When comparing XMonad vs spectrwm, the Slant community recommends XMonad for most people. In the question“What are the best window managers for Linux?” XMonad is ranked 3rd while spectrwm is ranked 11th. The most important reason people chose XMonad is:
XMonad is written, configured, and fully extensible in Haskell. This means that users aren't limited to a small set of pre-programmed layouts and actions: anything can be programmed into the configuration. It's simple to modify basic settings, and the example config has lots of comments to get you started. Haskell keeps this code clean, concise, and readable, and its type system keeps you safe from any serious mistakes. This makes it fast and light, even on very small and slow systems.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Fully extensible with Haskell
XMonad is written, configured, and fully extensible in Haskell. This means that users aren't limited to a small set of pre-programmed layouts and actions: anything can be programmed into the configuration.
It's simple to modify basic settings, and the example config has lots of comments to get you started. Haskell keeps this code clean, concise, and readable, and its type system keeps you safe from any serious mistakes. This makes it fast and light, even on very small and slow systems.
Pro Efficient to use
XMonad is a very minimal and efficient window manager, especially if the user is familiar with Haskell.
Pro Absolutely minimal
The entire window manager is extremely small, and includes nothing beyond basic window manipulation and tiling. Out of the box, there are no window decorations, status bar nor icon dock; just clean lines and efficiency.
Pro Very stable
Use of Haskell, in conjunction with smart programming practices, guarantees a crash-free experience.
Pro Edit configuration and reload on-the-fly
Configuration is compiled into the WM, and it can be changed/updated on-the-fly, without requiring a full reload.
Pro Great availability of libraries
The use of Haskell as an extension language means that popular pieces of functionality are easily shared and widely available as Haskell Libraries. Many default layouts, and tools for quickly and easily building your own, are available through XMonad-contrib, and highly re-usable configurations are commonly shared through blog articles and the Xmonad Wiki. The documentation in XMonad-contrib is very clear and easy to read.
Pro Highly configurable
If you enjoy programming, you can even add features to XMonad to make it your perfect desktop environment, and the Contrib modules give you most of what you need to do exactly that.
Pro Handles multiple monitors well
XMonad can handle multi-monitor setups by default.
Pro Xinerama support
XMonad has full support for Xinerama: windows can be tiled and managed across multiple physical screens.
Pro Dynamic Tiling
XMonad uses dynamic tiling which means that it automatically handles arranging your windows into various layouts which the user can cycle through.
Pro Intuitive model which separates "screens" and "workspaces"
XMonad separates screens and workspaces. A screen "projects" a workspace. You can put a window to a specific screen, regardless of which workspace is currently projected onto that screen. This is more intuitive than other WMs e.g. i3, which only has the notion of workspace but not "screen" and requires you to remember workspace numbering. It is especially beneficial for multi-monitor setups.
Pro like Xmonad light
Spectrwm behaves largely like Xmonad (which is a good thing) without the ~700 MB GHC dependency and with plain text config files
Pro Has a plain-text config file that it can reload while it's running
The config file can be reloaded while the WM is running, allowing the user to see the results of editing the config without logging out and back in again.
Pro Sane defaults
Inspired by xmonad and dwm, spectrwm has defaults that any normal user would enjoy rather than using an odd language or asymmetric window layouts.
Contains a basic set of options and doesn't require a language to configure it.
Pro Great for beginners
The defaults, simple design, and plain text config file make spectrwm a fantastic WM for those who aren't that familiar with Haskell, for example, and who just wish to get something substantial up and running.
Pro Supports floating windows
Spectrwm offers built-in keyboard shortcut support for floating windows.
Con Steep learning curve for uninitiated users
Like a lot of tiling window managers, the learning curve for XMonad is quite steep.
Con Requires a lot of Haskell dependencies
XMonad depends on GHC (the Glasgow Haskell Compiler) which can take up about 700 MB or disk space.
Con Requires knowledge of Haskell for configuration
Understanding of Haskell is required in order to configure XMonad.
Con Difficult to master
It does take time to learn the ins and outs of all that can be changed by editing the configs. It can also take some time to finally attain a configuration that is perfect.