After you have finished installing i3wm on your Linux laptop, there are a few things that you need to attend to right away.
Using a tiling window manager is something you should absolutely consider doing if you value minimalism and are interested in increasing the efficiency of your workflow. Your productivity may be significantly increased by using a window manager, and at the same time, your computer’s desktop will take on a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.
The i3wm, often known as the i3 Window Manager, is a well-liked option among both newcomers and seasoned users. It is easy to use, has a great level of customization, is powerful, and is an excellent choice for anyone who is just beginning their journey into the world of Linux rigging.
After installing i3wm, you should take care of the essential post-installation procedures that are discussed in this article to make the transition from a standard desktop environment as smooth as possible.
1. Bind the Super Key
When you boot into an i3 session for the first time, it will ask you to select the default keybinding for the Super function. You may do this by following the on-screen prompts. It is an important keybinding that you will be utilizing for the rest of your time within i3, or any window manager for that matter.
You are given the choice to assign the Super key to either the Win key or the Alt key by i3wm’s default settings. Although it is common practice to map the former as Super, you are always free to tie it to any key of your choosing and may change this at any time.
2. Create a Nitrogen-themed background
If you have installed i3wm from the ground up, the odds are that it presented you with a blank screen when you first launched it. Even while this might not be the most pleasing initial impression, there is no need to worry because permanently altering the wallpaper merely requires a few simple keystrokes.
Installing a wallpaper manager is required in order to modify the background image used by i3wm. Nitrogen is a well-known wallpaper manager that enables users to both manage and set their background images.
Install Nitrogen on your desktop computer running Linux by using the package manager provided by your distribution:
On Ubuntu/Debian derivates:
sudo apt install nitrogen
On Arch Linux:
sudo pacman -S nitrogen
On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora systems:
sudo dnf install nitrogen
Launch Nitrogen and go to the directory that has the wallpaper picture files in order to set a wallpaper for your desktop. Nitrogen ought to retrieve the photographs for you automatically so that you may select from them.
In addition, add the following line to the i3wm configuration file so that Nitrogen will be automatically executed and the wallpaper will be restored whenever you log out of i3wm or refresh it:
exec always nitrogen –restore
3. Install and Configure the picom Compositor
A compositor is not included in the distribution of i3wm by default. Therefore, if you want to add blur, transparency, or any other fancy visual effects like those found in the r/unixporn subreddit, you will need to install a compositor on your own in addition to everything else.
Compton was formerly the recommended compositor for anyone who utilized i3wm. But as of late, picom, a branch of Compton, has become the dominant variant. After installing the picom compositor and configuring it for automatic startup in the same way that you did with nitrogen, you will be ready to go.
When you use a compositor, any screen tearing or artifacting problems that you may have been experiencing with i3wm will be resolved automatically.
Installing picom Compositor
The installation of picom compositor is not particularly difficult, and the process is equivalent to the installation of virtually any other package on Linux. Launch the terminal application and, depending on the distribution that you are utilizing, enter the following commands to install picom:
On Arch-based systems:
sudo pacman -S picom
On Debian/Ubuntu derivatives:
sudo apt install -y picom
On RHEL/Fedora/CentOS systems:
sudo dnf install picom
Configuring Picom for Automatic Execution
Simply adding a line to your i3wm configuration file that instructs i3 to launch picom as soon as the session starts will allow you to have picom run automatically whenever you connect into your i3 window manager session.
To reload i3wm, press the Super + Shift + R keybinding, and then type in the following line anywhere in the configuration file:
4. Switch to a Different Terminal Emulator
The i3-sensible-terminal will be set up as the default terminal when the i3wm configuration file is first opened. If you choose to make do with what comes standard, there is no wrong in doing so; but, you are severely limiting your access to superior solutions that come with expanded capabilities and the capacity to be customized. To mention a few, Alacritty, Terminator, and Kitty come to mind.
Having trouble deciding which terminal to use? Find out more information about the most effective terminal emulators for Linux.
