i3 A Tiling Window Manager For Advanced Users 


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i3 tiling window manager for advanced users

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

Running i3wm

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.

i3wm Configuration

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.

  • Opening your terminal
  • Press Mod+ENTER key and you have your terminal.
  • Open an application
  • Let’s say you wish to run LibreOffice writer to create a document. Press Mod+d and you will see a horizontal dialog-type on the top.
open an application in i3wm

​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.

Press Mod+shift+q

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:
stack windows vertically in i3

​Or press Mod+s and you’ll have like the one such as shown below:
mod + s stack windows

​Otherwise, press Mod+h to decorate your windows vertically and horizontally:
mod + h decorate windows vertically and horizontally in i3

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

Switching workspaces

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.

Exiting i3

All done right? Want to log off now??
Press Mod+shift+e


​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.