It turns out that Manjaro’s awesome edition is awesome. How have I missed it for so long?
Manjaro’s community edition featuring the awesome window manager checks many boxes that are absolutely necessary for me:
– Native titlebars
– Taskbar with open windows information
All these are present in i3wm too (and not in Bspwm that I reviewed before), but they are more recognisable in awesome when coming from a stacking window manager. A particularly nifty feature in awesome window manager (henceforth: awm) is that right-click on the taskbar results in a list of all open windows, so you do not need Rofi for this the way you need it in i3wm. (It is worth noting that some of the features of awm mentioned here may be specific to Manjaro’s edition.)
Tags versus workspaces
There are no dynamic workspaces (added and destroyed on the fly) in awm, but it turns out that workspaces in awm are called “tags” for a good reason, as they operate differently from workspaces. In i3wm terminology and plan, windows are placed on workspaces, but in awm (and suckless dwm), tags are attributed to windows. Multiple tags can be attributed to a window, so when the user switches between different tags, the same window can appear in several window groups in several layouts.
In a multihead (multiple monitors) setup, suckless dwm has some bug that causes different monitors to be a single virtual desktop/workspace, so your tiled windows appear over screen edges. Or maybe this is a designed feature in dwm, just like it is in stacking window managers. Luckily this does not affect awm, which works as i3wm: Virtual desktop per monitor by default.
Now about some annoyances in (Manjaro’s edition of) awm.
In my opinion, window layers belong strictly to stackers and must be avoided in tilers. In tilers, window layers simply mess up expectations, e.g. in maximised layout you suddenly cannot switch to the next window, because the focused window is assigned to be on top. This can be called the maximised quirk.
Unfortunately, awm makes use of layers. This results in quirks like the maximised quirk and also the floating window vanishing below the tiled windows when switching focus, i.e. the floating quirk. Also, in awm you can end up with a smaller tiled window on top of a maximised window, because you can maximise discrete windows separately from the workspace layout, which can be tiled in various ways, including maximise-all. (Bspwm also uses layers, but there they are luckily easy to not make use of, at least in the Arcolinux edition.)
For me, the only layers a tiler should have are:
– floating window (and dialogues and such) always on top
– tiled windows always on their own equal layer
Bspwm and i3wm follow this expectation perfectly, but awm does not. However, awm minimises and restores windows very well, following the expectations of both those users who come from stackers (minimising to the taskbar and restoring from there) and of those who are used to i3wm’s scratchpad.
Overall, the first impressions with awm give some hope, particularly the mouse-friendly dragging of a window from one monitor to another, snappy resizing with mouse and swapping windows in the confines of a workspace/display. There are still things I need to figure out, like switching from horizontal to vertical tiles, ability to subdivide maximised windows, etc. which may become a follow-up post.