Tips & Tricks for the i3 Window Manager

The i3 Window Manger is a nice alternative to the Ubuntu Unity Desktop that I usually use. In this post I will share the things I learned while using i3.
created by on 2015-06-30

The first thing I do when I start working on a project is arranging my editor-, git command line-, terminal- and browser-windows using my mouse. And even though this process is not terrible exhausting I thought this could be improved and discovered i3 - a tiling window manager that automatically resizes every new window to the maximum area they have available on the screen.

This is how a typical development session on one of my hobby projects (e.g. allmark - a standalone markdown webserver) would look like:

With Ubuntu Unity

Animation: Arranging the windows for my normal development routine on Unity

With i3

Animation: Arranging the windows for my normal development routine with i3

My review of the i3 Window Manager so far:

I will update this post as I learn more about the nuts and bolts of i3.


i3 Window Manager Overview

Enable VMWare Integration for i3

When you are using VMWare you want to make sure that the OS integration is active when you are using any desktop, because otherwise you will for example not be able to share your clipboard between the host and your i3 desktop.

echo "exec vmware-user" >> ~/.i3/config

see: superuser: Linux Tiling window manager that works well within VMware (resolution, monitor changes)

Reload the i3 config

If you changed your i3 config you can reload it using mod + shift + r or by executing the following command:

i3-msg reload

Set a Desktop Background

A minimalistic window manager is nice but you still might want your favorite desktop wallpaper or color - you can use nitrogen for that.

apt-get install nitrogen

Then run nitrogen to pick a desktop background:


After you have picked and applied a desktop background you can add nitrogen --restore to your i3 config file (`~/.i3/config):

exec nitrogen --restore
Configure i3 Part 1

Customize i3status bar

i3’s default status bar comes with a few components that you might not need. The star bar is created by a tool called i3status that you can easily customize by editing the /etc/i3status.conf file.




i3status /etc/i3status.conf
Configure i3 Part 2
Configure i3 Part 3

Odd Things about i3

Dialog Box Handling

Dialog boxes will be treated as every other window and will by default take up half of the screen. Here is an example in which I create a bookmark for a webpage:

Animation: Creating a Browser Bookmark - Dialog Box takes up half the screen