not want/need/like any feature like "huh looks like that one is your web mail".

    * okay, you can have a pop-out window and nontiled dialogs

    1. ianbetteridge

      Re: They're overcomplicating it again

      Not everyone wants to spend their life rearranging windows so they're *just so*. Why bother posting a comment that's basically just a variant of "I don't like it, and won't use it" when you're clearly not the intended audience for it?

      1. Rich 2 Silver badge

        Re: They're overcomplicating it again

        I think you’re missing the point. I use i3wm. Nobody spends their “life” constantly rearranging windows in it. Because most of the time what i3 does is absolutely fine and on the occasion it isn’t, rearranging windows is easy and fast. Also, because it also supports multiple desktops, one can keep windows open for months so they don’t forget where they are; they are rarely in the way

        If you really want to, you can also pre-load and arrange applications you use all the time if you want

    2. smorrow

      Re: They're overcomplicating it again

      Possible worst take here.

      Applications don't *have* to send that metadata - I would assume. Your window manager doesn't have to use it if it is present. *And* it could prove useful to other window managers in any given paradigm.

      Certainly the yet-to-be-invented paradigm where the window manager uses "AI" to learn your preferences could do with all the information it possibly can.

  8. Chris Gray 1

    Must be optional

    Might I suggest some rules for such a tiler:

    If the window has been manually resized and moved by the user, then *never* move or resize it automatically.

    If the window has had a given size/position for a long time and is used often, then *never* move/resize it automatically.

    I used to use Gnome2. Gnome3 came. Hated it. Found Mate. Still using it more than a decade later.

    Why? I do not spend time interacting with the window manager. Monitor is old 1280 x 1024, in portrait mode. It has the tool, etc. bar vertically on the right. That leaves room for a pair of 80 column, full height windows side by side. The right hand one is Gnu emacs. The left hand one is a shell. Buffers in emacs come and go. Testing of my code, email, file handling, etc. run in the left window. A shell buffer in emacs is also used, but tends to be for things that don't produce a lot of output.

    If a window manager that I cannot control ever fiddles with those two windows just because I temporarily open up another window, then I will find where the developer lives.... :-)

    Web browser? That means I'm taking a break from programming - the two main windows are iconified.

    Lately I've often had a PDF viewer for the X86-64 architecture active, but it comes and goes iconified as needed.

    I do not want a system that relies on my very poor memory to find key combinations or weird names to control my system and run things. Give me menus!!!!

  9. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    This could be a significant productivity boost for the most common Linux desktop environment – as well as further afield.

    The idea of GNOME wanting to improve productivity is ... peculiar. These are the people who decided that two identical "gear wheel" buttons to the top left were preferable to menus with actual titles.

  10. Kev99 Silver badge

    I find having multiple windows open to be quite distracting. It's okay if I'm working different versions of a spreadsheet or doc but otherwise quite distracting.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      > I find having multiple windows open to be quite distracting

      Now this is an interesting contribution.

      I am the opposite -- I find it a huge win and I started using computers when it was one full-screen text-mode program at a time and you couldn't have others to switch to. When I met Concurrent DOS and then Unix and 4 virtual consoles, it was a small revelation, but it's what made the windowing GUI a killer feature for me.

      This means, I think, that you're the sort of person for whom Apple's full-screen support was made. It's good to hear someone speak up for that camp.

  11. Alan Mackenzie
    Thumb Up

    So DEs are catching up with Emacs, are they?

    Emacs has had this "tiling" behaviour for well over 20 years, possibly nearer 50 years.

    Inside each Emacs frame (GUI "window"), the Emacs windows are optimally positioned. When one is resized the others are correspondingly resized to match, etc.

    This was true before there even were GUIs, when terminals were just character terminals.

    It's nice to see Gnome et al. catching up with 50 year old technology. ;-)

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: So DEs are catching up with Emacs, are they?

      [Author here]

      > Emacs has had this "tiling" behaviour for well over 20 years

      Indeed it has. You didn't write this, did you?

      https://howardism.org/Technical/Emacs/new-window-manager.html

      But the thing is, where it can do many wonderful things, it doesn't use the keyboard controls that have been standard for 30+ years now. It doesn't even call windows "windows".

