Slackware and i3

The release of Slackware 14.1 has brought a number of important changes including a switch from MySQL to MariaDB or the introduction of UEFI support. For i3 users, however, the most relevant change was the update of cairo. At the beginning of the year the changelog of Slackware’s -current branch read:

Lots of X updates in this batch! We were finally able to upgrade to the
latest cairo (including the long-requested XCB backend), as the text
corruption bug that was preventing that was fixed in the upstream X server.

This, as I have mentioned many times, means that we can now install i3 as the upstream wanted it, in its vanilla state. Today the 14.1 branch of has officially been opened to the public including cleaned-up scripts for i3 version 4.6. Last month I contacted Michael, the author of i3, who suggested a few small changes, which have been implemented.

If you’d like to build i3 from its master git branch, have a look at You can still use my scripts for the master branch of i3, feel free to use the following script:

Happy tiling!!!

i3wm master branch script cleanup

Seeing problems as opportunities is an extremely helpful approach that has yet again proven to work well for me. Recently someone has reported problems building i3wm using my Slackbuild script that uses the i3 master git branch. Not only did it prompt me to revisit the script but also encouraged to get in touch with Michael, i3 developer, who, as usual, was extremely helpful providing me with a number of corrections and helpful comments. Additionally, I liked how another slacker organised doc files and added those modifications as well.

Below you can get a SlackBuild script for the master branch of i3wm for Slackware-current (14.1). It’s not going to build on Slackware 14.0 or older.


i3 on

Recently I have received a number of emails pointing out that i3 version on is rather out of date. I would like to assure you that I have not abandoned maintaining the i3 SlackBuild. I have refrained from bumping up the version on the Slackbuilds site due to the change introduced in i3 v4.5 (and described in my previous posts) that would necessitate building i3 with PANGO disabled. As this is not in the true Slackware spirit of shipping vanilla software, I thought I’d keep it that way. The good news is that the latest (4.6) version of i3 builds fine on the -current branch of Slackware. That will make it possible to update the i3 version on the SlackBuilds website once Slackware 14.1 has been released, which shouldn’t be before long. In the meantime you can build the latest i3 version from the master branch script (-current: without modifications, 14.0: with PANGO disabled).

A quick bugfix release of i3 – version 4.5.1

This release fixes, among others, a high memory consumption problem in i3 4.5. The issue, as explained by Michael, is a result of a human mistake in the release process. For full details of a bug report, see this. The new release fixes the problem, as well as, introduces a few other changes.

Feel free to use my SlackBuild script to build the latest stable release of i3 including all the bugfixes. The builds for Slackware 14 and the -current branch are available here:


i3wm 4.5 on Slackware

Having come back from my holiday I found a pleasant surprise in the form of a new i3 release which contains a lot of bug fixes and cleanups. For a list of all the changes in the new version, please refer to the release notes.

As usual, you can grab a SlackBuild for i3wm 4.5 here. As explained in my previous posts, this SlackBuild is aimed at Slackware-current and will NOT work for Slackware 14 or older.

Furthermore, regardless of the Slackware version you use, I’d like to encourage you to use SlackBuilds (Slackware14, Slackware-current) pulling the master branch of the i3 window manager. See the explanation in my previous posts.


i3 Window Navigation Tips

i3wmNavigating between windows, especially in a multi-monitor environment can pose a real challenge at times.

You work on a very important project and have a number of windows scattered over a few workspaces and monitors. Some of them are just opened for visual reference while others need to be regularly re-visited. An obvious solution would be to group windows in a logical way so that it is easy to switch between them. Depending on the number of windows and your working habits, this might not be enough. Fortunately, i3 offers some shortcuts or easy ways of creating such shortcuts. These might not look like life savers at first but, if used efficiently and on a regular basis, over time they can add hours or even days to you precious coding time. I will present a few tips with the best (IMHO) left till the end: the use of vim-like goto marks.

Going Back and Forth

Imagine you are working on one of your workspaces and you just quickly need to check something on workspace 4 so you press $mod+4 to switch to it. Once you have checked it, you don’t have to remember the number of the previous workspace. You just need to press $mod+4 again and you’ll return to whatever workspace you were working on. To enable this functionality, make sure you have the following line in ~/i3/config:

workspace_auto_back_and_forth yes

But it gets even better. The following key binding lets you switch back and forth between the last two workspaces that you visited pressing the $mod+z key combination.

bindsym $mod+z workspace back_and_forth

Furthermore, you can move windows back and forth with:

bindsym $mod+Shift+z move container to workspace back_and_forth

You could combine the two actions so that you move a window backwards and forwards and follow it.

bindsym $mod+Shift+z move container to workspace back_and_forth; workspace back_and_forth

Configure focus on keybindings;;dfafdad

Sometimes it would make sense to hard-code focusing on certain windows:

bindsym $mod+Shift+b [class="Firefox"] focus
bindsym $mod+Shift+i [class="Terminal" title="weechat"] focus

Using the last key binding will bring focus to an instance of Terminal running the weechat irc client. You can identify particular windows using the xprop client property displayer. Sometimes, however, it might not be easy to identify a client and that’s where vim like goto marks come in handy.

