Comparison of Sawfish and FVWM

Sawfish and FVWM seem to be the only two truly infinitely customizable window managers in existence. Below is a list of features and comparisons between the two.





Out of the boxness

Defaults look and act as most people would expect.

Incredibly awkward until customized to suit you.

Sawfish. By a mile.

Ease of Customization

Fairly simple, due to the configurator.

Gobs and gobs of options that need to be added to the config file.


Per-Window Customization

Yes, via "Window Matching"

Yes, via "Styles"




Perl (maybe others too?)

Unless FVWM can also utilize other languages... Sawfish

Builtin root window setting


Yes, via fvwm-root. However, it sucks, since one cannot use options like -fill or -center. Plus it only supports XBM, XPM, and PNG images.

Neither. Just use hsetroot.


Via an extension that doesn't ship with Sawfish.

Via a module that comes with the rest of the source. Also allows you to look at "odd parts" of viewports. In other words, your screen can be looking at the top half of the lower left viewport and the bottom half of the upper left viewport at the same time, e.g.


Key Bindings

Settable with either the configurator or in the .sawfishrc file.

Hyper key is Mod4 on most systems (use xmodmap -pm to find out for sure). See also


Root Menu

Few keyboard shortcuts (as far as I know).

Keyboard shortcuts throughout. Also supports icons. A huge plus in my book.


Cursor movement

With mouse. Although in principle key bindable.

With mouse or with key bindings.


Focus By Direction

Yes, via an extension.

Yes, with built-in options.


Alt + Mouse1 to Drag

Yes, by default.

Yes, but... So far, I haven't found a way to do this while holding down Mouse1. This is only an issue since that is the behavior that I am used to.

Sawfish, for now.

A Note About Ubiquity

One advantage that FVWM seems to have over Sawfish is its ubiquity. A while ago, Sawfish was the default Gnome window manager, and so it could be found on any machine that had Gnome on it (which is to say, quite a few machines). However, the Gnome people decided that it would be a good idea to switch to Metacity, which has literally about three configuration options, in order to follow the Gnome philosophy of not allowing users to customize anything (okay, so I'm exagerating... a little bit).

FVWM on the other hand, is a window manager that generally tends to exist on machines where nothing else exists. That is, if there is only one window manager installed, it is probably FVWM. In that sense, since on desktop-oriented distributions, neither FVWM nor Sawfish will probably be installed by default, FVWM holds a slight advantage.

DebianNotes/SawfishVersusFvwm (last edited 2008-03-10 01:38:55 by localhost)