A great improvement in working speed: Tiling in xfce

I’m usually not the typical sysadmin hacker kind of person that knows and remembers every tiny shortcut he ever sees and uses, but every once in a while I stumble upon something that allows for a noticeable improvement in my work, that it is worth memorizing and using.

Just recently, I learned about tiling in window managers when a colleague of mine opened a bunch of terminals in order to work on different machines in parallel and without using the mouse, quickly arranged them in the corners of the screen, having an effectively arranged set of equally sized, non-overlapping windows. That seemed so impressively effective and useful that I had to look into it and learn how to do it. It’s a task I have to do several times a day and it usually took me like 10 times the time to get it done.

For almost a decade now, I’m using the xfce desktop environment and unfortunately, the first hits I found, indicated that window tiling is not natively possible with xfwm4 (the xfce window manager). Fortunately, as of April 28th and xfce 4.10, that is not true any more, so the only hurdle to be taken was to get xfce 4.10 into ubuntu 12.04 LTS which is the flavor currently installed on my workstation. It’s rather easy these days. Instead of having to compile things, like I used to do previously, there are repositories to be added and the next version is just an upgrade away.

Following the instructions over at it-diary.com, I managed to quickly get 4.10 running and with this video tutorial, tiling in xfce was activated within seconds.

It actually does not allow for windows being quartered into the corner of the screen, but at least it is possible to quickly get things left/right or up/down aligned. I’m still in finding the most naturally feeling keyboard shortcuts to do it, but already, I feel like I have become a few percent more effective because it’s a lot easier now to arrange windows side by side than with the way I used before (dragging them around while holding the ALT-key).


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