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i3 is a dynamic tiling window manager inspired by wmii that is primarily targeted at developers and advanced users.

The stated goals for i3 include clear documentation, proper multi-monitor support, a tree structure for windows, and different modes like in vim.


Install the i3 package group. It includes the window manager i3-wm, i3status which writes a status line to i3bar through stdout, and i3lock, a screen locker.

Additional packages are available in the Arch User Repository. See the section #Patches for examples.

Display manager

i3-wm includes i3.desktop as Xsession which starts the window manager. i3-with-shmlog.desktop enables logs (useful for debugging). i3-gnomeAUR integrates i3 into GNOME.


Edit Xinitrc, and add:

exec i3

To log the output from i3, add this line instead:

exec i3 -V >> ~/i3log-$(date +'%F-%k-%M-%S') 2>&1

If you have trouble mapping keys (e.g. ; as semicolon), use xorg-xev or see Extra keyboard keys.

$ xev | grep -A2 --line-buffered '^KeyRelease' | sed -n '/keycode /s/^.*keycode \([0-9]*\).* (.*, \(.*\)).*$/\1 \2/p'


See the official documentation for more information, namely the i3 User’s Guide.

Application launcher

i3 uses dmenu as an application launcher, which is bound by default to $mod+d. As an alternative, one can use dmenu2AUR from the AUR which has many more features including transparency and support for xft fonts.

i3-wm contains i3-dmenu-desktop, a Perl wrapper for dmenu which uses desktop entries to create a list of all installed applications. Alternatively, the package j4-dmenu-desktop-gitAUR can be used; it is a near-drop-in replacement for i3-dmenu-desktop, but much faster [1].


In i3, commands are invoked with a modifier key, referred to as $mod. This is Alt (Mod1) by default, with Super (Mod4) being a popular alternative. Super is the key usually represented on a keyboard as a Windows icon, or on an Apple keyboard as a Command key.

See the i3 reference card and Using i3 for the defaults. See Keyboard bindings to add new shortcuts.


Tango-view-fullscreen.pngThis article or section needs expansion.Tango-view-fullscreen.png

Reason: The User's guide explains basic use of containers, yet is not sufficiently clear to allow more advanced use cases. It also does not mention focus child as it does focus parent. See also: [2], [3] (Discuss in Talk:I3#)

i3 manages windows in a tree structure, with containers as building blocks. This structure branches with horizontal or vertical splits. Containers are tiled by default, but can be set to tabbed or stacked layouts, as well as made floating (such as for dialog windows). Floating windows are always on top.

See i3 Tree and Containers and the tree data structure for details.


See Configuring i3 for details. The rest of this article assumes the i3 configuration file to be in the folder ~/.config (contrary to i3-config-wizard, which creates ~/.i3/config).

Configuration wizard and alternative keyboard layouts

When i3 is first started, it offers to run the configuration wizard i3-config-wizard. This tool creates ~/.i3/config by rewriting a template configuration file in /etc/i3/config.keycodes. It makes two kinds of modifications to the default template:

  1. It asks the user to choose a default modifier key, which it adds to the template as a single line, like set $mod Mod1; and
  2. it replaces all bindcode lines with bindsym lines corresponding to the user's current keyboard layout.

Part 2 is designed to ensure that the four navigation shortcuts, j, k, l and "semicolon" on a Qwerty keyboard, will be mapped to keysyms which have the same location, e.g. h, t, n, s on a Dvorak keyboard. The side-effect of this magic is that up to fifteen other keysyms may be remapped, often with confusing results - so that, for a Dvorak user, "restart" is bound to $mod1+p instead of $mod1+r, "split horizontally" is bound to $mod1+d instead of $mod1+h, and so on.

Therefore, users of alternate keyboard layouts who want key bindings with easy mnemonics, and which match the bindings given in tutorials, may prefer to just copy /etc/i3/config into ~/.config/i3/config (or ~/.i3/config) and start by editing that file, rather than using the config wizard.

