Tiled Windows

A WindowingParadigm? in which windows never overlap. As noted by DavidSaff:

Why would I want a new window to partially cover the old window? What is the point of having half-obstructed windows or windows that only cover half the screen?
A brief history: Nowadays, IonWindowManager, RatpoisonWindowManager and ScreenMultiplexor seem to be the only window managers providing this efficient WindowingParadigm?. In editors and IDEs it is more popular; both EmacsEditor and VimTextEditor use it, and recent MicroSoft development tools are also using tiled windows aggressively.

There are several newer WindowManagers? in this style, such as XMonadWindowManager, WmiiWindowManager?, and DwmWindowManager. These also use a tagging methodology to group windows (to group by task, for example), instead of having a set of N static workspaces. --ScottVokes


Current tiling window managers do not encourage spontaneous reordering. That makes them very annoying to use, unless your usage is either simplistic or highly regular. I would love a window manager that lets me cut, join, and resize intuitively and with the mouse.

Partially overlapping windows are mostly useless -- but not entirely. Most value comes from letting them temporarily overlap while you're reorganizing. Other situations where overlapping is good: when you have a set of applications that you want to keep an eye on, but not enough pixels. (The best solution would be to dismiss pixels in favor of vectors and letting windows be arbitrarily scaled and zoomed into. Or making enormous monitors.) Vector windows could also be arbitrarily shaped ie. "peel back the corner to see whats behind" instead of tabs/taskbar

Note: I used both Ratpoison and Ion for a long time.


If you have tiled windows, you will also want stacked windows (like screen and hidden emacs buffers). Most of the time this is enough, but sometimes what you want really is small toolbox / info windows that only obscure an insignificant part of the window under them. And some windows know their best size, which is hard to accommodate to the tiled-window framework.

Don't take me wrong, I use ion all the time as my window manager and it's better than having to manage windows by hand...

-- PanuKalliokoski


Bring back Windows 1.0! It does just what you are asking for. But seriously...

I believe Windows 1.0 going with tiled windows was influenced by Reuters, an important provider of financial trading workstations. Most financial workstations continue to avoid overlapped windows.

(And Windows 2.0 going with tiled windows was to support IBM's CUA specification - the CommonUserArchitecture? that was supposed to tie together the user interface on every platform from micro to mainframe, and which also gave us such abominations as control-insert for copy ~- RogerBrowne)

Making tiled windows usable requires excellent software controlling the display. Automatic scrolling for latest headlines, fixed position of entry fields, and so on.

With current software, overlapped windows works much better. But in the future, hopefully this odd idea will go away. Portals such as my.yahoo.com are an encouraging start.

-- EricUlevik


Vim uses a similar system (and so does Emacs). In vim, the active window is automatically given a minimum size. There's a command (Control-W _) that resizes the current window to cover most of the screen (all other windows are reduced to a single line). Windows (or actually their contents) can be hidden.

I have also worked with editors that used overlapping windows (Windows "Multiple Document Interface"), and have found that Vim's scheme reduces the amount of window-management I have to perform.


I've used systems that work that way. The windows quickly get too small to see anything in. Overlapping is better, IMO. -- RonJeffries


The solution to the too-small-window problem is to display only the windows that are really relevant. How many lines of code can you read at once? I know that I have a hard time with more than 4 or 5 windows at a time.

With this solution, however, comes the problem of activating the relevant window. Alt-Tab cycling becomes inconvenient with a large number of windows. When I use emacs, I find myself constantly using the mouse to select a buffer from the menu. (I know that using the mouse is evil, but I don't know emacs well enough to know of any better method.) -- TerrelShumway

There are many excellent buffer switching methods described on emacswiki.org. I use iswitch-mode. -- DavidMcCabe?


MicroSoft's development tools use tiled windows aggressively, Visual J++ 6.0 in particular. I personally hate it. The VJ6 Debugger is especially awful. I run it (when I have to) maximized on a 17 inch monitor, and I still find myself constantly resizing frames, and in many cases I'm still unable to see everything I need to. I think tiled windows can be useful when used in moderation, but VJ6 takes it way too far.

I agree that overlapping windows tend to suck, but the alternative is (in my opinion) worse. Some scheme for managing overlapping windows would help a lot. The Windows task bar is really helpful, but doesn't go anywhere near far enough. A simple improvement would be if the task bar would let me rearrange window tabs... -- CurtisBartley

I can almost enjoy the tiling in Visual C++ 6.0. Reflecting on this, all the annoying bits aren't due to tiling per se, but rather to the software making some really poor layout decisions or forgetting settings. I've only played with the EclipseIde for a CuplaDays over the past months, can anyone say if its view/perspective mechanism does tiling better? (If indeed, I correctly remember it as tiling.) -- JoeWeaver


I think it's paradigmatically dependent. In Smalltalk, there are ways of using tiled windows to serve as a memory stack - very cool. In various Java systems, there are a few windows that one wants to see at once. Smalltalk solves that problem with its multi-window browsers, with various tiled and scrollable bits, with multiple browsers then overlapping.

