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I3wm/sway Recommendations

I am at about 2 years on Solus and I want to try out a tiling wm in a different distro. I like the idea of i3, so I am leaning in that direction. However…

  1. At this point, I am reluctant to go all in on something that is still dependent on X11, so I am also looking at sway (essentially i3wm on Wayland), but it seems to be pretty new and not widely adopted.

  2. My ideal Desktop distro right now would be CentOS 8 Stream. 2nd is Fedora. 3rd would be Ubuntu or Debian. After using Solus, I would prefer to use a mainstream distro, or at least a mainstream package manager. Additionally, I have never used Arch or Suse, and for me, it’s not worth the time commitment to learn a new ecosystem just for my desktop.

  3. I don’t want to build anything from source or have to manage software updates for i3/sway outside of a package manager. I am ok with a 3rd party/unsupported repo if it’s reliable. I want to install something that will persist for years without breaking.

From what I’ve seen so far, this leaves me with a few compromises to choose from since Sway via DNF in CentoS Stream isn’t even close to being a thing.

The first thing I am trying is Regolith Linux, which is Ubuntu 19.04 running i3 gaps out of the box. I would prefer a RHEL distro, but Ubuntu is ok. Playing around with it in a VM for a few minutes, I am really liking the UX overall. I can see myself becoming very quick with the hotkeys after the initial learning curve.

Anyway, the purpose of this topic is just to get some recommendations and experiences from the community here. Maybe some of you have explored these options and have some experiences to share.

@freqlabs, I believe you use awesome (presumably in FreeBSD?). I’d be curious to know if you ever tried i3 and what you think of this overall. I’d almost be willing to try FreeBSD desktop, but I think I’m too reliant on some Linux-only software to make that work.

I’m also just realizing that, of course, sway is in Solus…

If only eopkg was easier to type quickly…

I thought they were moving to Sol…

But yeah, that was one of my primary motivators against solus…

I would recommend staying with i3 for now. I haven’t used sway super recently, but when I did, it was basically a proof-of-concept.

I had i3 working wonderfully on Fedora a couple years back and I’m sure it’ll work on CentOS. I can’t say if it’s in their repos though… You might need rpm fusion.

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It isn’t in the standard centos repository but it is in EPEL so you’ll have to install the epel-release but that should be all there is to it.

Available Packages
Name        : i3
Arch        : x86_64
Version     : 4.12
Release     : 4.el7
Size        : 287 k
Repo        : epel/x86_64
Summary     : Improved tiling window manager
URL         :
Licence     : BSD
Description : Key features of i3 are correct implementation of XrandR, horizontal and vertical
            : columns (think of a table) in tiling. Also, special focus is on writing clean,
            : readable and well documented code. i3 uses xcb for asynchronous communication
            : with X11, and has several measures to be very fast.
            : Please be aware that i3 is primarily targeted at advanced users and developers.

Yeah I use awesome. I don’t like i3.

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Manjaro offers community editions with Awesome, Bspwm and i3. I’m currently using the i3 edition. Not saying you should jump over to Manjaro, just leaving the info here in case you didn’t know and want to test some already configured distros. :slight_smile:

I would also stay with i3 for now. I know sway got it’s first stable release some time ago but eh, I don’t personally feel Wayland is ready for the daily use yet, tough I haven’t tested it in a while now. Good thing is sway is intended to be drop-in replacement for i3, so even if you now roll with i3 it shouldn’t be to big of a head ache to switch to sway when the time comes.

I’ve never used any other wm besides i3 since it gets the job done and when I wanted to try wm i3 had a lot of configuration tutorials available. Oh and when I say i3, I mean i3-gaps.

For ubuntu there’s few ppa’s available, tough some are not updated anymore.

I might fire up my ubuntu vm and test this out:


Why though?

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Have you ever run into an application with hot key overlap with i3? There are so many, it seems inevitable.

I’ll check out the EPEL version. From most of the things I’ve seen, i3 is just one of several packages I’ll need, unless RHEL puts these together for you. From what I understand, app launcher, notifications, screen locking (and gaps?) are all separate packages?

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<= Obviously not Freqlabs


Awesome has a better configuration file, imo.

Awesome has more intuitive shortcuts (and are easier to change)

Awesome works better with the Nvidia composite manager, in my experience.

Awesome has more flexible tiling out of the box and easier to manage with lua, imo.

I still like i3wm, but I use Awesome when I’m not using a full on DE.


I might have but can’t remember. Good thing about i3 is since it’s configured with basic config file you can always remap keybinds. i3 has vi-like controls if that’s your thing.

I tested out that PPA I linked earlier and it seems to be working fine on my Ubuntu 19.10. vm. Currently testing awesome and installed dwm as well since both are available in Ubuntu repos.

They are, but it varies between distos. For example if I install the vanilla i3 package from ubuntu repos I also get i3lock, i3bar, i3status, etc. but some other distros might not include them.

Also remember that i3-gaps is a fork from i3, so it depends again on distros but for example Ubuntu includes the non gap version of i3 in their repos, but on FreeBSD I was able to install gaps version right out with pkg install.

And this is one of the downsides of i3, you have to be cautious about which version you are installing.

Damn, I need to dive into awesome.

I used to do i3 dmenu i3lock i3status and that was it. I think you can run suckless-tools or something like that and it’ll grab all of them.

BTW you can lock the screen through dmenu

i3lock -c 00000 for a black lock screen or you can use i3lock -i /home/ooo/Pictures/lock.png to lock with an image. Don’t quote me with that syntax but I think that’s what it is.

No, this is easy to edit, though. You can edit ~/.config/i3/config and change $mod4 shortcuts (usually Super or Alt, key). You’ll also still have access to gnome-control-center or kde-settings if you had a DE prior to i3wm.


I’ve been using i3 for a couple of years now. It took a week or so to get used to. For me, it’s the easiest and best way to interact with my computer.

  • I don’t have to “click search” for anything.
  • Everything on the machine is reachable from the keyboard
  • It’s very organized

Just an FYI - I use terminator as my terminal emulator. That way I can launch terminator and split from one application. I’ve found that easier than creating four separate windows to get multiple terminals.

I haven’t used any other WM, but I can’t recommend i3 enough.

t. Fedora user

PS - I don’t do anything fancy with my setup. I remapped my metakey, but other than that, it’s out of the box.

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I am leaning toward dwm at this point, but may fall back to i3 if I don’t like it. I expect I may not like it (dwm), but I want to try it anyway to test my threshold for elitist wms.