As some of our forum members will testify, I am known - among other things - for typos and a love for 'left of center' applications and window managers.
ratpoison wm is one of these, when you first boot into a ratpoison session you may mistakenly think that it is just a blank screen and that somthing has gone wrong, and move onto another windowmanager - like Kwin or IceWM.
ratpoison is not specifically a tiling manager - although it does do manual tiling if you want it too.
ratpoison as a window manager is oblivious to the mouse, its keyboard and keybinding driven - thats not to say you can not use the mouse with the apps you use while using ratpoison I still use my laptops trackpoint within my browser (xxxterm)
ratpoison - although it is very lightweight is not necessarily designed fo older machines, although due to the nature of how it manages windows - it is an extremely good choice for smaller screens, as you can deal with 1 window-dec free full screen app - that really is full screen you can also - on larger and multi screen set ups have dedicated tiles that when you select a particular window it fully captures your keyboard untill you release/move that to another tile/window.
all configuration is carried out through a file called .ratpoisonrc, this allows you to change (from what i have experienced) any part of the window manager usage configuration .here is a link to my .ratpoisonrc
feel free to use it and change if if you wish.
Commands are passed to the wm by first escaping normal keyboard function this is done by teh use of what is known as as an 'escapekey' by default it is set to 'ctl + t' which to me is not a sane choice - so I used ratpoisonrc to change this to use either the right control key (on its own) or the notsign (found at shift+` on my keyboard) which is hany as it allow me to use either hand to enter the window manager command mode. in order to see what all the available commands are, you would use escapekey+?.
ok so if I have persuaded you to try ratpoison out lets try it a little
while facing the initial black screen use the escapekey "EK" (default ctrl+t or if using my .ratpoisonrc (mrp) its Control_R (the right control key) on its own OR the notsign (shift+`) then press the letter c this launches a single screen xterm terminal (or if using mrp and have sakura installed just use shift+winkey & enter to launch a sakura instance) should look like this :
now you have a full page app let split the screen, to do this use EK then Shift+S to get a vertical split to move into the new split use EK+rightarrow, then repeat the launch sequence for the terminal it should then look like this
lets do one more split
this time let split the screen horizontally to do this use EK+s , and then use EK+downarrow to move into it and once again launch a terminal it should now look like this
now you should have 3 tiles each of these tiles can have almost unlimited numbers of apps within them with one being in focus at a time (gnu-screen users will be familiar with many aspects of this )
to quickly navigate between tiles use EK + f - this will number each tile - select a number to move focus to that tile (if you know the number you can use EK+number). alternatively to see a list of all windows available use EK + w - which produces a list for you to see the numbers.
ok so navigate to the large window - the we are going to launch an app - a web browser - in order to do this its best to have a shortcut set up, I have mrp set up to launch xxxterm if I use the winkey+F1 you can edit that entry to have your favorite browser launch instead. if using the default you will need to launch a bash command to do this use EK + ! and type in the app name.
You will now have (using EK + w) 4 apps running and 3tiled 'screens' to view them on.
to change the window on display (like flipping pages in a book) you can either use the default EK + n (next) or EK+p (previous) or if using mrp the winkey+XF86Back or winkry+XF86forward (page back on your keyboard sometimes alt + right and left arrows although may have a dedicated key like on my thinkpad)
In order to kill an application you can use EK + k or if using mrp Shift + winkey +Esc.
I hope this little tutorial has been useful in getting some basic ratpoison experience, the best two resources are to check out all the command sequences (EK + ?) and of course the manpage
Thanks for reading.