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Functionally viewed, tiling window manager are nothing new. It is a variation of a multiplexer on the graphical level, similar to Screen or Tmux on the terminal. One could say that this is a hybrid, that projects a (restricted) paradigm of the terminal world on the graphical desktop. And here it becomes interesting … Because we still throw Qt- or GTK+-based applications as windows on our screen, but we virtually manage these as in a multiplexer for the terminal. Windows will be placed in the foreground, into other workspaces or thrown on a split screen together with other windows.


Greg Kroah-Hartman, a developer of the Linux kernel, speaks about his desktop, that he uses with GNOME 3 and also in the mix with i3 ⁽¹⁾.

The website from i3 offers a short overview of its advantages ⁽²⁾. To get a sense and an idea for tiling window manager – and in specifically i3wm – here are some introductory videos, that outline i3 on a conceptional level ⁽³⁾. i3 additionally canvass with its excellent documentation, so we place a link on it ⁽⁴⁾. Mandatory is the cheat sheet for the fast access to all shortcuts ⁽⁵⁾. Equally mandatory is the link to the Git repo ⁽⁶⁾.

  1. uses this → »Linux kernel developer«
    Date: 2012-11-15 | Interviewed: Greg Kroah-Hartman
  2. i3 → Website
  3. i3 → »Screenshots & -casts«
  4. i3 → »Documentation«
  5. GitHubGist: Jeff Paine → »i3 Window Manager Cheat Sheet«
  6. GitHub: i3 → »improved tiling window manager«


In most cases window manager are a component of an entire desktop environment. If you want to manage the work windows alone, due to a lack of space or for reasons of efficiency, it is possible to solely work with the window manager. This one will be extended then with single modules or scripts depending on requirements.


Let us recall for a moment the MATE panel as separate module of the desktop. We will have a look therefore at a relevant component of i3. The panel for quick access on applications or system functionality.

The article covers a complete configuration for miscellaneous distributions, whereby the focal point might be on Arch Linux. Additionally, a comprehensive introduction into various panels that could be integrated into i3 ⁽¹⁾.

  1. DevPy → »Your Guide to a Practical Linux Desktop With i3WM«
    Date: 2017 | Author: Robert Washbourne

Issues and workarounds

Carla Schroder explains to us how to hack the i3 ⁽¹⁾. Several picked patches & extras for i3 ⁽²⁾. Furthermore, a link for the management of the display, in this one Christopher de Coster outlines the most notable configurations ⁽³⁾ ⁽⁴⁾. Useful things in the beginning: How to customize screensaver and power saving mode of the screen ⁽⁵⁾ and integrate a wallpaper ⁽⁶⁾.

  1. Learn → »How to Use the Super Fast i3 Tiling Window Manager on Linux«
    Date: 2014-03-12 | Author: Carla Schroder
  2. GitHub: ashinkarov/i3-extras → »Repository to keep patches and extras for i3 window manager.«
  3. Blog: christopherdecoster → »i3 display management«
    Date: unknown | Author: Christopher de Coster
  4. Reddit: i3wm → »How to stop screen turn off after several minutes in i3wm?«
    Posted: 2015-06-10
  5. i3: FAQ → »How to disable screensaver/monitor standby when fullscreen?«
  6. i3: FAQ → »How can I set a desktop background image in i3?«

Replacing the window manager of the desktop environments

Functions that are offered by a complete desktop environment are something that you might not want to throw overboard. The advantages of a complete desktop environment combined with smart splitting and management of windows on our screen via keyboard control. Therefore, we exchange the window manager & compositor.

i3 and MATE

Björn Lindström shows a simple and concise solution for Ubuntu MATE, not without making a turn to XFCE. Nevertheless, this can already be a good base to customize the own desktop, so that everything operates together smoothly and efficiently ⁽¹⁾. In addition, a developer of the Manjaro team explains the integration of i3wm into MATE, specifically for the Manjaro distribution. Also, here it is possible to adapt the most of it for other distributions ⁽²⁾. By way of illustration a video tutorial for the replacement on Debian ⁽³⁾. A little applet for the display of our workspaces, as replacement for the i3 status bar ⁽⁴⁾.

  1. Blog: Elektrubadur → »Using i3 in Ubuntu MATE«
    Date: 2017-05-27 | Author:Björn Lindström
  2. Manjaro: Forum: Technical Issues and Assistance → »Using MATE with i3 as window manager«
    Posted: 2017-09-02
  3. Blog: → »Replacing default MATE window manager with i3wm«
    Date: 2017-07-31 | Author: Leonid Mamschenkov
  4. GitHub: city41/mate-i3-applet → »i3 workspace applet for MATE«

i3 and GNOME

In this regard, a currently maintained Git repo to take a look at. It is perhaps worth to check this if the used distribution offers no preconfigured solution ⁽¹⁾ ⁽²⁾. This GNOME session, however, is running only with some components of the GNOME desktop ⁽³⁾. This topic was also discussed in the Antergos forum ⁽⁴⁾.

  1. GitHub: 51v4n/i3-gnome → »Use i3 with GNOME Session integration.«
  2. GitHub: 51v4n/i3-gnome → Wiki: Tips & Tricks → »get along with GNOME«
  3. GitHub: 51v4n/i3-gnome → »What all does using gnome as the desktop manager provide?«
  4. Antergos: Forum → Technical Issues and Assistance: Applications & Desktop Environments → »Use i3wm alongside gnome«

Linux distributions and Unix-like systems

One edition of the Manjaro distribution is preconfigured for the tiling window manager i3 ⁽¹⁾. The article in the magazine of the Fedora distribution explains a solid and comprehensive set-up for i3 on Fedora. Therefore, this one is included, although this is no preconfigured distribution ⁽²⁾.

  1. Manjaro: News → »Manjaro 17.1.8«
    Date: 2018-04-17
  2. Fedora: Magazine → »Getting started with the i3 tiling window manager«
    Date: 2016-02-24 | Author: William Moreno

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