Note that a keycode-based configuration is also possible, e.g. for users who often switch between keyboard layouts, but want the i3 bindings to stay the same.


The configuration file allows for customization of window decoration colors, but the syntax makes it impractical to create or share themes. There are several projects which make this easier and include a variety of user-contributed themes.

  • i3-style — Modifies your config in place from a theme stored in a JSON object, designed for frequently tweaking or changing a colorscheme
https://github.com/acrisci/i3-style || nodejs-i3-styleAUR[broken link: archived in aur-mirror]
  • j4-make-config — Merge your config with a collection of themes or personal config parts, for example host-specific configuration, allowing quick changing of the theme and flexible, dynamic customization of the configuration
https://github.com/okraits/j4-make-config || j4-make-config-gitAUR


In addition to showing workspace information, i3bar can act as an input for i3status or an alternative, such as those mentioned in the next section. For example:

bar {
    output            LVDS1
    status_command    i3status
    position          top
    mode              hide
    workspace_buttons yes
    tray_output       none
    font -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--13-120-75-75-C-70-iso10646-1

    colors {
        background #000000
        statusline #ffffff

        focused_workspace  #ffffff #285577
        active_workspace   #ffffff #333333
        inactive_workspace #888888 #222222
        urgent_workspace   #ffffff #900000

See the Configuring i3bar for details.

i3bar alternatives

Tango-inaccurate.pngThe factual accuracy of this article or section is disputed.Tango-inaccurate.png

Reason: i3 is NETWM compliant, so workspace management from external panels should usally work. See also [4] (Discuss in Talk:I3#)

Some users may prefer panels such as those provided by conventional Desktop Environments. This can be achieved within i3 by launching the panel application of choice during startup.

For the XFCE panel, add the following line anywhere in ~/.config/i3/config:

exec --no-startup-id xfce4-panel --disable-wm-check
Note: Panel features that are specific to the Desktop environment (e.g., widgets for managing workspaces/sessions) will most likely not work, though i3's functionality should remain unaffected.

i3bar can be disabled by commenting out the bar{ } section of ~/.config/i3/config or using:

# bar toggle, hide or show 
bindsym $mod+m bar mode toggle

This way you can show or hide bar as you want.


Copy over the default configuration files to the home directory:

$ cp /etc/i3status.conf ~/.config/i3status/config

Not all plugins are defined in the default configuration and some configuration values may be invalid for your system, so the need to be updated accordingly. See man i3status for details.

i3status replacements

https://github.com/brndnmtthws/conky || conky
  • i3blocks — Extensible via shell scripts. It can handle click events, interrupts, and defining of refresh intervals on a per-block basis.
https://github.com/vivien/i3blocks || i3blocksAUR
  • i3phtatus — An easily extensible i3status replacement meant for i3bar, written in PHP.
https://github.com/mwgg/i3phtatus || not packaged? search in AUR
  • i3-phpbar — Same replacement for i3bar, written in PHP.
https://github.com/johnynsk/i3-phpbar || not packaged? search in AUR
  • goi3bar — Concurrent, extensible i3status replacement written in Go. Components can update at individual rates.
https://github.com/denbeigh2000/goi3bar || not packaged? search in AUR
  • i3pystatus — Extensible Python 3 status bar with many plugins and configuration options by default.
https://github.com/enkore/i3pystatus i3pystatus || i3pystatus-gitAUR
  • i3situation — Another Python 3 status bar generator.
https://github.com/HarveyHunt/i3situation || i3situation-gitAUR
  • j4status — Provides a statusline, configurable via plugins, and written in C. Extra plugins are provided by j4status-plugins-gitAUR.
http://j4status.j4tools.org/ || j4status-gitAUR

i3status wrappers

  • h2status — Bash wrapper for i3status that allows custom json entries as input, and can handle click events as well as asynchronous updates of the status bar.
H2status || h2statusAUR[broken link: archived in aur-mirror]
  • i3cat — A go based wrapper which can concatenate inputs from multiple external sources. It can handle click events and forwarding user specified signals to its subprocesses.
http://vincent-petithory.github.io/i3cat/ || i3cat-gitAUR
  • py3status — An extensible i3status wrapper written in Python.
https://github.com/ultrabug/py3status || py3statusAUR

Iconic fonts in the status bar

i3bar can be patched for XBM icon support, but you can use iconic font sets instead.