If you would want to change the terminal emulator that is used by default in i3wm, update this line in the configuration file and replace “i3-sensible-terminal” with the name of the terminal that you would like to use. For example, you may enter in the following command to make Alacrity the default terminal:
bindsym $mod+Return exec alacritty
5. Install dmenu
It’s possible that you’ve already seen that, in contrast to desktop environments such as GNOME or XFCE, hitting the Super key does not bring up a selection of available applications.
You can start an application in i3wm by either launching it through the terminal or by making use of an app launcher. Either way, you may execute the application. A good alternative for the same is dmenu, which frequently comes pre-installed with distributions that have an i3wm variation. It is speedy, doesn’t weigh much, and is simple to personalize.
You may install dmenu onto your Linux system through your distro’s package management. Launch a terminal and, depending on the distribution you’re using, enter the following commands:
On Arch Linux:
sudo pacman -S dmenu
On Debian/Ubuntu-based systems:
sudo apt install -y dmenu
sudo dnf install dmenu
Once installed, fire up dmenu with Win + D and search for the application you want to launch.
6. Install a Status Bar
If you want it, you can have a status bar at the bottom or top of your screen. It keeps tabs on many aspects of your computer, such as how much CPU, RAM, and internet bandwidth you’re using.
Metrics about any hardware or software component in your system may be shown by configuring it. Installing a status bar is essential if you want to keep a close check on your system’s performance and resources.
A few of the most popular options include i3status bar, Waybar, and Polybar.
7. Organize Workspaces
Workspaces are ordinally numbered from one to ten by default. In order to switch between workspaces, type Super + X (any number between one and zero). Even while it works as is, it would be better if workspaces were given names instead of just numbers.
Replace the first two numbers with Web, Code, and Media. For example. What a great concept, right? Enter or change the following lines in the i3wm configuration file to obtain this format:
set $ws1 “1”
set $ws2 “2”
set $ws3 “3”
set $ws4 “4”
bindsym $mod+1 $ws1
bindsym $mod+2 $ws2
bindsym $mod+3 $ws3
bindsym $mod+4 $ws4
set $term “1: term”
set $web “2: web”
set $file_manager “3: files”
bindsym $mod+1 $term
bindsym $mod+2 $web
bindsym $mod+3 $file_manager
Refresh i3wm using Super + Shift + R to apply your changes. In theory, the adjustments should have taken effect by now.
8. Keybindings can be customized
Window managers place a significant emphasis on the keyboard for navigation. It is necessary to become familiar with the keybindings of a window manager in order to make full use of its capabilities. At the very least, this should be done for the most fundamental functions.
If you find that the keybindings that come preconfigured with i3wm do not work well for you, you are free to alter the configuration file for the program and create your own unique set of keybindings. Refer to the official documentation for i3wm if you want to find out more information about keybindings and how to alter them.
9. Create a backup of your.dot files
Dotfile backup is a duty that many beginners overlook, despite the fact that it is arguably the most critical activity there is. Dotfiles are a term used in the Linux community to refer to configuration files.
It is given this name due to the fact that under Linux, the names of all hidden folders begin with either a period or a dot, which is why all of the configuration files are often put away in these hidden directories. That is why they are referred to as “dot” files.
While you are learning the ins and outs of i3wm, or any other window manager for that matter, you are almost certain to encounter a few hiccups and problems along the way.
Maintaining a backup of the configuration files for your i3wm is necessary in order to guarantee that, in the event that it becomes corrupted, you will be able to swiftly restore it to a working condition.
The act of uploading your dotfiles to your GitHub repository is the best approach to ensure that they are backed up. Don’t know how? Acquire additional knowledge about Git and how to make use of it.
The Best Linux Window Managers
i3wm has a long and reputable history of being a reliable tiling window manager; nevertheless, in the world of free and open-source software (FOSS), there is never a shortage of other options.
Check out the offerings from i3wm’s other competitors and carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of each one before deciding to use i3wm as your primary vehicle. The process has been simplified for you with the compilation of this handpicked list of the top window managers for Linux.