Ratpoison is an open source software project crafted as a very simple, minimalistic, fast and lightweight window manager for Linux and UNIX-like operating systems. It is designed to run on top of the X11 Windows System, as an alternative to minimalist window managers, such as awesome, i3 or dwm.
A very minimalist window manager
Actually, Ratpoison is so minimalist that it doesn't even include window decorations, fancy graphics, fat library or rodent dependencies. It’s motto is “Say goodbye to the rodent” and it’s inspired by the powerful and highly acclaimed GNU Screen software.
The mouse becomes useless
When using Ratpoison as you default graphical environment, the mouse becomes useless, as all the interaction with the windows and various other functions of the window manager is done only through your keyboard device. For your convenience, a prefix map is included by default, minimizing key clobbering.
Is it usable? What can it do?
Yes, the Ratpoison window manager is quite usable at the moment of writing this review, but it’s intended only for experienced Linux users (e.g. developers, programmers, etc.). In order to take full advantage of their displays, users will be able to split the screen into non-overlapping frames, while keeping all the windows maximized inside their frames.
Will it work on my Linux box?
Yes, most probably, because the software is freely distributed on the default software repositories of various Linux distributions. If you’re a hardcore Linux user, you can download the universal tarball from Softpedia, compile the code and install Ratpoison on your machine. Both 32-bit and 64-bit instruction set architectures are supported at this time.
Where can I do a test drive?
Currently, there are a couple of GNU/Linux distributions that feature Ratpoison as their default and only desktop environment. The one that comes in mind is Salix OS Ratpoison, which can be downloaded from Softpedia, free of charge.