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So a speedy desktop is largely just a matter of using a window manager
and applications that suits your hardware. And by the way, just because
you don't use the KDE or Gnome desktop environments doesn't mean you shouldn't
install them. KDE and Gnome apps will run quite well under a lightweight
window manager, so if you have the disk space, I recommend installing both.
Listed below are some suggestions for the type of apps. that most people
use everyday, all of which work nicely on my 233/64 box (and most of this
stuff should be fine with just 32megs of RAM). Keep in mind that these
suggestions are only my own personal preferences; they certainly aren't
the only way to do things.
Configuring IceWm is extremely easy, and while there are graphical tools available for this, it's just as easy to edit its configuration files manually. The global configuration files are usually in /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/icewm/ and are named preferences , menu and toolbar . Make a hidden folder called .icewm in your home directory and copy these three files into it. Then it's just a matter of editing them to suit your own needs and tastes.
IceWm is included with many recent distros, and includes very good documentation in /usr/doc/icewm.
Another lightweight WM that is very popular is xfce
, an exceptionally good looking and fast window manager that is worth a
It appears XWC is no longer actively maintained, and is only available in RPM format. Its successor, foXcommander , is similar and is part of the foXdesktop project. It is available as source.
Another fast, good looking filer that is highly recommended is rox
There is also a browser called Dillo
that is worth installing. Dillo is extremely fast, and quite good looking
as well. Still under development, it doesn't yet handle frames, java or
it. It's brilliant for reading local html files (like helpfiles and /usr/doc/*html
stuff). I use Opera for internet work, and Dillo for local files.
As for email, Netscape and Mozilla both have reasonable email clients built in, though it's a pain waiting for them to load just to read your email. A lot of people recommended Sylpheed , and it is now what I use. Sylpheed is very fast, and has a nice clear interface. It is also a basic newsreader. Netscape 4.7x's newsreader is pretty ordinary, so you might want to try Pan , a Gnome news app. capable of handling binary attachments.
Another useful utility is tnef. It was designed to unpack those annoying "ms-tnef" MIME attachments that are commonly sent from Outlook and Exchange mail servers. Although it's a command line tool, it's easy to use and works well.
I know there are several graphical ftp clients, and I did play
briefly with gFTP (which ran fine),
but I can't really recommend anything else as I still prefer the command-line
There are also plenty of graphical front ends around for cd recording
software. I have played around with the very popular
xcdroast , but mainly I still use command line tools like cdrecord,
mpg123, bladeenc etc. Again, let me know if you have recommendations.
Spreadsheets-It's hard to recommend a particular spreadsheet as different user's needs vary so widely. While I use the ApplixWare spreadsheet, Gnumeric is another fairly mature app. that meets my admittedly modest needs easily, and seems to handle Excel files well. KSpread , like KWord, also runs well enough but doesn't completely work with Microsoft formats just yet. Read the section below for more...
Office Suites- These usually include a word processor,
spreadsheet, presentation builder, graphics/drawing tools etc. Despite
the fact that it's a non-free, commercial app. ApplixWare
gets my vote as favourite office suite. Native to Linux, Applix runs well,
and has more than enough features to meet my needs. Both the word processor
and the spreadsheet seem to handle most MSOffice formats, and the documentation
is very good. Worth paying for in my opinion.
The KOffice suite is a good looking KDE2 suite that is only let down by its incompatability with MSOffice files, however for some people this won't be a problem, and hopefully this issue will be soon overcome by the KOffice developers.
StarOffice is probably the most popular Linux suite, but frankly I can't stand it. I especially dislike the monolithic desktop design, and even on a powerful machine it takes forever to load. However it does have lots of features, it's free for personal use, and MSOffice compatability is very good, so if you have heavy-duty requirements, you might be stuck with it. Upcoming versions, as well as close relative OpenOffice , do away with the irritating integral desktop, but don't seem to be any quicker.
|Program||First Startup||Subsequent Starts|
|XWindowsCommander||1 sec||0.5 sec|
|Nedit||2 secs||1.5 sec|
|Netscape 4.77||9 secs||4 secs|
|Dillo||1 sec||0.5 sec|
|Sylpheed||1.5 sec||1 sec|
|xli (XLoadImage)||<1 sec||0.5 sec|
|XMMS||3 sec||2.5 sec|
|mtvp||1 sec||0.5 sec|
|ApplixWords||6 secs||4 secs|
|AbiWord||2.5 secs||2 secs|
Screen Savers are probably more of a nicety than a necessity. Xscreensaver works very well with lightweight window managers and is easy to set up. It runs a randomly picked screensaver after a user-set period, and continues to change it at pre-set intervals. Run xscreensaver-demo to set the preferences, or see the man pages for more details. The easiest way to start xscreensaver automatically at login is by adding the xscreensaver & command to your window manager's startup script, eg. /usr/X11R6/bin/icewm.
TrueType Fonts are no longer a big deal to set up. Some distros (such as Mandrake 7.2 and later) include a tool for utilising TrueType fonts, even those installed on a Windows partition. This can make a big difference to the appearance to of apps; Netscape in particular. Mandrake's tool is called Drakfont, and is extremely easy to use.
Unnecessary Services or daemons can slow your machine down and
lengthen bootup times. Default installations often run all sorts of servers
and other stuff that you don't need. As well as using resources, these
things can increase your security risk. You can use a graphical tool like
, or you can manually yank the unneeded stuff (usually from /etc/rc.d/rc5.d
), but be sure to make a backup first.