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You need to know about i3

lobo_tuerto profile image Víctor Adrián Originally published at lobotuerto.com on ・2 min read

Power users rejoice

If you are a power user, you'll be happy to know that something like i3 (an improved tiling window manager) exists ---I know I was, very.

These are the three videos with which I initiated myself into this new world of productivity.

Of course, it won’t be too easy at the start (or, it might be, depending on your mental model and how you go about things).

But worry not, if i3 is meant for you, it’ll stay with you —or you’ll stay with it— for a long time to come.

Just have a look at least at the first video, you just need to watch the first two minutes of it to see if it's something you'll love for life or not. Dare to have a look? I double dog dare you!

What is i3?

From the official site:

i3 is a tiling window manager, completely written from scratch. The target platforms are GNU/Linux and BSD operating systems, our code is Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) under the BSD license. i3 is primarily targeted at advanced users and developers.

Following videos were authored by: bookercodes.

i3wm: Jump Start (13)

Welcome to this three-part series on the i3 Window Manager. i3 is a sophisticated tiling window manager for Linux. In this tutorial, you’ll learn what i3 is; how to install it; and of course, how to use it. In the second video, you’ll learn how to configure it, too!


i3wm: Configuration (23)

Welcome to part two of my three-part series on the i3 Window Manager. In what turned out to be my longest screen-cast yet, I’ll show you how to configure various aspects of i3.


i3wm: How To “Rice” Your Desktop (33)

Welcome to the finale of my series on the i3 Window Manager. In this final screencast, I’ll teach you how to rice your desktop. “What does ‘rice’ mean?”, you might be asking.

‘Rice’ is a word that is commonly used to refer to making visual improvements and customizations on one’s desktop to better suit one’s tastes (source: /r/unixporn).


Resources

Here is a link to other videos and screenshots.

How do I get it?

Ubuntu

You’ll just need to:

sudo apt install i3
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Then restart your machine, and select i3 before logging in with your user.

Manjaro Linux i3 Community Edition

Or you could try a Linux distribution that comes with i3 preinstalled.

Have a look in here: Manjaro Community Editions.


Enjoy!

Visit my blog, you might find other interesting stuff over there.

Discussion (52)

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dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

I use i3-gaps. It's a fork because i3 is all about maximizing usage of screen real estate so adding blank space between windows flies in the face of that goal, but the gaps add a lot of visual clarity.

Another interesting project is sway, a drop-in i3 replacement with a Wayland compositor. Unfortunately they don't plan to reproduce the layout save/load functionality of i3 so it'd be a bit difficult for me to make the switch.

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

I used to be an Ubuntu user and used plain i3, nowadays I've moved to Manjaro i3 Community Edition and it comes with all these goodies:

  1. i3-gaps
  2. i3-wm
  3. i3blocks
  4. i3lock
  5. i3status
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dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

I switched from i3blocks to polybar a little while back. I use Arch so I have to put everything together myself :D

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

I bet that was lots of fun, I envy you. :)

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I'd not heard of i3-gaps before and have started using it (as of this weekend) and think it's pretty nice, especially with smart_gaps and smart_borders so everything doesn't look too "framey".

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nulldevice profile image
Josh C

Gaps is what sells it for me. That little bit of visual breakup makes it just feel less cluttered

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dlwilson88 profile image
Donald L Wilson

I've experimented with several different window managers over the past year or so and find that none really compare with i3-wm or i3-gaps.
Another Goodie to add to the list is j4-dmenu-desktop or j4-dmenu-desktop-git
it's a much faster replacement for i3-dmenu-desktop and its purpose is to find .desktop files and offer you a menu to start an application using dmenu.
To use it you can clone it from here:


git clone https://aur.archlinux.org/j4-dmenu-desktop-git.git
cd j4-dmenu-desktop-git
makepkg -si

and simply comment out (#):
i3-dmenu-desktop
in the config file and add the
j4-dmenu-desktop-git
command.

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

Now that I'm totally out of Ubuntu and totally in for Manjaro i3, I've found that dmenu_recency is pretty good and covers all my needs.

I'm not a super fan of .desktop files as all I really need are executables on my $PATH :)

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dlwilson88 profile image
Donald L Wilson

I'll have to give that one a try.
I believe it's called dmenu-frecency-git in Arch Linux.
The Github page info on it stated:

  • A dmenu-based desktop application launcher that uses a combination of frequency and recency to sort the application list.
  • It scans XDG desktop files and optionally executables from PATH.
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jpenuchot profile image
Jules Pénuchot

Best tool I've found in years. It's incredibly simple to use actually and makes everything so much faster, my OS became my IDE basically thanks to this window manager, plus it's incredibly lightweight.

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myterminal profile image
Mohammed Ismail Ansari

Yes, that is fascinating how one can control everything as with the keyboard as if you're actually working inside of an IDE. And when you add Emacs to your daily workflow, your text-editor becomes the OS, which is exactly opposite but equally fascinating. :)

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mfcarneiro profile image
Matheus Felipe

This changed my user experience for ever Víctor!

Thanks so much for this article.

I'm using i3 for a month since I saw your post and I'll never use a regular interface anymore.

It's so easy to have flow in my work, I've learned so mutch about linux to handle easy taks on terminal, found awesome tools terminal-based and other great stuffs.

This fired up to continue learning shell script to do my tools to automatize tasks and do other things with much more ease.

For the record:

I'm using bumblebee-status, this is another nice status bar to have one.

Great job!

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

YES! You are welcome! :D

I started using i3wm on April 6th 2017, and well, that day I just felt like someone had given me a precious gift.

The experience was akin to the first time I found about version control systems (svn, then git). You know, when you ask yourself: "Why hadn't I heard about this before? It works so well!"

