Would it be possible to change the default environment to something like Cinnamon? Or to a window manager like openbox or awesomewm?

  • Looking at my and @cksum different answers suggests that the question is not clear and you need to explain how you want to use the desktop and window managers
    – mmmmmm
    Dec 16 '13 at 22:16

Yes. Reference the XQuartz Project, which is developing an OS X friendly version of Xorg: http://xquartz.macosforge.org/trac/wiki

Awesome WM has been successfully installed by at least this user: http://permalink.gmane.org/gmane.comp.window-managers.awesome/7939

They go on to list a step by step. Your mileage may vary, but it looks like it is possible to replace the default:

Once Xquartz was installed, set the following prefences:

 CHECK option key sends alt instead of mode_switch
 UNCHECK enable key equivelants

I installed the following ports from macports

 port install awesome
 port install xmodmap
 port install xev
 port install rxvt-unicode

Then, I made the following configuration file changes to get it configured with the X server. B


  cd /Users/≤username>
 xmodmap .Xmodmap
 exec /opt/local/bin/awesome


 remove mod1 = Alt_L
 add mod4 = Alt_L

Now, create an rc.lua file based on the stock version from macports, and make a few changes to set the keys up

 mkdir -p ~/.config/awesome
 cp /opt/local/etc/xdg/awesome/rc.lua ~/.config/awesome

Making it more Mac-like

Define the commandkey as a variable.  Also set urxvt-unicode as

the default terminal:

    commandkey = "mod2"
    terminal = "/opt/local/bin/urxvt"

Command-W to close a window, like the default MacOS shortcut

    awful.key({ commandkey }, "w", function (c) c:kill() end)

Fixing the Tag navigation

The Mod4 + N key combination doesn't actually send you to tag N
using the default rc.lua.  You must add the following

    tagkeys = { "1", "2", "3", "4", "5", "6", "7", "8", "9" }

and then change

    "#" .. i,


In the section where the awful.keys() functions switch tags

There are still some quirks with this setup, but overall I find it better than having to resize and place terminal windows by hand.


the answer to all the suggestions you have made is basically no.

This is these are X11 based desktops or window managers. OSX does not use X11 as its main desktop. It uses is called Aqua to manage the desktop (I can't find the Apple doc that describes this - a newer one is here which describes the Cocoa application layer.

The term Aqua refers to the overall appearance and behavior of OS X. The Aqua look and feel is characterized by consistent, user-friendly behaviors combined with a masterful use of layout, color, and texture. Although much of the Aqua look and feel comes for free when you use Cocoa technologies to develop your app, there are still many steps you should take to distinguish your app from the competition. To create a beautiful, compelling app that users will love, be sure to follow the guidance provided in OS X Human Interface Guidelines.

You can run X11 applications on OSX using the normal OSX desktop but it will do the window management. I think you can run X11 on a background and so can use an X11 window manage to manage X11 windows but not anyones written to Apple's GUI APIs. (I think you can also boot OSX to a console (you are then just running Darwin) and then run X11 as the only graphics the you can use the environment you mentioned but again no apps using Apple's GUI APIs)

  • 1
    Aqua is the visual theme, not the default window manager. Quartz Compositor is the actual display server/window manager used by OS X.
    – user10355
    Dec 17 '13 at 4:45

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