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Roman Gilg: The Windowing Revolution

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The beta for the upcoming 5.21 release of the KWinFT projects is now available. It contains a monumental rewrite of KWinFT's windowing logic. Read on for an overview of the changes and why this rewrite was necessary.

A Confused Heart

Let's define first what windowing logic is. In my definition this means all structures and algorithms in code to decide where a window should be stacked, placed, moved or in which other ways its geometry can be manipulated to allow the user to interact with and organize the totality of all windows.

And if you agree to such windowing logic being of central importance for a windowing manager and what distinguishes it in the end from others, we may call it the heart of KWinFT.

The KWinFT compositor is based on KWin, KDE's official compositor for the Plasma Workspace. KWin was founded over two decades ago. Necessarily some of its code is very old, does not adhere to any modern development principles and sometimes, due to changes in other levels of the graphics stack, it is just plain wrong.

It is kind of unexpected though, that this has been in particular the case for the windowing logic, the heart of KWinFT. For example at the HEAD of KWin's current master branch do a git-blame over the ludicrous code in layers.cpp responsible for all window stacking and count how many lines are older than a decade.

But old code is not necessarily bad. The reason why this old code is bad, is two-fold: for one under the leadership of the former maintainer the Wayland support was shoehorned into an already complex code base and secondly he followed a strategy to keep the old code untouched as much as possible. Instead of doing necessary incremental refactors to the old code, he tried to firewall it with an abundance of tests.

For sure one can find reasons and excuses to pick such a strategy, but ultimately one has to say it failed. This can not be judged of course from the outside, but I feel comfortable in making this assessment as someone who knows the code in detail and because I am not the only one who abandoned his strategy.

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KWinFT 5.21 Beta Pushes a "Monumental Rewrite"

  • KWinFT 5.21 Beta Pushes a "Monumental Rewrite" Of The Windowing Logic

    KDE developer Roman Gilg continues pushing ahead with KWinFT as a fork of the KWin window manager / compositor and other select components. He spent a lot of time last year better optimizing the X11 and Wayland handling while he's been relentlessly working this year to push it even further.

    Roman has released the KWinFT 5.21 Beta following what he describes as a "monumental rewrite" to the windowing logic as part of an overall "windowing revolution." For this windowing revolution Gilg has been working on flattening/simplifying the window/surface hierarchy, making the code cleaner and more comprehensible, and ultimately to improve the Wayland sub-surfaces support.

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