Using XMonad for a No-Nonsense, Highly Productive Linux Desktop Experience

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 28, 2012 from 1:30 – 2:15pm in B201


Many Linux desktop environments try to be easy to use for the average user, but that's not you. You're at your computer all day writing code; you don't want to mess around with *dragging windows* or (ugh) watching *animated transitions*. David Brewer will demonstrate how by using xmonad, a tiling window manager, you can free yourself from the tyranny of the mouse.


  • Do you spend pretty much all day, every day, working with your computer — primarily writing code or otherwise working with text?
  • Does your annoyance grow every time you have to fiddle with a window to get it to be just the right size or in the right position?
  • Do you find yourself constantly flipping through overlapping windows to find the one you need?
  • Does wasting precious milliseconds of your life watching the same transition animation for the millionth time fill you with nerd rage?
  • Do you watch the direction that Gnome Shell, Unity, and KDE are developing in and wonder if there’s a less bloated alternative?

The answer for me turned out to be xmonad, a tiling window manager written in Haskell. If you think you might like a minimalist desktop experience, and you’re willing to invest the time to make it through a learning curve, it might be the answer for you too.

I’ll make the case for xmonad and demonstrate what I love about my own desktop configuration so you can decide for yourself if an xmonad-based system would be right for you. And, I’ll provide and explain sample configuation files for Ubuntu so you can try a similar setup with a minimum of fuss.

Speaking experience

This will be the first time for this talk. Here's my conference speaking history:

Open Source Bridge 2011: "Put THAT in Your Pipe and Deploy It!"

Open Source Bridge 2010: "The symfony framework behind the scenes at museum installations"

Open Source Bridge 2009:
"Using virtualization and automation to improve your web development workflow"

MCN 2009: "Institutional Collaborations across the Digital Divide: The Vogel 50x50 Web Site as a Model for Digital Collection Presentation"

OSCON 2008: "Using Ubuntu, Virtualization, and Automation to Improve Your Web Development Workflow"