Using the Metacity Window Manager

The Metacity window manager seems to have been chosen as the default window manager for GNOME in Red Hat Linux because of its simplicity. The creator of Metacity refers to it as a "boring window manager for the adult in you" — and then goes on to compare other window managers to colorful, sugary cereal, while Metacity is characterized as Cheerios.

There really isn't much you can do with Metacity (except get your work done efficiently). Assigning new themes to Metacity and changing colors and window decorations is done through the GNOME preferences (and is described later). A few Metacity themes exist, but expect the number to grow.

Basic Metacity functions that might interest you are keyboard shortcuts and the workspace switcher. Table 3-4 shows keyboard shortcuts to get around the Metacity window manager.

Table 3-4 Metacity Keyboard Shortcuts



Window focus

Cycle forward, with pop-up icons


Cycle backward, with pop-up icons


Cycle forward, without pop-up icons


Cycle backward, without pop-up icons


Panel focus

Cycle forward among panels


Cycle backward among panels


Workspace focus

Move to workspace to the right

Ctrl+Alt+right arrow

Move to workspace to the left

Ctrl+Alt+left arrow

Move to upper workspace

Ctrl+Alt+up arrow

Move to lower workspace

Ctrl+Alt+down arrow

Minimize/maximize all windows


Show window menu

Alt+Space bar

Close menu


Another Metacity feature of interest is the workspace switcher. Four virtual workspaces appear in the workspace switcher on the GNOME panel. You can do the following with the workspace switcher:

♦ Choose current workspace — Four virtual workspaces appear in the workspace switcher. Click any of the four virtual workspaces to make it your current workspace.

♦ Move windows to other workspaces—Click any window, each represented by a tiny rectangle in a workspace, to drag-and-drop it to another workspace.

♦ Add more workspaces—Right-click the workspace switcher, and select Preferences. You can add workspaces (up to 32).

♦ Name workspaces—Right-click the workspace switcher and select Preferences. Click in the Workspaces pane to change names of workspaces to any names you choose.

You can view and change information about Metacity controls and settings using the gconf-editor window (type gconf-editor from a Terminal window). As the window says, it is not the recommended way of changing preferences, so when possible, you should change the desktop through GNOME preferences. However, gconf-editor is a good way to see descriptions of each Metacity feature.

From the gconf-editor window, select apps O metacity, and then choose from general, global_keybindings, keybindings_commands, window_keybindings, and workspace_names. Click each key to see its value, along with short and long descriptions of the key.

Continue reading here: Using the GNOME panels

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