  • ttf-font-awesome — Scalable vector icons that can be customized with CSS. A cheatsheet shows the Unicode point for each glyph.
http://fortawesome.github.io/Font-Awesome/ || ttf-font-awesomeAUR
  • ttf-font-icons — Non-overlapping and consistently sized mix of Awesome and Ionicons. This also avoids minor overlapping between DejaVu Sans and Awesome.
http://kageurufu.net/icons.pdf || ttf-font-iconsAUR.

To combine fonts, define a font fallback sequence in your configuration file, separating fonts with , like so:

bar {
  font pango:DejaVu Sans Mono, Icons 8

In accordance with pango syntax, font size is specified only once, at the end of the comma-separated list of font families. Setting a size for each font would cause all but the last font to be ignored.

Add icons to the format strings in ~/.config/i3status/config using the unicode numbers given in the cheatsheets linked above. The input method will vary between text editors. For instance, to insert the "heart" icon (unicode number f004):

Merge-arrows-2.pngThis article or section is a candidate for merging with Internationalization.Merge-arrows-2.png

Notes: Should be described in one place; see also ArchWiki:Requests#Input methods. (Discuss in Talk:I3#)
  • in various gui text editors (e.g. gedit, Leafpad) and terminals (e.g. GNOME Terminal, xfce4-terminal): ctrl+shift+u, f004, Enter
  • in Emacs: ctrl+x, 8, Enter, f004, Enter
  • in Vim (while in insert mode): Ctrl+v, uf004
  • in urxvt: while holding Ctrl+Shift, type f004

Terminal emulator

By default when pressing $mod+Return it launches the i3-sensible-terminal which is a script that invokes a terminal. See man i3-sensible-terminal for the order terminals are invoked in.

To instead launch a terminal of choice, modify this line in ~/.config/i3/config:

bindsym $mod+Return exec i3-sensible-terminal

Alternatively, locally define the $TERMINAL variable:

$ export TERMINAL=yourterminal

Tips and tricks

Advanced window navigation

See i3 window Navigation Tips.

Jump to open window

  • quickswitch-i3 — Python utility to quickly change to and locate windows in i3
https://github.com/proxypoke/quickswitch-for-i3 || quickswitch-i3AUR
  • i3-wm-scripts — search for and jump to windows with particular names matching regexp
https://github.com/yiuin/i3-wm-scripts ||
  • winmenupy — Launches dmenu with a list of clients, sorted after workspaces. Selecting a client jumps to that window.
https://github.com/ziberna/i3-py/blob/master/examples/winmenu.py ||
  • rofi — Search and jump to open and scratchpad window
https://davedavenport.github.io/rofi/ || rofi

Jump to urgent window

Add to .i3/config: [5]

bindsym $mod+x [urgent=latest] focus

Save and restore the window layout

From version 4.8, and onward i3 can save and restore workspace layouts. To do this, the following packages are needed: perl-anyevent-i3 and perl-json-xs from the official repositories.

Note: This section only provides quick tutorial on how to save the current window layout of a single workspace and how to restore it for later use. Refer to the official documentation for more details

Save the current window layout of a single workspace

To save the current window layout, follow these steps:

  1. First, execute various commands to open windows in a preferred workspace and resize them if needed. Make sure to write down each executed command for each window.
  2. Now, in a new workspace, open a terminal and run the following:
    i3-save-tree --workspace N > ~/.i3/workspace_N.json
    where N is the number of the preferred workspace. This will save the current layout of workspace N to the file ~/.i3/workspace_N.json.
  3. The newly created file needs to be edited, however this may be done with the following commands:
    tail -n +2 ~/.i3/workspace_N.json | fgrep -v '// splitv' | sed 's|//||g' > ~/.i3/workspace_N.json

Restore the window layout of the workspace

There are two ways to restore the layout of the workspace: by writing a script, or by editing ~/.i3/config to automatically load the layout. In this section only the first case will be considered, refer to the official documentation for the second case.

