My new setup has these chief advantages over the old setup:
- Speed. Going from GDM to a desktop that is ready is much faster than it was under Gnome. I blame gnome-session and the gnome-panel.
- Openbox is much more flexible.
- I can rebind the window management keys, so I'm now using the Windows key (which was previously not seeing much use). I've bound W-Tab to serve the same purpose that Alt-Tab used to. I've bound W-j, W-k to switch virtual desktops, and W-1, W-2, and other keys to do window management tasks (maximizing, minimizing, etc.). No more reaching for the arrow keys or the function keys for complete common tasks. And it frees up Alt-Tab, which Emacs uses.
- I can bind keys to other actions: for example, W-c starts up a terminal and W-b starts up a web browser.
- I can bind mouse actions, too. I've set up W-drag to move windows (just as Alt-drag does usually), and W-right-drag, which resizes my windows, is a lot better than trying to drag window borders (hello, Fitt's Law!).
- The configuration files can be easily version-controlled, so I synchronize my Openbox settings everywhere. This is not true of my Gnome/Metacity setup.
To install it on Debian/Ubuntu: apt-get install openbox
The kicker is that Openbox was apparently designed with Gnome interoperability in mind. And it is easy to switch back and forth while you are testing. All you need to do is log out to get back to GDM and then select either the "Gnome" or "Openbox" sessions from the Session menu. No futzing with files in your home directory to select your session. Moreover, the default Openbox setup loads a bunch of stuff that your GTK+/Gnome apps need to work. So your GTK themes and Gnome settings will be just fine, D-Bus and other session services will be launched as normal, and all that. It was suprisingly painless to switch.
To configure Openbox, after installing it, copy the XML files in /etc/xdg/openbox to ~/.config/openbox. Check out the default configuration to see what you are in for. Remember that when you log in to Openbox, right-clicking on the Desktop will probably get you enough to get out of a jam. Enjoy!