Linux is known for its open-source nature and flexibility. One of the essential components of a Linux system is the window manager. A window manager is responsible for the appearance and management of windows on the screen. In this article, I have listed the best Linux window managers.
Table of Contents
What are Linux Window Managers?
Before diving into the best Linux window managers, let’s first understand what a window manager is. A window manager is a software component that manages the placement and appearance of windows on the screen. It controls the look and feel of the graphical user interface (GUI). Window managers are often used with a desktop environment to provide a complete user experience.
Linux Window Manager vs Desktop Environment
As mentioned, window managers are often used with a desktop environment to provide a complete user experience. A desktop environment is a collection of software that provides a complete user interface, including a window manager, system tray, file manager, and other utilities. In contrast, a window manager is only responsible for managing the placement and appearance of windows on the screen.
Every new Linux user is likely to run across the question of what the difference is between a desktop environment and a window manager at some point in their learning process.
Best Linux Window Managers
Now that we understand window managers better let’s explore some of the best Linux window managers.
1. i3 Window Manager
i3 is a popular window manager that emphasizes simplicity and productivity. It uses a tiling window manager, which means that windows are arranged in a non-overlapping fashion. This approach maximizes screen real estate and minimizes clutter. i3 also supports keyboard shortcuts, which can quickly perform common tasks. i3 is a lightweight window manager ideal for users who value productivity and efficiency.
To install i3 on Ubuntu, use the following command:
sudo apt install i3
Explore some of my favorite i3wm themes.
i3wm is a tiling window manager that is powerful and resource efficient. It is used by many geeks who prefer more resources for their computers.
2. Awesome Window Manager
Awesome is another popular tiling window manager that is highly customizable. It is written in Lua and C and offers various customization options. Awesome supports keyboard shortcuts and includes a built-in status bar that can be used to display system information. Awesome is an excellent choice for users who want a highly customizable window manager.
To install Awesome on Ubuntu, use the following command:
sudo apt install awesome
Explore my favorite Awesome WM themes.
IceWM is a lightweight, customizable window manager perfect for users who want speed and simplicity without sacrificing functionality. It is written in C++ and is designed to be fast, efficient, and easy to use.
One of the unique features of IceWM is its ability to be customized with . It means you can change your desktop’s look and feel to suit your style. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can create custom themes.
Installing IceWM on your system is easy. Here’s how you can do it –
Open up a terminal and enter the following command –
sudo apt-get install icewm
Once the installation is complete, log out of your session and select IceWM from the login screen.
Congratulate yourself on being the coolest kid on the block with a desktop that’s as cool as ice.
But seriously, IceWM is a great choice for users who want a lightweight and customizable window manager. It’s fast, efficient, and easy to use. And with the ability to customize it with themes and skins, you can make it your own. Try it and see if it’s the right fit for you.
Check out Awesome WM theme.
4. Sway Window Manager
Sway is a tiling Wayland compositor designed to be compatible with i3. It is highly customizable and supports keyboard shortcuts. Sway is ideal for users who want a modern and lightweight window manager.
To install Sway on Ubuntu, use the following command:
sudo apt install sway
Check out Sway Ricy BOI, a beautiful sway wm theme.
Bspwm is a tiling window manager designed to be lightweight and efficient. It uses a minimalistic approach to window management, which maximizes screen real estate and minimizes clutter.
Bspwm is similar to other popular tiling window managers like i3 and Awesome, but it has a few unique features that make it stand out. For example, bspwm allows for customizable window gaps and supports multi-monitor setups out of the box. It also has a modular architecture, which makes it easy to extend and customize. It is an excellent choice for users who value simplicity and efficiency and want a customizable window manager.
- Installing bspwm in Ubuntu or derivatives
First, you must ensure that your system has the X Window System installed. Most Linux distributions come with X Window System pre-installed. If not, you can install it by running the following command –
sudo apt install xorg
Next, you need to install the bspwm package. You can do this by running the following command –
sudo apt install bspwm
Once the installation is complete, you must create a configuration file for bspwm. You can create the file at
~/.config/bspwm/bspwmrc. The configuration file is where you can customize the behavior of bspwm. Here’s an example configuration file –
# Set the monitor(s) to use bspc monitor -d I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X # Set the window gaps bspc config window_gap 10 # Set the padding around windows bspc config top_padding 10 bspc config bottom_padding 10 bspc config left_padding 10 bspc config right_padding 10
Finally, you can start bspwm by running the following command –
That’s it! You should now have bspwm installed and running on your Linux system.
My favorite bspwm themes collection Polybar themes.
Dwm (Dynamic Window Manager) is a tiling window manager known for its simplicity and minimalism. It is designed to be fast, efficient, and customizable. Dwm is written in C and uses a dynamic layout algorithm, meaning that windows are arranged on the screen based on size and position.
One of the unique features of this window manager is its ability to be customized by editing its source code. This approach allows users to tailor the window manager to their needs and preferences. It also has a small memory footprint and is optimized for speed, making it a good choice for older or lower-powered machines.
Dwm is a keyboard-driven window manager, meaning most tasks use keyboard shortcuts rather than mouse clicks. This approach can be more efficient and save time once you’ve learned the shortcuts. It also supports multi-monitor setups, which can be useful for users with multiple displays.
Overall, dwm is a good choice for users who value simplicity, minimalism, and customizability. Its small memory footprint and speed make it a good option for older or lower-powered machines, while its dynamic layout algorithm and a keyboard-driven interface can make it more efficient for power users.
- Install dmw on Ubuntu
Install the build dependencies for dwm –
sudo apt install build-essential libx11-dev libxinerama-dev libxft-dev
Download the source code for dwm from the official website or from the GitHub repository –
git clone https://git.suckless.org/dwm
Change to the dwm directory and edit the
config.def.h file to customize the settings, such as the default terminal emulator or fonts –
cd dwm sudo nano config.def.h
Compile and install dwm:
sudo make clean install
Restart your X session or log out and log back in to see the changes –
sudo service gdm3 restart
That’s it! You should now have dwm installed on your Ubuntu system. You can launch dwm by selecting it from your login manager or running the command dwm from a terminal emulator.
Check out Calm Room DWM Theme.
Openbox is a highly customizable, lightweight, and fast window manager for Linux. It is known for its simplicity and ease of use. Openbox is written in C and uses XML-based configuration files for customization. It offers much flexibility regarding window placement, desktop organization, and hotkeys.
One of the unique features of Openbox is its support for themes and plugins. Users can choose from a variety of pre-made themes or create their own. Many plugins, such as taskbars, system monitors, and menu editors, can also add functionality.
Openbox is a great choice for users who want a lightweight and highly customizable window manager. It can be easily customized to suit the needs and preferences of individual users. It is also fast and efficient, making it a good choice for older or lower-powered machines.
Here are the steps to install Openbox on Ubuntu:
Install the Openbox package using the following command –
sudo apt install openbox
Install a display manager like LightDM if you don’t already have one installed –
sudo apt install lightdm
Log out of your current session and select Openbox as your window manager from the login screen.
That’s it! You should now have Openbox installed on your Ubuntu system. You can customize it by editing the XML configuration files or installing themes and plugins.
Check out my favorite Openbox themes collection.
Window managers play a crucial role in the Linux desktop experience. They are responsible for managing the placement and appearance of windows on the screen. This article discussed the best Linux window managers, including i3, awesome, IceWM, sway, bspwm, dwm, and Openbox. Each window manager has unique features and benefits and users should choose the one that best fits their needs.
If you use another window manager, do not forget to share your experience in the comment section below.