Mutter integration: the story so far

Profile mother earthOne of the forks of Metacity is known as Mutter, because it’s Metacity with Clutter support.  It’s used by the forthcoming gnome-shell project.

In a recent email to d-d-l, Owen Taylor gave two goals for the 2.28 release:

  1. That Mutter should be developed using the GNOME infrastructure; and
  2. That users will be able to choose between gnome-shell and ordinary Metacity.

Some possible ways of doing these were suggested:

  • Merge Mutter and Metacity. Have Mutter as a separate compositor within Metacity.  Alternatively, as Colin Walters suggested, make Mutter a separate branch within Metacity’s DVCS.
  • Import Mutter as a separate window manager. Remove all the parts in Mutter which are left over from Metacity and don’t work towards Mutter’s goals.  Metacity remains for people who don’t want to run gnome-shell.  Eventually it dies off.
  • Forget about Mutter. Whatever we need to do would be done either in Metacity or in gnome-shell using JavaScript plugins.

One advantage of making gnome-shell play nicely with a standard (possibly Mutterised) Metacity is that it would still be possible to switch to other window managers: a great deal of ink was spilt in the discussion over whether users would mind switching away from Compiz, whether the Compiz developers would mind, and whether Compiz was the de facto standard window manager these days.  However, Owen says that gnome-shell requires tighter coupling with the window manager than is usual, and that this isn’t really an option.

The discussion continues…

Photo © Alexander Drachmann, cc-by-sa.

3 Comments

  1. Posted March 31, 2009 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    I think a lot of the quieter Gnome users out there who just want to Get Things Done are like me: Whether on Windows or Ubuntu, the first thing I do is turn off most of the worthless eye candy. Whether its the default (Debian) or not (Ubuntu), I always use Metacity as my WM. :-)

  2. Screwtape
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I definitely think Mutter and Metacity should stay as close as possible – if that means adding a Clutter-based compositing mode to Metacity, or even just replacing the existing compositor entirely, that’s probably worth doing. If it’s really impossible to have a window-manager that can function standalone as well as inside GNOME Shell (even by adding EWMH extensions or other scriptability to the window-manager), well, then that’s rather a shame.

    As for Compiz being the defacto standard window manager, although it’s enabled by default in Ubuntu 8.10 (if you have as strong enough graphics card), I think that pre-dates there being a stable GNOME release with Metacity’s new compositor available. I really like having the subtle graphical polish that a compositor allows without having to deal with the ridiculous complexity of the compiz configuration and attendant instability.

  3. Posted April 2, 2009 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Hey, now that you are talking about window managers, I have a question, can one use different gnome sessions to use different window managers in gnome? I mean something like the profile manager in Firefox. Some times I’d like to use FVWM but with the Gnome Desktop Environment, or say a session with just the things needed to get to work, and an eye candy session to show off to friends, all with the same user.

    Is there a way to do this?