For Linux/GNOME users: tired of nm-applet? Try wicd

This post is only intended for those who actually run GNOME and Linux, just a warning 🙂

I just replaced network-manager on my Ubuntu Jaunty desktop with wicd.  See wicd here:

What's so great about wicd?  I used to think nm-applet and NetworkManager were the best thing since sliced bread, but have grown increasingly frustrated with these tools over time.  Here's my short list of things I dislike about NM:

  • The wifi network list is unsorted (rather than obviously being sorted by signal strength).
  • The wifi network list uses an animated progress bar.  This may look cool in screencasts, but when there are >20 networks in range, pulling up the list brings my computer to a crawl (due to 20 animated progress bars).
  • The wifi network list is only accessible by clicking on the nm-applet icon — there is no "full screen" view for when you have a lot of networks in range.
  • Its logic for remembering and prioritizing networks is just plain wrong, and the UI for editing this stuff is broken.
  • It does a horrible job of guessing the authentication type of a network, and takes way too long authenticating.
  • There is no command-line way to switch networks, and NM so messes with your Linux network connections that using typical command-line tools becomes painful.  I run Linux for a reason, you know 🙂
  • NM is written in GObject/C.  I know GObject/C, but I also know enough to know that it's too much of a pain to go in there to fix any of these problems.

Enter wicd.  It seems to fix all these problems.  Like NM, wicd runs as a daemon and it is via that daemon that networks are connected.  It has a systray app like nm-applet that is written in GTK+ and easily integrates with GNOME, which is called wicd-client.  Unlike nm-applet, wicd-client provides a fast and ergonomic interface for browsing networks.  If you have a lot of networks in range, you get a nice window with all of them sorted by signal strength, and can easily set up "automatic connect" settings.

wicd is also written in Python.  I think that gives it about +100 points above NM for me, as now I can actually submit patches against my wifi manager if anything bugs me.  But so far, it actually seems like quite a neat, robust, and good little app.

wicd 1.6.2 (the latest version available on their page) also includes wicd-curses, an ncurses-based command-line client for the wicd daemon.  Yes!  I can finally manage my wifi networks from the command-line.  All in all, I'm glad there is a competitor to NetworkManager that is getting actively developed, because I have lived frustrated with NM for too long.  Hooray for open source, it's all about choices!

3 thoughts on “For Linux/GNOME users: tired of nm-applet? Try wicd”

  1. Sorry to reply to this post so late.

    Great article on wicd. I found wicd about 3 months ago and absolutely love it! I’m running Slackware on my Thinkpad T41 laptop and installed wicd. On my aging little X22, I’m running Debian in text mode. Nice to know theres a client for the command line.

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