DE evolution through XFCE window layout memory lane

(or “Hey! I know this! I used it 10 years ago!”)

After unsuccessful attempts to make KDE or GNOME usable on my work computer, I decided to try XFCE again. It was exactly what I was looking for, but that’s not the point of this post. While messing with its configuration, I found the window border settings and I noticed that some of them are, actually, copies of old Window Managers, which brought memories of the whole time I spent with Linux in the past.

Here are the ones I remembered (and just keep in mind that it was a long time ago and it’s from a user perspective, so times may be off a bit.)


When GNOME appeared, it needed a Window Manager for themselves. Enlightenment was the chosen one and it came with this theme as default. I can’t really remember if it was the default window manager for the very first GNOME 2.0 or it was used before.


Due Enlightenment lack of options and general bad behaviour (although it had the most flexible theme engine at the time), GNOME decided to switch from it to Sawfish (at the time Sawmill, but they had to change the name due copyright problems.)


Sawfish, although highly configurable, was not in line with the general philosophy of GNOME and Havoc Pennington started working on a new window manager based on GTK, named “Metacity”. Atlanta was one of the themes it had in the first release.


At some point, a new Linux company appared to help improve GNOME in general. This company, named Eazel, was working on a new file manager for GNOME and a new theme for the window manager. The company went bankrupt a few months later, with an unfinished file manager that was pick up by the community and turned in Nautilus.


With GNOME finally becoming more popular and turning into the default DE for most distributions, they had to find a way to differentiate them from the others. RedHat, still working with workstations at the time, created a theme named “Curve”. It was pure pain to everyone not using anything that didn’t use a RPM-based distribution, ’cause the only way to get the theme was to install the RPM itself or convert it to something else. Much time later, RedHat would leave the workstation business, focus on servers and create Fedora to take care of their old market.


From the ashes of Eazel, a new company apparead, named Helix, later renamed to Ximian. As the other companies, they created a theme to differentiate them from the others.

Edit: Jakub Steiner, the famous Jimmac, pointed that Gorilla predates Metacity (a point that, honestly, I wasn’t sure). Gorilla was originally written for Sawfish and later (badly, it seems) to Metacity. Jimmac also send a link to a screenshot of the original Gorilla.


Some time later, Ximian was bought by Novell and they created a new theme. Although their GTK theme wasn’t very appealing due lack of contrast on elements, the window manager theme was awesome. Unfortunately, the XFCE theme don’t follow the GTK theme colors, as the original Industrial did.

Edit: I just found the Industrial GTK theme. Its problem was not the low contrast: it was extremely flat, in a time were everyone was aiming for more rounder layouts.

And that’s what I remember. Corrections are welcomed.