To restore the saved layout in the previous section, write a file named load_layout.sh with the following contents:

  • The starting lines:
i3-msg "workspace M; append_layout ~/.i3/workspace_N.json"

where M is the number of the workspace in which you would like to load the previously saved layout and N is the number of workspace saved in the previous section.

  • And the commands used in the previous section to get the preferred windows, but enclosed in parentheses and with an ampersand appended before the last parentheses.

For example, if the saved layout contained three uxterm windows:


# First we append the saved layout of worspace N to workspace M
i3-msg "workspace M; append_layout ~/.i3/workspace_N.json"

# And finally we fill the containers with the programs they had
(uxterm &)
(uxterm &)
(uxterm &)

Then set the file as executable:

chmod u+x ~/load_layout.sh

And finally, the layout of worskpace N can be loaded onto to workspace M by running:

Tip: Adding bindsym $mod+g exec ~/load_layout.sh to ~/.i3/config and restarting i3 will bind Mod+g to run the above script.
Note: If the above script does not work properly, refer to the official documentation. The swallows sections of ~/.i3/workspace_N.json needs to be manually edited.

Scratchpad containers

By default, scratchpads only contain a single window. However, containers can also be made a scratchpad.

Create a new container (for example, Mod+Enter), split it (Mod+v) and create another container. Focus the parent (Mod+a), split in the opposite direction (Mod+h), and create again.

Focus the first container (with focus parent as needed), make the window floating (Mod+Shift+Space), and move it to the scratchpad (Mod+Shift+-). You can now split containers to preference.

Note: Containers cannot be resized individually in floating windows. Resize the containers before making windows floating.
Tip: When only using terminal applications, consider a multiplexer such as tmux instead.

See also [6] for multiple scratchpads.

Screensaver and power management

With Power management#xss-lock you can register a screenlocker for your i3 session.

Alternatively, xautolock can lock the screen after awakening from sleep or hibernation with the -lockaftersleep option. The -time option locks the screen after a given time period.

xautolock -time 10 -locker "i3lock -i 'background_image.png'" -lockaftersleep &

See also DPMS.

Shutdown, reboot, lock screen

Key combinations for shutdown, reboot and screenlock can be added to ~/.config/i3/config. The below example assumes you have polkit installed to allow unprivileged users to run power management commands.

set $Locker i3lock && sleep 1

set $mode_system System (l) lock, (e) logout, (s) suspend, (h) hibernate, (r) reboot, (Shift+s) shutdown
mode "$mode_system" {
    bindsym l exec --no-startup-id $Locker, mode "default"
    bindsym e exec --no-startup-id i3-msg exit, mode "default"
    bindsym s exec --no-startup-id $Locker && systemctl suspend, mode "default"
    bindsym h exec --no-startup-id $Locker && systemctl hibernate, mode "default"
    bindsym r exec --no-startup-id systemctl reboot, mode "default"
    bindsym Shift+s exec --no-startup-id systemctl poweroff -i, mode "default"  

    # back to normal: Enter or Escape
    bindsym Return mode "default"
    bindsym Escape mode "default"

bindsym $mod+Pause mode "$mode_system"

Once completed, you will be presented with a prompt whenever you press $mod+pause. For more complex behaviour, use a separate script, and refer to it in the mode. [7]

  • sleep 1 adds a small delay to prevent possible race conditions with suspend [8]
  • The -i argument for systemctl poweroff causes a shutdown even if other users are logged-in (this requires polkit), or when logind (wrongly) assumes so. [9]

For a list of alternative screen lockers, see List of applications/Security#Screen lockers.

Tabbed or stacked web-browsing

Some web-browsers intentionally do not implement tabs, since managing tabs is considered to be the task of the window manager, not the task of the browser.

