Sharpening the sawfish
My son is two weeks old today. I don’t usually go a bundle on putting personal info on the public web – I keep that for Facebook, where they at least pretend to keep it private for me - but I mention this to explain why I’m using my laptop a lot more than my desktop lately.
The problem with my laptop is the mouse pointer. It’s one of those pointing stick devices technically known (apparently) as an isometric joystick and more commonly known as a nipple , and when the room is warm the little rubber cap gets slippery very quickly. So I decided to invest a little time in a few keyboard shortcuts.
As an Emacs user I know I’m supposed to like tiling window managers, but I don’t. My editor windows are windows onto text files that may be any size and shape but in which it’s a fairly safe bet (see “locality of reference”) that the spot I want to edit next is usually spatially close to the spot I’m currently looking at. The other ‘windows’ on my screen are things like web browsers and GUI programs where there’s no such guarantee, and the only way to make them work is to allow them to take the size and shape that their authors wanted them to have. So after a brief experiment with awesome I punted it and went looking for a programable window manager that was designed for overlapping windows.
And ended up back with Sawfish, which I used to use
back when it was fashionable.
Sawfish customization is a two-phase process: first you write
commands in Lisp, then you use the
sawfish-ui program to assign
them to keystrokes. A bit like Emacs, really, and perhaps not
First I needed some shortcuts to focus particular windows (Emacs, Firefox, xterms). Happily, someone has done the work for this already: I just had to download the Gimme script and set up bindings for it
Then I needed something to chuck windows around the screen. The requirement is pretty simple here: every window on my screen is aligned against an edge, so I just need commands to pan a window to each edge. Here is the finished script in which the points I would like to draw attention to are
- I use focus-follows-mouse mode, or whatever it’s called these
days. This means that if I move a window under the pointer I
need to move the pointer too otherwise it will go out of focus.
warp-cursor-to-windowfunction does this: I needed to calculate the pointer position relative to window, which for some reason isn’t a builtin.
window-dimensionsplus the decorations. We need these dimenstions for throwing windows rightwards or downwards, otherwise they end up slightly offscreen.
define-commandis the magic that makes our new functions show up in the
"%f"sigil means to pass the current window into the function.
And that’s about it. Put the file somewhere that sawfish will
find it – for me,
~/.sawfish/lisp seems to be a good place – add the lines
(require 'gimme) (setq warp-to-window-enabled t) (require 'throw-window)
.sawfishrc, and then set up your keys in
assigned them to Windows-key shortcuts: at last, I have a use for
the Windows key.
If you hadn’t spotted in amongst all that, I have
githubbed my dotfiles. More
for my convenience than for your edification, but feel free to
rummage. If you are one of the three other remaining XTerm
users, have a look at the
- I stole that “press Shift+RET to background the command” trick
from Malcolm Beattie
nearly twenty years ago and have been using
it ever since.