Updated: May 18, 2009
Network managers are utilities that allow users to control the network in their operating systems. This includes configuring various network devices, setting up IP addresses, dialing connections to ISPs, and other settings. Every operating system has a network manager. Some are GUI, some are command line, some are friendly, others are not. Whatever their look and feel, they do one thing - allows us to change important network settings without directly accessing different configuration files that define the network.
Linux distros have a broad range of managers. In KDE, the default utility is called KNetworkManager. In Gnome, it is - aptly called - Gnome Network Manager. Some Linux users do not like either of these two. They find them cumbersome and counter-intuitive, especially the Gnome Network Manager.
Then, with the release of Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex, things got worse. It turned out some users were suffering from a bug - the network manager would not allow them to set a static IP address or would forget the settings.
Although I have shown you how you can overcome this issue, you may still want a simpler, friendlier and less buggy network manager instead of the default choice.
wicd is a simply, friendly network manager, available for all desktops, be their Gnome, KDE, Xfce, or others. It aims to be intuitive and easy to use. Indeed, if you're considering trying a different network manager, then wicd should be your first choice.
Up until recently, wicd was not included in most repositories, so you had to manually add it. If this is the case with your distribution, this is going to be the most difficult part of using wicd - adding it to the software sources. For example, for Ubuntu, I've already shown you how to do this in my Remastersys tutorial.
In a nutshell, add a new third-party source and then import the key, so Synaptic does not complain about unauthenticated sources. Full instructions are available on the official website, in the Download section. Still, if you find the existing material insufficient, please email me and I'll add a detailed sub-section. Once the source is added, wicd will be included in your searches. Install it. On a side note, this is no longer necessary on Jaunty Jackalope, which now contains wicd in the repositories. I'd like to thank James for pointing this one out for me!
Warning - existing network manager will be removed!
Please bear this in mind. It's nothing critical, but you should be aware of the fact.
Once installed, it will show up as a new icon in your notification area (system tray).
It's extremely simple. The first time you open wicd, you'll get into the main menu. If wireless networks are present, you'll get a list. Wired connections will also be listed, with the optional ability to disconnect.
Clicking on Refresh will update the status. Preferences will take you to the options menu. wicd is minimalistic, on purpose, avoiding high-geek clutter to keep you comfortable.
If you click on the arrow near any which given network, you'll expand its options. The best part is that wicd allows you to create multiple profiles for each present network, allowing you to quickly switch between settings. For instance, your default can be a DHCP connection, but your custom settings may include static IPs. This offers you excellent flexibility and a safe baseline for testing.
If you click on Advanced Settings, you'll be able to change the IP address, Netmask, DNS servers, and other network configurations.
You can also use Scripts, automating tasks involving each network. For instance, you may want a certain network device to function as a router for another network device serving other hosts. This means you may need to change firewall rules or forwarding settings for your kernel. Adding scripts that take care of these configurations for you on the fly is a great bonus.
Don't get alarmed about the geeky stuff. Most users won't need them, but if they do, they are readily available in a simple and friendly fashion.
And here's an example of wireless networks, as seen in Wolvix 2, which uses wicd as its default network management utility:
These settings allow you to configure default behavior of wicd. For instance, you can use global DNS server, determine a specific driver for Wireless encryption, define how the client should behave, and more. Again, most of the options are for advanced users, but the defaults are set to be useful to everyone.
wicd is a very friendly utility. It is stable and robust and won't let you down. When you set something, it stays set. Configuring wicd is a breeze. It will cooperate nicely, doing the hard work for you.
If you're looking for a good, simple network manager, either as a replacement for existing tools that do not meet up to your demands or just because you're looking to increase your productivity or efficiency, wicd is a great choice.