To let i3 manage your tab-less web-browser, in this example for uzbl, add the following line to your ~/.config/i3/config

for_window [class="Uzbl-core"] focus child, layout stacking, focus

This is for stacked web browsing, meaning that the windows will be shown vertically. The advantage over tabbed browsing is that the window-titles are fully visible, even if a lot of browser windows are open.

If you prefer tabbed browsing, with windows in horizontal direction ('tabs'), use

for_window [class="Uzbl-core"] focus child, layout tabbed, focus

Workspace variables

As workspaces are defined multiple times in i3, assigning workspace variables can be helpful. For example [10]:

set $WS1 term
set $WS2 web
set $WS3 misc
set $WS4 media
set $WS5 code

Then replace workspace names with their matching variables:

bindsym $mod+1          workspace $WS1
bindsym $mod+Shift+1    move container to workspace $WS1

See Changing named workspaces for more information.

Correct handling of floating dialogs

While dialogs should open in floating mode by default [11], many still open in tiling mode. To change this behaviour, check the dialog's WM_WINDOW_ROLE with xorg-xprop and add the correct rules to ~/.i3/config (using pcre syntax):

for_window [window_role="pop-up"] floating enable
for_window [window_role="task_dialog"] floating enable

You can also use title rules and regular expressions:

for_window [title="Preferences$"] floating enable


for_window [class="(?i)mplayer"] floating enable

Network Download/Upload speed on statusbar

You might adapt this upstream script. For that,

  • rename both network cards according to your system (use ip addr)
  • find them on /sys/devices then replace them appropriately:
$ find /sys/devices -name network_interface
Tip: Use /sys/class/net/interface/statistics/ to not depend on PCI location.

Now, just save the script in a suitable place (for example ~/.config/i3) and point your status program to it.


Packages with patches not merged upstream are available in the AUR:

  • i3bar-icons-git — Display XBM icons in i3bar
https://github.com/ashinkarov/i3-extras || i3bar-icons-gitAUR[broken link: archived in aur-mirror]
  • i3-smart-border — Smart borders
https://github.com/ashinkarov/i3-extras || i3-smart-borderAUR[broken link: archived in aur-mirror]
  • i3-wm-iconpatch — Titlebar icon support
https://github.com/ashinkarov/i3-extras || i3-wm-iconpatchAUR



In many cases, bugs are fixed in the development versions i3-gitAUR and i3status-gitAUR, and upstream will ask to reproduce any errors with this version. [12] See also Debug - Getting Traces#General.

Buttons in the i3 message bar do not work

Buttons such as "Edit config" in i3-nagbar call i3-sensible-terminal, so make sure your Terminal emulator is recognized by i3.

Faulty line wraps in tiled terminals

i3 v4.3 and higher ignore size increment hints for tiled windows [13]. This may cause terminals to wrap lines prematurely, amongst other issues. As a workaround, make the offending window floating, before tiling it again.

Mouse cursor remains in waiting mode

When starting a script or application which does not support startup notifications, the mouse cursor will remain in busy/watch/clock mode for 60 seconds.

To solve this for a particlar application, use the --no-startup-id parameter, for example:

exec --no-startup-id ~/script
bindsym $mod+d exec --no-startup-id dmenu_run

To disable this animation globally, see Cursor themes#Create links to missing cursors.

Unresponsive key bindings

Some tools such as scrot may not work when used with a regular key binding (executed after key press). In those cases, execute commands after key release with the --release argument [14]:

bindsym --release Print exec --no-startup-id scrot
bindsym --release Shift+Print exec --no-startup-id scrot -s


i3 does not properly implement double buffering hence tearing or flickering may occur. To prevent this, install and configure compton. [15]

Tray icons not visible

The default tray_output primary directive may require setting a primary output with xrandr, specifying the output explicitly or simply removing this directive. [16] See Xrandr for details. The default configuration created by i3-config-wizard will no longer add this directive to the configuration with i3 4.12.

See also

Arch Linux Forums