As the name Linux Window manager suggests, the work of window managers is to coordinate how app windows function and they automatically run in the background of your OS to manage the appearance and placement of running applications.
Read Also: 20 Useful Terminal Emulators for Linux
There are several Window Manager apps that you can use on Linux but just as you would expect, here is an article lists the best tiling window managers for you to choose from.
i3 is a free, open-source, and completely configurable windows manager app targetted at advanced Linux and BSD users and developers. It features a tree data structure that allows for more flexible layouts than its alternatives and it does not require Haskell or LUA.
i3 is among the most loved manual window tiling manager apps because of its vast features which include settings in plain text, custom keyboard shortcuts, and configuration without the need to restart the underlying system.
The package i3 is provided by the distribution you are using, just use the package manager to install it as shown.
$ sudo yum install i3 [On CentOS/RHEL] $ sudo dnf install i3 [On Fedora] $ sudo apt install i3 [On Debian/Ubuntu]
bspwm is a free, lightweight, and open-source Linux tiling manager known for adhering to the Linux philosophy by concentrating on doing one thing and getting it done properly.
It is based on binary space partitioning which represents windows as the leaves of a complete binary tree and it handles key binding with a separate utility, sxhkd, which allows for smoother performance and support for other input devices.
bspwm’s features include support for multiple windows, partial support for EWMH, automatic mode for automatically setting the position of app tiles, and it is configured and controlled through messages, among others.
The package bspwm is provided by the distribution you are using, just use the package manager to install it as shown.
$ sudo yum install bspwm [On CentOS/RHEL] $ sudo dnf install bspwm [On Fedora] $ sudo apt install bspwm [On Debian/Ubuntu]
herbstluftwm is a free and open-source configurable manual tiling window manager for x11 using Glib and Xlib. Basically, it works using a layout based on splitting frames into sub-frames which can be further split and filled with windows.
herbstluftwm’s main features include tags (i.e. workspaces or virtual desktops), a configuration script which runs at startup, exactly one tag per monitor, etc. Learn more from our article on herbstluftwm here.
The package herbstluftwm is provided by the distribution you are using, just use the package manager to install it as shown.
$ sudo yum install herbstluftwm [On CentOS/RHEL] $ sudo dnf install herbstluftwm [On Fedora] $ sudo apt install herbstluftwm [On Debian/Ubuntu]
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awesome is a free and open-source next-generation tiling manager for X built to be fast and extensible and it is primarily aimed at developers, power users, and anyone who would like to control their graphical environment.
Its features include well-documented source code and API, real multi-head support with per-screen desktops, support for D-Bus, support for Lua extensions, no floating or tiled layers, etc.
The package awesome is provided by the distribution you are using, just use the package manager to install it as shown.
$ sudo yum install awesome [On CentOS/RHEL] $ sudo dnf install awesome [On Fedora] $ sudo apt install awesome [On Debian/Ubuntu]
Tilix is an advanced GTK3 tiling terminal emulator and manager that uses the Gnome Human Interface Guidelines. It enables users to organize app windows horizontally and vertically using drag and drop.
Tilix offers its users a lot of features including working with custom titles and custom hyperlinks, support for transparent background images, notifications in the background, multiple panes, and persistent layouts.
The package Tilix is provided by the distribution you are using, just use the package manager to install it as shown.
$ sudo yum install tilix [On CentOS/RHEL] $ sudo dnf install tilix [On Fedora] $ sudo apt install tilix [On Debian/Ubuntu]
XMonad is a free and open-source dynamic tiling X11 window manager that exists to automate windows searching and alignment. It is extensible using its very own extension library which gives it options for status bars and window decorations. It is also minimal, stable, and easy to configure.
The package xmonad is provided by the distribution you are using, just use the package manager to install it as shown.
$ sudo yum install xmonad [On CentOS/RHEL] $ sudo dnf install xmonad [On Fedora] $ sudo apt install xmonad [On Debian/Ubuntu]
Sway is a free, open-source, and lightweight tiling Wayland i3-compatible window manager that automatically arranges app windows to logically maximize desktop space. It arranges windows into a grid by default and supports almost all the commands included in i3.
