Monday, July 4, 2016

Arch Linux + i3 Window Manager

I have been using Arch Linux for like a year now and loving it with each passing day. The beauty of Arch is it allows one to tweak it to your preference. When i first installed Arch to my machine as a primary OS, i installed gnome to go along with it but later changed it to i3 tiling window manager.

Daniel Brühl playing Daniel Domscheit-Berg character in The Fifth Estate movie  using a tiling wm on his laptop.Image Source:
Tiling window manager is a window manager with an organization of the screen into mutually non-overlapping frames.(Wikipedia definition) The Terminal is the most powerful tool in Linux, it is easy and fast to complete tasks using it compared to using the GUI, whoever it depends with your typing speed and how versed you are with the Linux commands. A tiling windows manager plus Terminal apps equals a sweet combination.

Their are any types of tiling window managers available today, like fluxbox, awesome,alopex, bspwm, catwm, i3 among others. In this article we concentrate on the i3 wm.

i3 is a tiling window manager whose target platforms are GNU/Linux and BSD operating systems, It is primarily targeted at advanced users and developers. This article shows you how to install i3 in your Arch Linux machine and its work around.

Install the i3 , which will include its 3 package members; the window manager -i3-wm, screenlocker -i3lock and a status bar -i3status;
sudo pacman -S i3

Next you have to configure your display manager or if you prefer you can set to start X session manually, add ‘exec i3’ to .xinitrc file in the user’s home directory. Then;
Startx will initialize an X session and loads the clients/applications specified in `.xinitrc`. When the last client exits, the session will exit.
Gnome display manager allows one to switch between different windows manager when logging in but if you want to remove it completely:
sudo pacman -Rsc gnome gnome-extra
To be able to use i3 effectively it is good to know basic shortcuts.
The mod key is the windows key/super key
modkey + return/Enter - start a terminal.
modkey + 1/2/3 - open new workspace
modkey + v - ensure the next window opens in a vertical layout.
modkey + h - ensure the next window opens in a horizontal layout
modkey + d -ensure the next window opens in a tabbed layout
modkey + shift + r - reload i3 session
modkey + shift + e - exit i3 session.
modkey + shift + q - close current window.
modkey + f - switch the active window to full screen view.
modkey + r - resize a window.
modkey + shift + e - kill i3 session.
modkey + d - search for installed applications.
modkey + shift +workspace1/2/3... - move an open window to another workspace.
modkey + arrow keys - switch between tiles in a workspace.
modkey + s - open one window to full screen mode
modkey + e -switches back the windows to tile view

For more documentation about i3, go to
Their are many terminal like applications that go along with i3 or any window tiling manager, for example;

For email applications I use mutt;

File manager: ranger;

Music player: cmus;

Text editor: vim;

For more terminal-like application ArchWiki have got a list of applications, you can look into it and play along with to find one that suits you.

Customizing your i3 is quite a process but simple, Code Cast YouTube channel has got 3 awesome videos on how you can configure your i3. How to configure your status-bar, terminal, arrange your work spaces, wallpaper and much more.

[root@e13olf]# exit


  1. COOL. I'm using i3. love it a lot. I need more cool terminal things and for some reason cmus won't load up in mine but eh.

  2. In the movie they use Awesome

  3. Yeh it's not i3 it's DEFINITELY AwesomeWM