i3wm is a window manager tiling tool for Linux and some BSD derivatives. It is designed with in mind for advanced users and alike, maybe for enthusiast too if you think you are tough and ready. i3wm is a great tool and a solution if you have a low resource system or maybe like me; want more space for the everyday task.
Advantages of i3wm
Ever opened up your task manager and observed how your Random Access Memory (RAM) is spiking up? Unity and GNOME users would have noticed the system consumes about 15% of RAM at first log in. XFCE and LXDE users are more privileged with 7-9%. Still yet, the advantage with i3wm is that it’s going to save your computer from the burden of having to load all those GUI-savvy including applets, desklets, etc. Thus saving more memory and the best guess its memory consumption is around 3% only!
It will serve more power to you and you alone.
Disadvantages of i3wm
Unfortunately, for those die-hard GUI components; start menu, right clicking mouse and desktop, you cannot assume i3wm will work and look like GNOME, Unity or KDE. It’s pretty much keyboard oriented.
How To Install i3 window manager
Ubuntu users and fans, fire up your terminal and key in these commands:
sudo apt install i3 i3status suckless-tools
Log off from the account you are currently logged in and select “i3” as your Window Manager from the top-right side (applies to XFCE) otherwise google how it’s done for your specific Desktop Environment. Then log in.
A good general thumbs-up rule is to use the default configuration i3wm shows on the first login. Otherwise, choose Win key as the Mod key and not alt.
i3wm Basic tutorial
Much needed if you are an enthusiast and want to try out or if it’s your first time exploring the Desktop Environment.
Then type in either LibreOffice --writer or lowriter and press Enter.
Close an application
Were you searching for Close button?? Don’t bother, I did too long ago. Here’s a better solution if your program has not mapped a key combination to close it.
Opening multiple windows
By default, i3wm will align your windows horizontally. A window will be overlayed if it's a subwindow of the parent window. For instance, the save dialogue box of LibreOffice writer when you press ctrl+s.
Imagine if you had to open more than 5 instances of LibreOffice writer simultaneously. Oh my, this typical screenshot below shows how ugly and tight your workspace is!
To remedy this you have the option to either organise your windows in tabs, stacks or vertically. Press Mod+w and your multiple windows are tabbed like the one shown below:
Or press Mod+s and you’ll have like the one such as shown below:
Otherwise, press Mod+h to decorate your windows vertically and horizontally:
Cycling through multiple windows
That! You can hover your mouse to the window you require and it’ll get focused.
Want the key combination? Great!
Press Mod+j to cycle left
Mod+k to cycle up (suited for stacks)
Mod+l to cycle down (suiter for stacks)
Mod+; to cycle right
Linux is so notorious for multiple workspaces and yes you still get to switch to multiple workspaces (upto 9) in i3wm too! Here’s how.
Press Mod+2 and you’ll see it has switched to workspace 2. Well, there ain’t visual effect but you’ll notice that number “1” at the bottom left has changed to 2.
... and so on for Mod+3 to Mod+9
Switching a window to different workspace
Now, what if you wanted to switch a window to another workspace? I got you covered. Select the window and press Mod+shift+2 and your window disappears to the workspace number you inputted (in our case; 2). So on for workspace 3 to 9.
Still yet a general thumbs-up rule, don’t use too many workspaces, suffice to say open only the windows you are currently intending to work on otherwise you might get lost (like I did!) and yammer “where was?” 2-3 workspace is sufficient enough.
All done right? Want to log off now??
Pumped up? Get on and toy with the i3 window manager. Maybe, impress your pals too like I did :) Let them utter “What on Earth is that??” while you abra-cadabra them with tabbing, stacking and switching workspaces.