Its features include support for keyboard shortcuts, its usage of Wayland instead of Xorg, and gaps. Read more about Sway in our article here.
Sway is available to install from the default repository of many distributions if it’s not available to check out this wiki page for installation instructions for your distributions.
tmux is an open-source terminal multiplexer that enables users to create multiple terminal sessions that they can access and control from a single screen which makes it perfect for running several command-line programs at the same time.
tmux makes use of all the space available to it and it is easily usable thanks to its support for keybindings which you can use to split windows and create more panes. You can also share individual shell instances between distinct sessions to be used for different purposes by different users.
The package tmux is provided by the distribution you are using, just use the package manager to install it as shown.
$ sudo yum install tmux [On CentOS/RHEL] $ sudo dnf install tmux [On Fedora] $ sudo apt install tmux [On Debian/Ubuntu]
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spectrwm is a small, dynamic, xmonad, and dwm-inspired reparenting and tiling window manager built for X11 to be fast, compact, and concise. It was created with the aim of solving the issues of xmonad and dwm face.
spectrwm uses a plain text configuration file, boasts defaults similar to those in xmonad and dwm, and features built-in keyboard shortcuts. Its other features include customizable colors and border width, drag-to-float, quick launch menu, customizable status bar, dynamic RandR support, etc.
The package spectrwm is provided by the distribution you are using, just use the package manager to install it as shown.
$ sudo yum install spectrwm [On CentOS/RHEL] $ sudo dnf install spectrwm [On Fedora] $ sudo apt install spectrwm [On Debian/Ubuntu]
JWM (Joe’s Window Manager) is an open-source C-based lightweight window manager for the X11 Window System optimized to work smoothly on older, less powerful computer systems. It requires only the Xlib library to run but is capable of working with a host of other libraries including libXext for shape extension, Cairo and libRSVG for icons and backgrounds, libjpeg and libpng for JPEG and PNG backgrounds and icons respectively, etc.
JWM is included in a couple of Linux distros e.g. Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux and has found most of its use on portable PCs like the Raspberry Pi.
$ sudo yum install jwm [On CentOS/RHEL] $ sudo dnf install jwm [On Fedora] $ sudo apt install jwm [On Debian/Ubuntu]
Qtile is a small but full-featured and completely configurable open-source tiling window manager developed in Python. It is designed with a focus on simplicity, extensibility using extensions, and customization.
Qtile features easy to write custom layouts, commands, and widgets. It can also be scripted remotely in order to set up workspaces, update status bar widgets, manipulate windows, etc. It has comprehensive documentation in case you need clarification along the way.
On newer Ubuntu (17.04 or greater), Debian (10 or greater) and Fedora versions, there are Qtile packages available to install via.
$ sudo apt-get install qtile [On Ubuntu/Debian] $ sudo dnf -y install qtile [On Fedora]
Ratpoison is a lightweight Window Manager designed to be simple and without fancy graphics, window decorations, or dependence on any other projects. It is modeled after the GNU Screen which is very popular in the virtual terminal community.
Ratpoison’s main features include the ability to split windows into non-overlapping frames with all windows maximized within their frames. It is solely operated using keyboard commands.
dwm is a lightweight and dynamic tiling window manager for the X Windows system that has guided the development of various other X window managers, including awesome and xmonad window manager.
dwm controls windows in a tiled, monocle, and floating layouts and all of these layouts can be added dynamically, enhance the environment for the application in use, and the task executed.
There are more tiling managers in the community that you can choose from but not many of them offer nearly a complete feature list as the apps listed above.
Do you know any commendable apps that are worthy of mention? Or have you had experiences with any that influence your choice of one over the other? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
33 thoughts on “13 Best Tiling Window Managers for Linux”
Why do you consider JWM a tiling window manager? Why do you consider TMUX or Tilix even window managers?
I’m a long-time Compiz user. I still like my wobbly windows! QTile had been integrated into Compiz a long time ago as a “Grid” under Windows Management. It works well on my install.