Linux is my primary and only OS right now, I'm using Linux Mint 18 MATE. I've never used a window manager like i3, but the screen real estate and mouse-free functionality that they offer is making me want to use one for coding.

My question is - how does a window manager fit in with the greater every-day use of my computer? Could installing it break my system? Will it toy around and change some files "irreversibly" (i.e. it'll be difficult to get my original setup prior to installing the window manager, without restoring a backup)? Is it as easy as a regular program to uninstall (i.e. sudo apt-get purge <window manager name>)? Can I just switch to it when coding and switch back to the original MATE desktop when I'm not?


Bearing in mind that I have never used Linux-Mint:

You should be able to install i3 alongside MATE (i.e. no need to uninstall MATE). When you turn on your computer are you presented with a login screen or a terminal? If the former, you have some form of Display Manager (such as lightdm). There should be a drop down menu somewhere that says MATE. If i3 is installed on your system, then you could select that to log into an i3 session instead.

I use Arch and I had cinnamon at first. I wanted to try something lighter so I switched to OpenBox, followed by i3 (decided tiling was better). I used tiling exclusively for 8 months so I trimmed back everything else. I also ditched lightdm in favour for the .Xinit option.

It shouldn't break your system as it uses separate configuration files ~/.config/i3/config (on my system). You might find that a couple of windows behave unexpectedly at first - I found that Opera would open fullscreen in openbox after an i3 session as that was the last state it used in i3.

  • Understood, thanks. Yes, I think it's lightdm that's used on Login. Nov 9 '16 at 17:45
  • Ok - well if you have a drop down box where you can see cinnamon in your display manager you should be good to go and install i3. I think it loads a tutorial/config utility the first time that it is run. I would also strongly recommend the archlinux wiki article on i3 as it contains a lot of useful information regarding configuration and capabilities etc. Nov 9 '16 at 23:45

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