I don't keep every piece of paper on my desk tiled with every other. But sometimes I want to tile a bunch of cards all at once. HorsesForCourses?


Best solution I've found (with Windows, anyway) is to maximize all windows and use the taskbar to switch between them. -- AnonymousDonor (me too! this is the best way)

I'm known as "Mr Maximize" among many of my coworkers. Rarely do I have any window open at less than full screen. I even "auto-hide" the task bar most of the time. I can always switch between programs using AltTab or the task bar, and it's rare that you can do anything with a window unless it's on top anyway. (You can DragAndDrop from FileManger? to a small windows on top of it. But positioning the small window can be a pain, and I usually maximize it thereafter anyway.)

From time to time I'll tile two or three windows side by side or top to bottom to compare files. Or, I may tile a small help, notes (ToDo list) or other "supporting" set of information next to the main window for reference. But this is exceptional usage, for me. -- JeffGrigg

I HaveThisPattern -- JoeWeaver


For years, I used an editor named Brief. Its window management used both tiled and overlapping windows. That is, most of the time you were looking at tiled windows for your editing panes. But if you brought up a menu list, it overlapped the background of tiled windows. This worked because the menus were modal, and once in a menu the only thing you could do was select an option or leave. It worked very well, especially when each tiled pane had a different background color and you had a deep and wide video mode. -- JohnPassaniti


I've once seen a SonyCorporation? high-res 2000x2000 monitor for flight controllers. The whole of the WimpInterface was transparent, only the outlines and labels were drawn in monochrome green on black. You could look at three overlapping windows at once.


Yep, there's no point in overlapping windows. Windows are only useful when tiled or maximized. All windows should automatically fill the available space in the movable-pane style that IDEs use. Finally, one should be able to select sets of windows to be tiled (the others vanish) and the window manager should remember each set's tiling pattern.

Within a single application, maybe. But from the OS/GUI point of view as a user I definitely like to be able to overlap, compare, resize, move, toggle, juxtapose, compare or do what I want with each window independently. The system should not box me into the limited choice of only "tiled" or "maximized" (but I should still have those options).

LarsWM window manager supports both tiled (stacked) and untiled windows styles.


wmi (or wmii) also does provide tiled and untiled window ordering.


One approach not considered here are partially overlapping panes (as supported by Ion3). Everything is still tiled, but the sides of a split may partially overlap each other. The workspace is still as well organised as in a plain tiling approach, but extra space is available for (groups of) big windows.


I normally detest tiled windows, and I can't imagine a tiled window manager that could acceptably manage the 15 or so windows I always have open / iconified. Even Windows's task bar in its default position on the bottom of the screen is horrible (I put it on the side, so I can read part of each window's title).

But, I can imagine a hybrid solution that may be workable: documents could be grouped into "tasks" (that are managed something like a typical Windows window, with an icon on the task bar, Alt-Tab selection, etc). Dragging a document to a task's window or icon would add / move it to the task (whatever the application). Opening a new document would add it to the active task. Each task would manage its documents / windows in a tiled way. the layout / document list / etc for each task could be saved and restored.

The idea is really similar to having multiple desktops that are each managed by tiling, with the ability to save and restore layouts.

This is pretty much how dwm's tagged workspaces works, except you don't drag you use the keyboard to move windows/documents/applications between tags/workspaces/desktops/tasks.


One of the best compromises I feel is Apple's Expos´┐Ż feature. You get the flexibility and low-mental overhead ahead of overlapping windows, and none of the worry about locating or using them. Throw in the fact that the dock allows you to go to any window of any app from one place, and I really don't see much of an issue with the classic overlapping window system. That said, I do try and use Ion and wmii, but I often feel much better after quitting X11 and getting my Mac back. Tiling is just too hard to do reliably and without exceptions and annoyances given today's graphical applications. For text-only interaction, wmii is my choice (although it has a few too many features in my opinion).
Tiled WMs excel particularly when you need to see the results of more than one running program at a time.
A technology which allows organization of the desktop icons into named-fenced-spaces on the display-space within size-able, move-able rectangular-spaces. It is currently being used on the computer I am now using. It is called "Fences". If you have a Windows machine, you can Google it using search-string "fences desktop organizer" to find and to try it out. A similar design using this approach might be applied to displays of the output of running programs by one with the talents to do so and who is inclined to make the effort. -- DoingStuff.DonaldNoyes.20131213.1610

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