      I'm sorry but I just don't have time for that.

      In the 1980s I knew a dozen different editors, with totally different keystrokes and sets of terminology... but then standardisation happened and it all went away and it was _great_.

      The standard is called CUA, and most GUIs in the world today follow it:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Common_User_Access

      There is a less than half-hearted stab at it in Emacs, called `cua-mode`, but it's not worth having.

      https://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/manual/html_node/emacs/CUA-Bindings.html

      This is a much better effort but it needs integration and being made the default _for new users_.

      https://ergoemacs.github.io/

      1. Alan Mackenzie
        Thumb Up

        Re: So DEs are catching up with Emacs, are they?

        [Author here]

        Hello, Liam.

        >> Emacs has had this "tiling" behaviour for well over 20 years

        > Indeed it has. You didn't write this, did you?

        No, I didn't. (Neither Emacs's "tiling" nor the following web page.)

        > https://howardism.org/Technical/Emacs/new-window-manager.html

        That's a splendid demonstration of Emacs's versatility. I use Emacs quite differently.

        > But the thing is, where it can do many wonderful things, it doesn't use the keyboard controls that have been standard for 30+ years now. It doesn't even call windows "windows".

        Emacs can't afford to use these standard key bindings. They may be standard, but they're a bad standard. I've just counted up the commands in Emacs, and they number around 13,500. Each one of these potentially wants a key binding. The short key bindings are exceptionally precious, and need to be kept for frequently used commands. Wasting, for example, C-s on "save file" would be an absolute wrench in the gearbox. In Emacs, C-s is actually used to start an incremental search (as contrasted with the excremental search which is still common in other applications).

        Yes, it's a shame that the original developers of GUIs failed to use the established terminology, way back then. The subject of changing the terminology of "frame" to "window", and "window" to something else (what?) comes up every now and then on the Emacs developers' mailing list. But considering the hundreds of hours of work that would take, combined with the months/years of inevitable bugs and confusion ("do you mean "old" window or "new" window?") that would occur pretty soon puts a dampner on such proposals. It's really not hard to get used to "window" meaning what Gnome plans on it meaning.

        > I'm sorry but I just don't have time for that.

        That's fine, Emacs isn't for everybody. It may be the most user friendly program there is, but it definitely isn't beginner friendly. You've got to put a _lot_ of effort into learning it and configuring it to become your own Emacs. Once you've learnt it to a reasonable degree (the process never stops), your productivity shows the benefits.

        > In the 1980s I knew a dozen different editors, with totally different keystrokes and sets of terminology... but then standardisation happened and it all went away and it was _great_.

        > The standard is called CUA, and most GUIs in the world today follow it:

        It may be a standard, but it is inappropriate for programs with 13,500 commands competing for key bindings.

        > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Common_User_Access

        > There is a less than half-hearted stab at it in Emacs, called `cua-mode`, but it's not worth having.

        I don't think it's widely used, no. It doesn't appear frequently in bug reports, for example.

        https://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/manual/html_node/emacs/CUA-Bindings.html

        > This is a much better effort but it needs integration and being made the default _for new users_.

        That's another topic which arises every now on then on the developers' list. Yes, it would ease the learning for newcomers, but such newcomers would be deprived of the benefits of Emacs's systematic key binding schemes for a long time, possibly for ever.

        https://ergoemacs.github.io/

        That's one approach, yes, and is yet another demonstration of Emacs's versatility. :-)

  12. Rich 2 Silver badge

    Or just use i3

    …. Or some other proper tiling wm that is vastly lighter, simpler, and probably works better than anything Gnome come up with

  13. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

    Depends on screen size

    Left/right tiling might be OK for a HD screen. Try a 4K one big enough to use the pixels. You really want windows to stay modestly sized, as full screen is insane.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: Depends on screen size

      Depends on the use case. I find 4k screens useful for certain spreadsheets (Optimised for 1920x1080 for users, but there's hidden stuff where having it all on one screen at 100% scaling is really handy).

      It's not a common use case and even then it's a rare one in my workflow and necessity but 4k full screen (at 100% scaling) is useful.

  14. EBG

    am I understanding this correctly ?