Goto marks in i3

Goto marks let you mark a window on the fly so that you can focus on it at a later time. Please bear in mind that they do not modify your config file so they will be lost if you exit i3. They are meant to be session specific or for windows that are difficult to identify. I will present a few ways you can use them to focus on windows.

The first method is by explicitly naming particular windows and calling them by name.

bindsym $mod+m exec i3-input -F 'mark %s' -P 'Mark name: '
bindsym $mod+Shift+m exec i3-input -F '[con_mark=%s] focus' -P 'Go to mark: '

When the focus is on the window that you’d like to mark, you can press $mod+m and type the mark name, for example: ks (short for the terminal window where you edit kernel source). You can name a few windows that you visit regularly giving them other, ideally short labels and the marks will be stored for the duration of the i3 session.

Then you can immediately access (ie. focus on) them from any workspace or display by pressing $mod+Shift+m and typing an appropriate mark name, eg. ks.

An alternative approach would be to use numbers or letters with Emacs-like modes.

mode "mark_window" {
                bindsym 1 mark m1
                bindsym 2 mark m2
                bindsym 3 mark m3
                bindsym 4 mark m4
                bindsym 5 mark m5
                bindsym a mark ma
                bindsym b mark mb
                bindsym c mark mc
                bindsym d mark md
                bindsym e mark me

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

mode "go_to_window" {

                bindsym 1 [con_mark="m1"] focus
                bindsym 2 [con_mark="m2"] focus
                bindsym 3 [con_mark="m3"] focus
                bindsym 4 [con_mark="m4"] focus
                bindsym 5 [con_mark="m5"] focus
                bindsym Return mode "default"
                bindsym Escape mode "default"


bindsym $mod+g mode "go_to_window"
bindsym $mod+m mode "mark_window"

Pressing $mod+g you enter the mark_window mode where a new set of keybindings (defined above) applies. Please note that it’s essential that you specify a way of returning to the default mode. Otherwise, you might get stuck as standard i3 keybinding do not work inside modes unless explicitly set. After you’ve entered the “mark_window” mode, you can press, eg. 1 to set a mark on the currently focused window and press Esc or Enter/Return to exit to the default mode. Now whenever you want to jump to window marked as 1, you’d go to the go_to_window mode, press 1 and exit the mode: $mod+g 1 Esc.

All-in-one approach using an i3 mode

The most optimal option, however, could be combining all the above mentioned tips under one mode where you could define your hard coded keybindings, leave an option for adding on-the-fly window labels, as well as use numbers for tagging windows.

mode "focused" {

                # hardcoded focus keybindings
                bindsym b [class="(?i)firefox"] focus
                bindsym w [class="(?i)terminal" title="weechat"] focus
                bindsym m [class="(?i)thunderbird"] focus
                bindsym f [class="(?i)terminal" title="mc"] focus
                bindsym z [class="(?i)zathura"] focus

                # keybindings for marking and jumping to clients
                bindsym a exec i3-input -F 'mark %s' -P 'Mark name: '
                bindsym g exec i3-input -F '[con_mark=%s] focus' -P 'Go to mark: '

                # Assign marks to keys 1-5
                bindsym Shift+1 mark mark1
                bindsym Shift+2 mark mark2
                bindsym Shift+3 mark mark3
                bindsym Shift+4 mark mark4
                bindsym Shift+5 mark mark5

                # Jump to clients marked 1-5
                bindsym 1 [con_mark="mark1"] focus
                bindsym 2 [con_mark="mark2"] focus
                bindsym 3 [con_mark="mark3"] focus
                bindsym 4 [con_mark="mark4"] focus
                bindsym 5 [con_mark="mark5"] focus

                # Exit to the default mode
                bindsym Return mode "default"
                bindsym Escape mode "default"

bindsym $mod+n mode "focused"


i3 4.4 on Slackware (available for -current)

Today’s batch of updates in the -current branch of Slackware has brought some interesting changes. If you have been following this blog, you may have guessed that what was particularly interesting to me was the inclusion of cairo-1.12.14 which ships with the XCB backend enabled by default:

Fri Feb 22 01:09:25 UTC 2013
Lots of X updates in this batch! We were finally able to upgrade to the
latest cairo (including the long-requested XCB backend), as the text
corruption bug that was preventing that was fixed in the upstream X server.

This update makes it possible to build the latest version (ie. 4.4) of the i3 window manager without disabling Pango. For more details, see this post. I have updated my SlackBuilds for i3-4.4 (or to be specific the master branch, which contains the latest stable release + bug fixes). The SlackBuilds are available for downloads from here:

or from github:

Enjoy and let me know of any problems you might have. On a separate note, thank you Patrick for so many goodies in this batch of updates.

i3 4.4 on Slackware

i3wmEverybody knows that tiling window managers are the cure to all the world’s problems.

…and with the recent release of i3 v. 4.4, the world should sigh with relief. Having thoroughly inspected i3 source code, I can assure everyone that the world is NOT going to end tomorrow or any time soon.

