Artist's Guide to the Desktop, Part 2

In this episode, Mr. Hammel tells us all about Enlightenment 0.16.1.
A Shady Desktop: Getting More Screen Space

Desktop users often find that their biggest problem is having enough screen space for all the windows they need open at the same time. Linux users are fortunate in that X was designed to make adding virtual space possible in all sorts of ways, and E makes use of nearly all of them.

We've already mentioned pagers, a concept that has been around awhile. Most users have probably heard or seen them even if they have not actually used them. E takes saving screen space a little further by allowing you to “roll up” windows into their Title Bars. The animated effect looks a little like a drawer sliding into a chest. To roll up a window, click the middle mouse button on the Title Bar. Click it again to roll it back out. The animated movement of the window sliding into the Title Bar can be toggled on or off, which is useful on memory-limited systems. When disabled, the window simply disappears, leaving only the Title Bar visible. This rolling in and out of windows is called “shading”.

Shading works for just about any window in E. This includes the pager windows and the icon box. The only windows that can't be shaded are menus. Desktops don't get shaded per se, but they can be slid up and down using the drag bar. The position and direction of slide for drag bars is configurable.

While shading saves you space, you can manage your windows better by grouping them together. Shading a window that's part of a group will shade all other windows in that same group. Grouping windows is done using the Title Bar menu—click the left mouse button on the title to see this menu. Windows belonging to the same Window groups can be iconified, killed, moved and shaded all at the same time. Grouping of windows is a feature found in current versions of WindowMaker and Afterstep, two other popular window managers.

Touring the Desktop: User Menus

We can now take a look at the default menu configuration. I'm assuming you either use a three-button mouse or have your X server configured to simulate three buttons. The latter isn't difficult to do, but we're talking about E here, not the X server. Refer to your X server documentation for how to simulate using a three-button mouse.

Clicking the left mouse button over the root window (i.e., the background) will bring up the Enlightenment menu, which is where you can get access to the rest of the root menus. Become familiar with the Help system option in this menu. You'll be referring back to it on a regular basis.

Figure 2. The Default Enlightenment Menu

Figure 3. The Settings Menu

Clicking the right mouse button over the root window will open the Settings menu. This is where you want to be in order to configure some aspects of E. Options include window focus and auto-raise, desktop backgrounds, and special effects like animated shading of windows and window sliding. The last option causes windows to slide in from one edge of the screen when you change to the page and desktop where they live. Animation options should be turned off on low-end systems and ones with limited memory, to improve overall performance.

Title bars have menus which are opened with right mouse clicks in the title area. This menu allows you to force windows to be “sticky”, which means they are visible no matter what page or desktop is in focus. Here, too, you can set a given window's Window Group, stacking order and border style. You can also use this menu to close windows of applications which may be misbehaving.

Menus are available for many other E features. The icon box's menu can be opened with the right mouse button clicked along its edges or inside the box. One option in this menu is the Iconbox Settings window. Here you'll find many options, including changing the box's orientation (horizontal or vertical), automatic resizing of the icon box, showing or hiding the icon names and backgrounds, and whether or not to use a transparent background in the box.

The pagers have two menus which are also opened with right mouse clicks. Since pagers are just like any other application, their Title Bars (which are just as likely to be along a side as along the top of the pager window) have a menu like any other application's window. This differs from the pager's menu, opened with a right mouse click inside the pager itself. This menu offers you the option of setting high or low-quality display of windows and images in the pager, as well as a Pager Settings window. This window allows you to set a few pager-specific options. If you're on a low-end system, or one with limited memory (like a laptop), you will want to disable the continuous screen scan option in this window.

Finally, the drag bar has a small menu which allows you to jump directly to windows in other desktops. A middle mouse-button click on the drag bar will show titles of all windows in all desktops. Selecting a title will jump you to that window. If the window is in the current desktop page but hidden by other windows, it will raise that window to the top of all windows. If you left-click on the drag bar and drag down, you can expose lower-layer desktops. A window can be dragged between desktops (onto the same relative page) in this manner. For example, if the window is in the currently visible desktop and you pull the drag bar down a little to expose the next higher level desktop, you can drag the window's title bar into the next higher level desktop. When you release the mouse button, the window's desktop is moved. Again, E provides many different methods for accomplishing the same task. Moving windows between desktops can also be done using various menu options.

The drag bar is just another way of doing what the pagers do, but without taking up any extra screen space. You can disable the pagers completely and just use the drag bar to move around your desktops. The drag bar is long and thin—E works hard to save screen space—and can be configured so it sits along any edge of the display.

By default, E configures menus to be opened using an animated display. On slower systems or systems with limited memory, it is better to disable this feature using the Settings menu (right-click in root window).