    The windows manager is going to make its own (random) decisions as to where it tiles, workspaces, whatever the new windows that I open (yeh, yeh, context, metadata, blah,blah) Then I have to react to it, search for them ??

    1. smorrow

      Re: am I understanding this correctly ?

      Yes. This is called dynamic window management, it is popular for years. Adherents will swear up and down that if you don't like it, you just aren't big-braned enough.

      At least this one animates the movements.

  15. jilocasin
    Linux

    sorry but no.

    Just one of many reasons I left Gnome ages ago.

    It's bad enough the devs suffer from MacOS envy, but the "you must do it _our way_" mentality.... bleck.

    I don't want nor need tiling. Heck, I even hate it's little brother snapping.

    I have multiple large monitors and I like to keep dozens of _overlapping_ windows open at any time. I don't want the DE arranging my windows, nor do I want to constantly run with a couple of full screen applications. This isn't 1990.

    All that I need is for the DE to remember where and at what size I last opened a window at and reopen it exactly like that the next time I start the application. Oh, and properly handle multiple monitors extending to the *left*.

    KDE is *almost* there.

  16. PRR Silver badge

    Alt-Tab.

  17. achillesneil

    Small Screen Estate

    I find tiling managers like SpectrWM quite useful on netbooks which tend to have small screens. Very little screen real estate is wasted. And they tend to be very lightweight which reduces power consumption.

  18. Groo The Wanderer Silver badge

    Gnome stopped being usable over 5 years ago...

  19. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

    Not for me

    As the author mentioned, tiling was how Windows 1 did it. It worked so well that MS preferred a very expensive law suit from Apple rather than keep at it.

    Last time I saw tiling was within an IDE. The guy doing the demonstration had to spend more time adjusting the tile he wanted atm to a useful size than he did working. (Which reduced the size of the tile he wanted next, natch.)

    If you like it at least you get the choice. I'm glad I get to choose not to have it.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    P.S. Plaudits to Liam Proven...

    ...who is (I think) the only El Reg contributor to supplement commentard comments with additional (and useful) responses.

    I also think that more El Reg contributors should take a leaf from Liam's book.

    1. druck Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: P.S. Plaudits to Liam Proven...

      Liam's stuff is so good, it's almost possible to overlook the Americanisation that's been forced on his prose.

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: P.S. Plaudits to Liam Proven...

      Thank you both very much!

    3. PRR Silver badge

      Re: P.S. Plaudits to Liam Proven...

      > only El Reg contributor to supplement commentard comments with additional (and useful) responses.

      Doesn't the Auto Guy, Gitlin?, sometimes post further info and clarification and outright rebuttals of re/commen/tards?

      But it can be time consuming, rub readers a wrong way, and writers are (I assume) only paid the $0.02/word for the 2,000 word assignment; any comments are unpaid free labor.

      But I know I have bought books based on the author's comments in a forum. (Books? What are those??)

  21. Baximelter

    As a long-time user of XFCE (not the detestable GNOME) I can manage window placement by myself, thank you. Here we see the developers of GNOME attempting to make the desktop even more unusable. What is it that drives the folk who build the distributions to foist things like GNOME and systemd on us?

  22. bish

    Pop for now

    Work requires me to hop between various web apps, a couple of terminals, one or two rdp sessions, a chat app, a password manager (or two, we’re migrating), zoom and (in home office) a soft phone. I’ve tried a bunch of distros and customisations (I need to stay in deb land for work reasons) but Pop’s tiling approach makes this fairly straightforward… at least, when and while it works.

    I find it usually takes anywhere between one and four hours, but at some point in the day it seems to lose track of how wide or tall my screens are (whether using two standard HD screens in the office or a single 4K at home), and will not be persuaded to let windows cover the full screen - the bottom half or one eighth edge of one screen will just show me desktop. The only solution seems to be logging out and back in, which gets old quickly.

    I’ve seen similar behaviour with a bunch of Gnome tiling extensions, on a bunch of distros, so it’s either hardware (it isn’t) or Gnome itself is throwing up problems that just can’t easily be solved by extensions. So I’m really looking forward to Cosmic, even if it’s probably still a long way off.

  23. TheWeetabix

    I use XFCE on linux, and have various window management schemes, but on macos I use yabai, and it does a beautiful job of tiling my windows.

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