Now that I have hopefully put your mind at rest, we can focus on the new i3 release. As I blogged a few months ago, the 4.3 introduced the pango support for rendering text which resulted in the package not compiling on the stock Slackware installation (see details). The situation has not changed with the release 4.4. At the moment of writing this, offers i3 4.2 which is the last version that works flawlessly without any hacks. If you would, however, like to run i3 4.3+ you can either recompile the stock Slackware cairo package with enabled xcb support or disable pango support in i3. Again, I have chosen the latter option as being less intrusive on a Slackware system.

Below are my updated SlackBuilds scripts for the most recent stable version of i3. The Slackbuild is not written for any particular version of i3, such as 4.3 or 4.4. It automatically pulls the source from the ‘master’ branch of i3 git repository, which is the most recent “stable” release + any bug fixes.

i3 master branch SlackBuilds

One of the new features included in this release is i3-dmenu-desktop, a dmenu wrapper for .desktop files. The feature was discussed in one of the threads of i3 mailing list. To see the full list of changes and bug fixes, please visit 4.4 release notes.

Update: See the update to this article here.
Happy tiling!!!

i3 4.3 on Slackware

I welcomed yesterday’s release of i3 4.3 with excitement. Having been busy elsewhere, I did not follow the ‘next’ branch of i3 git repository and, therefore, was not aware of what’s cooking. The moment I started building a new shiny package, my excitement somewhat subsided.

Pango support

Version 4.3 introduces pango support for rendering text, which would be a great news if not for the fact that an XCB backend support was still an experimental feature (and, therefore, disabled by default) in cairo 1.10.2, the version that Slackware (14rc5) ships with. In consequence, for i3 >= 4.3 to build on Slackware, one would have to upgrade the stock cairo package. The XCB backend has apparently reached a stable status and is enabled by default in cairo version 1.12.2+. As always, Pat is the person to decide whether it is mature enough for Slackware. Hopefully, it is and it’ll enter the -current branch of Slackware in the next development cycle. (Update: See Pat’s comments on the issue).

An alternative solution (which I have chosen) was to disable pango support in i3 4.3. As this feature is an integral part of i3wm 4.3, disabling it is not recommended by Michael Stapelberg, i3 author and main developer (4.3 release notes):

Another very important change is that we now support pango for rendering text. The default is still to use misc-fixed (X core fonts), but you can use a font specification starting with “xft:” now, such as “xft:DejaVu Sans Mono 10″ and i3 will use pango. The sole motivation for this is NOT to have fancier window decorations, but to support fonts which have more glyphs (think Japanese for example) and to support right-to-left rendering (open for an example). Supporting users from all over the planet is important, and as such I would strongly advise distribution packagers to leave pango support enabled. In case you are working on a very low-spec embedded device, it is easy enough to disable pango support, see

Personally I do not need it so am going to run 4.3 (pango disabled) until cairo gets upgraded in Slackware (I’m not in a hurry:)). You can do the same but don’t say you haven’t been warned!!!

Here is my SlackBuild script for i3 v 4.3 (pango disabled). Please note that I pointed it to the master branch of i3′s git repository which basically is the latest stable release + bug fixes, which at the moment of writing is 4.3. Should a new version be released, eg. 4.4, the script will automatically pull it from the git repository. Unlike with standard SlackBuilds there’s no need to manually download the source code.

Feel free to use it but bear in mind that, at the moment of writing it, a recommended version of i3 to be run on Slackware is i3 4.2 which is available from so if you don’t like living on the edge, please stop reading now and stay with 4.2!

Now for the fun part.

What’s new?

Apart from the above mentioned pango support (which we have disabled) there are lots of bug fixes and some new features available with this release. I particularly like the ability to specify the layout for the parent split container:

 for_window [class="XTerm"] layout tabbed

When I start i3 both Firefox and Thunderbird start on Window 2. Up until now it was not possible (or easy) to make them automatically open in a tabbed mode. This ensures that Window 2 (and only 2) starts in a tabbed mode.

assign [class="Firefox"] 2
assign [class="Thunderbird"] 2
for_window [class="Firefox"] layout tabbed
exec firefox
exec thunderbird

Layout toggle

In 4.3 you can still use the old “split h” and “split v” commands. On top of that, the old “layout default” command has been replaced with “layout toggle split”, which changes the orientation (horizontal/vertical) of windows. If you have an old config file, find “layout default” and change it to “layout toggle split”. On my system it’s bound to “Mod1+e”. Open a few terminal windows and play with this command changing the focused window from time to time.

Thunar doesn’t automount usb drives in i3 (Slackware-current)

Monitoring Slackware’s irc channel has always been a pleasurable experience. Most of the time it is also extremely informative. Yesterday on #slackware someone reported that Thunar doesn’t automount usb drives under i3 any longer. It also applies to some other window managers. The solution involves adding dbus-launch –exit-with-session to your .xinitrc:

# Start the window manager:
if [ -z "$DESKTOP_SESSION" -a -x /usr/bin/ck-launch-session ]; then
  exec ck-launch-session dbus-launch --exit-with-session /usr/bin/i3
  exec /usr/bin/i3