All right, I've been messing around with various linux distros and a variety of window managers (I seem to change operating systems like most people change their pants), and I've gotten to the point where I know what I want but I'm not sure the best way to set it up. Here's what I want out of my programming machine:
I don't want a status bar. I don't want a menu bar. When there are no windows open, the screen should show my desktop background and nothing else. I'll use alt+f2 to run things, and my shell prompt will tell me my battery life and the time. I'll open network controls and volume controls when I need them, no need for them to pollute the screen all the time.
I want a good, simple terminal emulator. I'll be using it with tmux. It should have no title bar and, if possible, no app frame. It's ok if I have to run it in full screen mode to remove the app frame, but only if it still plays nicely with alt-tab and workspaces.
I want a dirt-simple window manager. It needs to support transparency: I don't have a lot of screen real-estate and I often overlay the terminal on the browser and type out commands. I don't want a tiling-only system, for the above reason. Bonus points for tiling and overlaying.
I'd like multiple workspaces. I prefer to have one gui per workspace. If I could 'pin' the terminal emulator to always show up in each workspace, that's bonus points. If not, I can have a terminal emulator in each workspace attached to the same tmux instance.
I'd like a way to set up a keypress that always takes me to the current open terminal emulator. Currently, 90% of the time I only have two windows open: the terminal emulator and something else. In this scenario, alt-tab works like a toggle between the two. If I have another gui open (like a developer window with a web browser), this throws a wrench in my workflow. I'd like a way to assign, for example, 'super-T' to switch to the first open terminal emulator. Bonus points if I can also assign 'super-B' (or whatever) to switch to the first open browser.
So far I've been messing around with gnome and tweaking it heavily to match my preferences, but that seems like overkill and I can never get it quite right. I've toyed with xmonad, but it's more for handling many windows, and I usually only have the two.
and am considering fluxbox, but I was wondering if any of your minimalists out there had suggestions that might better match my workflow. I'm sick of fighting the window manager, I just want it to get out of my way.
Edit: To make things clear, I am not considering switching to a mac/windows environment. I find programming in windows to be a bore, and I have no interest in buying new (read: mac) hardware.