Blog post cover image.

My Situation

For the past few years, I've been switching back and forth between Windows and Linux. However, every time I try to switch to Windows, I end up going back to Linux because of one specific feature - tiling window managers. Unlike the commonly cited features of Linux such as being open source, privacy or security, tiling window managers are what really draw me in.

The Problem With Windows

Do you consider yourself a speed demon when it comes to navigating through windows on your computer? If so, then the trusty old "alt-tab" shortcut must be a go to for you. But let's face it, when you have multiple windows open, this method can quickly turn into a nightmare. While it works wonders when you only have a few windows open, you can quickly find yourself with dozens of windows open desperately spamming the tab key, only to accidentally click on the wrong window. It's a frustrating and all too common experience for people using windows, mac and even Linux users who use popular desktop environments such as plasma and gnome.

The solution

So now you understand the problem whats the solution. Well luckily of you there's this wonderful thing called tiling window managers. A tiling window manager is piece of software which manages your windows by aligning them to a tiling layout. With this set up you can now manipulate your desktop with shortcuts allowing you to move windows around, scale windows and even organize them into groups.

Now your probably asking how this solves the issue since you still are going to have to switch between a lot of windows and not all of them can be open at once. Well this is where the concept of multiple desktops come in. A virtual desktop is essentially a group of windows that are in a specific layout. You can usually quickly switch between them using a shortcut involving the desktops number. In the case of i3 and sway this shortcut is "win + number". This at first may seem confusing since you don't know which number go to which desktop. The way you tend to manage this is but only ever putting certain things in certain desktops.

For example I personally use desktop 1 for a general terminal, desktop 2 for vim of some other IDE, 3 for web browser and so on.

Now I here what your saying "virtual desktops already exist in windows". But if you've ever tried using virtual desktops you have found the same issue with alt tab. You have to spam "win shift arrow" until you get to the desired desktop. The benefit to having a numbered system for your desktops is once your used to it you don't have to about it. Your monkey brain will just go directly to the correct desktop without even thinking about it.

The drawbacks

Personally I do not have any drawbacks to tiling window managers apart from the time you have to put into setting it up and learning them. One minor drawback might be that it looks bad initially but this can be fixed with configuration which can be fun if you are like me. For example this is what my current set up looks like.

Image of my sway configuration

My config:

Most of my issues in the past have come from things sometimes breaking and not working perfectly in Linux. But every time I got back to Linux I have found my self getting better and having less issues and I'm finally at a point where I don't think ill need to go back to windows.

So what now?

So now you know the benefits to tiling window managers you may be thinking to your self that you would like to try it but don't know where to start. I would likely recommend i3 as one that I have used in the past but I have heard good things when it comes to bspwm and awesome. I personally use sway but i3 will probably be easier to set up and trouble shoot since its older and more widely used.

@cleggacus / made with next.js