Qtile versus i3wm: Still looking for the perfect desktop

Qtile is not too easy out of the box. Here are just some notes of things I need but I could not see in it or could not figure out (in the space of one hour that I had time for for Qtile), based on comparison with i3wm.

By now, I am fairly settled on i3wm. There are only very few annoyances, which are more like nice-haves that I guess I can live without. But mostly, i3wm is full of nice-haves that are there.

Dynamic workspaces

In i3wm, workspaces are created and deleted on the fly. A tiling window manager needs plenty of workspaces. Opening five or more apps gets it definitely overcrowded regardless of the size of the monitor, so some windows have to be moved to another workspace. In i3wm, moving creates the workspace and there are no empty background workspaces, i.e. emptying a background workspace deletes the workspace, just like closing a browser tab means the tab is no longer there. This is the way I like it. It keeps things tidy.

Also, with a multiple monitor setup, i3wm creates a workspace per monitor (and you can naturally multiply workspaces per monitor in the course of workflow). This is also rather neat. I have not tried a multiple monitor setup with Qtile yet, but the previous point (creation or deletion of workspaces on the fly) does not seem to be there in Qtile.

Out of the box, Qtile has a bunch of predefined workspaces. They are assigned to convenient keyboard letters a, s, d, f, u, i, o, p, but most of them are empty background workspaces. This is not dynamic. I’m interested in knowing if dynamic workspaces is replicable in Qtile.

Window titlebars

Window titlebars are good information. In i3wm maximised mode (“tabbed mode” according to i3wm nomenclature), all open windows have a common titlebar, giving an instant (i.e. always visible, no click or keypress needed) overview of how many windows are open on the visible workspace.

Qtile displays the window titlebar information in its default statusbar/taskbar, but this only for the focused window. If the focused window is maximised, other windows on the same workspace are invisible. It would be nice to know if there are more titlebar information options in Qtile, specifically in terms of instant visibility, without clicks or keypresses.

Floating window in a tiling wm

In Qtile with the default setup, it’s possible to mod+grab a tile (with the mouse) to make it into a floating window. This action seems to keep the size of the tile – if it was maximised, it would spill over the screen edge. In i3wm, making a tile float reasonably resizes and centres it. I prefer the i3wm way.

Floating windows in tiling window managers are always on top of other windows. To as-if background/minimise a floating window, i3wm has the so-called scratchpad, which basically hides the given window. Is there a scratchpad in Qtile? I did not find it.

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