eschewing X altogether
I never knew so many people thought the same way as I do about desktops until reading this article and its comments! screen sounds like a must-have app.
My current setup eschews X altogether. I use svgatextmode to set my text-mode linux console to be 180 lines by 80 columns. And I modify inittab to spawn 15 terminals.
At that point ALT-F1 to ALT-F12 switch quickly between all my terminals. I also use ALT-left and ALT-right to get to 13-15 (which are used for less-often accessed apps).
w3m for web browsing, groovycd for cd's and splay for mp3's (mpg123 has problems with some mp3's). emacs for editing. mutella for gnutella p2p. lftp for ftp.
copy-and-paste is handled with gpm.
I've had the same experience of switching from desktop to desktop, with WindowMaker and BlackBox being the most favored. But I'd say this configuration has been my most productive.