This article is mainly to keep track of what I’ve learned and done, configuring my own i3. If you’re new to i3, check out’s userguide

Configuration and keyboard shortcuts

The config file for i3 resides in ~/.config/i3/config on Manjaro/Arch. Use mod+shift+r to restart i3 after configuration changes. During first setup you choose a modifier key, normally this would be alt or command. If you configure yourself out of a usable system, deleting the config file will reset everything and run the configuration tool again.

The default keyboard shortcuts for getting started are:

Shortcut Function
mod+enter Open new terminal
mod+j Focus left
mod+k Focus down
mod+l Focus up
mod+; Focus right
mod+a Focus parent
mod+space Toggle focus mode
mod+shift+j Move window left
mod+shift+k Move window down
mod+shift+l Move window up
mod+shift+; Move window right
mod+0..9 Switch workspace
mod+shift+0..9 Move window to workspace
mod+d Application launcher (rofi)

For more keyboard shortcuts, check out i3 reference card from

i3-gaps for the looks

i3-gaps is a fork of the original i3 window manager, which provides some whitespace between the windows. I find it aestethically pleasing. You’re free to configure the different features as you please, this is my current configuration, copied from user twodogsdave on the Manjaro forums:

# Disable window titlebars entirely
for_window [class="^.*"] border pixel 2

# Set inner/outer gaps
gaps inner 10
gaps outer 15

# Additionally, you can issue commands with the following syntax. This is useful to bind keys to changing the gap size.
# gaps inner|outer current|all set|plus|minus <px>
# gaps inner all set 10
# gaps outer all plus 5

# Smart gaps (gaps used if only more than one container on the workspace)
# smart_gaps on

# Smart borders (draw borders around container only if it is not the only container on this workspace)
# on|no_gaps (on=always activate and no_gaps=only activate if the gap size to the edge of the screen is 0)
smart_borders on

# Press $mod+Shift+g to enter the gap mode. Choose o or i for modifying outer/inner gaps. Press one of + / - (in-/decrement for current workspace) or 0 (remove gaps for current workspace). If you also press Shift with these keys, the change will be global for all workspaces.
set $mode_gaps Gaps: (o) outer, (i) inner
set $mode_gaps_outer Outer Gaps: +|-|0 (local), Shift + +|-|0 (global)
set $mode_gaps_inner Inner Gaps: +|-|0 (local), Shift + +|-|0 (global)
bindsym $mod+Shift+g mode "$mode_gaps"

mode "$mode_gaps" {
        bindsym o      mode "$mode_gaps_outer"
        bindsym i      mode "$mode_gaps_inner"
        bindsym Return mode "default"
        bindsym Escape mode "default"

mode "$mode_gaps_inner" {
        bindsym plus  gaps inner current plus 5
        bindsym minus gaps inner current minus 5
        bindsym 0     gaps inner current set 0

        bindsym Shift+plus  gaps inner all plus 5
        bindsym Shift+minus gaps inner all minus 5
        bindsym Shift+0     gaps inner all set 0

        bindsym Return mode "default"
        bindsym Escape mode "default"
mode "$mode_gaps_outer" {
        bindsym plus  gaps outer current plus 5
        bindsym minus gaps outer current minus 5
        bindsym 0     gaps outer current set 0

        bindsym Shift+plus  gaps outer all plus 5
        bindsym Shift+minus gaps outer all minus 5
        bindsym Shift+0     gaps outer all set 0

        bindsym Return mode "default"
        bindsym Escape mode "default"

Screen tearing in Firefox

i3 does not come with a compositor, like XFCE has. This results in some tearing when scrolling in Firefox, and other applications. In order to fix this, you need Picom, which is a maintained fork of the old compton project. To enable it, add the following to your i3 config file.

exec_always --no-startup-id picom -b

The exec_always ensures it also runs when reloading i3.

Better application launcher

Issuing super+d brings up dmenu, which gives you a fuzzy-searchable list of all executables on your system.

If you’re coming from MacOS, you’ll probably find dmenu a bit dull, compared to the awesomeness of Alfred and the likes. Check out rofi for a highly configurable drop-in replacement.

Here’s my .config/rofi/config.rasi

configuration {
 modi: "window,drun,ssh,combi";
 theme: "solarized";
 font: "hack 10";
 combi-modi: "window,drun";

To launch rofi in combi-mode (all modes combined) instead of dmenu, trade your dmenu keybinding for:

bindsym $mod+d exec rofi -show combi


The default terminal application shipping with i3 is not the pinnacle of terminals. Currently I’m using kitty, and I’m quite happy with it. After installing kitty, trade the following line:

bindsym $mod+Return exec i3-sensible-terminal


bindsym $mod+Return exec kitty


I like to have a simple, but customizable statusbar. Currently I’m using Polybar instead of the default i3 statusbar.

Locking your screen

I use i3lock for this, and bind it to super+shift+x like this

bindsym $mod+shift+x exec i3lock -c 000000

The -c 000000 gives it a completely black background.