Where Angels Fear
4 min readOct 9, 2023



It’s not completely finished … work in progress … but it’s getting there.

XFWM’s compositor is simultaneously too basic whilst doing too much. I’m trying to get per-application transparency working, which it doesn’t do; you can either have translucency/transparency for a class of object (foreground windows, background windows, popup windows), or not — all or nothing, so to speak. And, it doesn’t seem to recognise the Whisker Menu as a popup window, even though it is exactly that, behaviourwise.

Devilspie, in conjunction with Transset-df should theoretically work with any compositor, but I just can’t get them to do what I want. I tried disabling XFWM’s compositor and using Xcompmgr instead, but that made no difference.

I might try Cairo instead of Xcompmgr next, just as a test, but it’s not really any more sophisticated and actually less so than XFWM — it’s all or nothing in the sense of applying the same effect to all windows, irrespective of class, so, I really don’t have any expectations.

Failing that, I’ll look into replacing XFWM with KWin, but the last few times I tried that, it didn’t work — no idea why (it used to).

I really want to avoid resorting to Compiz though — too heavy, too much to go wrong.

And, currently at least, Wayland is a nonstarter, because XFCE (still) doesn’t work with it … and, as there are two types of computer users (XFCE-users and lusers), I won’t be switching to some lame-arsed offering like KDE or (shudder) Gnome any time in the foreseable, if ever — they’ll have to prise it from my cold, dead H(an)DD.

Hey ho, one window out of all of them not behaving itself isn’t the end of the World … I can live with it, I suppose — the colours on Firefox need a bit of a tweak, but overall, I’m not altogether displeased with my efforts ¹.


Lest there be any confusion, the ‘featured image’ above is simply by way of showcasing the look/feel under heavy use on a single desktop, but that’s not how I normally use it — I make extensive use of virtual desktops, splitting activities across groups of them (I really wish XFCE had the Activities feature of KDE Plasma) and almost exclusively interact with things via keyboard shortcuts (the mouse sees only essential use).

Day-to-day, there’s a lot going on across the various desktops, but the immediate experience on any of them is decidedly minimalist, as you can see …

The default look

Launching an app by using a keyboard hotkey (Super-L) to pop up the Whisker Menu wherever the mouse cursor happens to be located on screen (no wasting time having to mouse about to a specific spot on the desktop, before I can perform whatever task I have in mind) … typing in no more characters than necessary and using the cursors to locate the one I’m looking for

The tasklist (accessed with Super-L + TAB and, again, I just use the cursors to select the app/window I’m interested in) … showing all apps/windows open on all desktops — selecting one jumps to the desktop it’s on

A more typical desktop experience (having copied the content of a file and switching to another app on a different desktop)

¹ Not least with the calendar/clock — which was surprisingly counterintuitive and took longer to get ‘wrong’ in the right way than I anticipated.



Where Angels Fear

There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live and too rare to die.