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mfcarneiro profile image
Matheus Felipe

Hahah That's the feeling.

I made that same question to myself hahahaha

Can't live without this anymore :D

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pichord profile image
π

I've been using i3-gaps for about a year and a half now, and it has been absolutely amazing! For me, personally, it changed the definition of multitasking and showed me what true multitasking looked like. I've watched whole movies side-by-side with looking at my peers design something in Figma. I absolutely love i3-gaps :)

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andreanidouglas profile image
Douglas R Andreani

I love i3 and all its features, but I don’t like i3bar, so if you are like me, I recommend bumblebee-status as a replacement

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

I'm happy with i3bar so far, I'll post some screenshots of my current config at /r/unixporn someday or the other.

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srivinprabhash profile image
Srivin Prabhash

Also try polybar :)

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rupankarghosh profile image
RupankarGhosh

I love i3 just because it's minimal and resources friendly. But it lacks some modernize features like the rounded-corner and windows transparency while moving windows.

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

What are you talking about?

Why would you ever need rounded corners in a tiling window manager?
Why would you ever need to move transparent windows in a tiling window manager? (BTW you can get translucent windows if you want on i3).

I think you are missing the point of i3 entirely. Care to explain?

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rupankarghosh profile image
RupankarGhosh

I am not talking about the tiling part. But when I use all windows as floating then sometimes I wish I had rounded corners like bspwm . Also I don't know how can I achieve transparency in moving-windows while in floating mood.

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

Oh I see. Got your point.

But we can agree that floating windows are an exception, that's the paradigm we were moving away when jumping into i3 right?

If you want floating windows with some tiling you can try gnome.

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rupankarghosh profile image
RupankarGhosh

I mainly use i3 on my arch in virtualbox just because it consumes less resources and blazing fast. I'm not a big fan of tiling windows. Don't know but sometimes I find it less productive, atleast for me 🤷‍♂️

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

If you find it less productive then I can't help but think you are doing it wrong ;)

I have never been more productive in my life than when I started to use i3.

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rupankarghosh profile image
RupankarGhosh

I can't argue with it more . I use i3 less often ,moved onto MacBook and I found that it's the right machine for me. But you know,still MacBooks don't let you tiling their windows through keyboard 😕

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Ron Popov

When i had linux installed on my machine (uninstalled due to school) i used i3 and i loved it but it's very hard to learn and get used to using a windows manager instead of a desktop environment like gnome or kde and almost 100% of your work and settings would be from the command prompt (even stuff like wifi or display setup).

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nulldevice profile image
Josh C

Used your tut when I was first getting into configuring my own distro instead of using stock WM's. Fantastic series man!

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lobo_tuerto profile image
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nulldevice profile image
Josh C

No problem! Any plans on making any more Linux based videos? I love seeing the way other people work their distros and I always come out with a new technique to add to my work flow

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

Oh, wow, these are not my videos. These are some videos I found on the official i3 resources section that I found very informative. Sorry!

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nulldevice profile image
Josh C

Oh hahahaha I should've read closer. But yeah those are some great videos

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

You've encouraged me to go back to i3. Thanks :)

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

That's great news!

I'm curious as to how could you leave it in the first place. Every time I have to use something else for desktop stuff I miss the extra oomph.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I think I got an SSD and did a clean install and just went with XFCE out the box for a while. Since I ran most things full-screen and used terminals which supported splits, and Vim for most things which tiles anyway it didn't seem to make a huge amount of difference.

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myterminal profile image
Mohammed Ismail Ansari

Since I came across i3 a couple of years back, it has been the only window manager I have been using. Though recently I have switched to a MacBook Pro, I still have a Fedora VM to keep i3 around.

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

I tried to switch to OSX back in 2014, and got a MBP for myself... eventually couldn't leave Ubuntu and i3 behind so I did this:

lobotuerto.com/blog/how-to-setup-u...

Then this:

lobotuerto.com/blog/how-to-setup-m...

:D

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erhankilic profile image
Erhan Kılıç

Thanks for article! I tried i3 and loved it.

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

I think it should, or you can give it a try with a live USB (that's an easy, non-intrusive way to try it out).

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johand profile image
Johan

i3 FTW!

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mnlwldr profile image
manuel

i3 ftw. I use i3 at work and on my laptop for years with simply i3status.

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

I use it on my desktop for daily dev stuff.

Also, I have it installed on my MacBook Pro, and it's the most productive laptop I have had, EVER! :)

lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

Just remember you'll need to play with xrandr to get the settings for the display right. Then i3 should just work.

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jbristow profile image
Jon Bristow

Man, I still haven't learned TMUX. I'd better rectify that before I try to adopt yet another GUI paradigm.

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lobo_tuerto profile image
Víctor Adrián Author

You can use i3 + Tmux if you want, but I haven't had the need to run Screen, Byobu or Tmux after getting to know i3.

The only valid use case I can think of for using Screen or the others is for keeping alive a remote session... aside from that i3 rules the local desktop!

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fre_d profile image
Frederik Ar. Mikkelsen

i3 is great, but I have found myself enjoying awesomewm much more. It is a lot more configurable and flexible, at the expense of not working as well out of the box.

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halas profile image
Piotr Hałasiewicz

Videos (and i3) are indeed fantastic - give some love to their author: twitter.com/bookercodes

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lobo_tuerto profile image
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qm3ster profile image
Mihail Malo

I was scared this will be about Intel i3 :v

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Coder_H

Awesome Video, i also wanted to install i3 and customize it but I was too intimidated by it and always dropped down the idea. Now after watching this video I think I'll install it and give it a try.

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