Setting Up XFCE with i3

Until recently, I didn’t know that one you could integrate i3wm with XFCE so nicely. Given that I never felt comfortable using i3wm without the benefits of a DE (in this case, XFCE), I always found myself coming back to XFCE and then feeling inefficient with it since I didn’t like how much one has to use the mouse just to configure two windows side by side. On top of this, screen state becomes precious when you’re using a laptop. However, just the other day I read that one could use XFCE with i3wm which ends up bridging the benefits of using a DE and a tiling window manager, at least for me. In the light of this, I decided to set up XFCE with i3wm. This is how I did it:

  1. I started with a new installation of XFCE Manjaro. However, this process is distro independent and it should work with any distro with XFCE as a DE. So, the first step is to have XFCE installed.
  2. Now you must install i3. On an Arch-based distro, type the following in the terminal: sudo pacman -Sy i3-wm. Alternatively, you can use your distro’s software center to install it.
  3. Deactivate xfwm and xfdesktop in Settings -> Session and Startup -> Session and set their Restart Style to Never. Save the session after you’re finished.
  4. Now activate i3wm by hitting Add in Settings -> Session and Startup -> Application Autostart. Make sure you add i3 in the Command field. You can enter whatever you want in the Name and Description fields.
  5. In Settings -> Keyboard -> Application Shortcuts, remove all the default keyboard shortcuts by shift-selecting them and then clicking Remove.
  6. Run mkdir ~/.i3 && cp /etc/i3/config ~/.i3/config in the terminal to create both the i3 directory and its configuration file in your home directory. Now, you can edit config at ~/.i3/config to your liking. For more information about all the details, visit
  7. Given that you disabled xfdesktop you won’t be able to set wallpapers using XFCE, so you must install a package called Nitrogen using your distro’s software center or run sudo pacman -Sy nitrogen if you’re using an Arch-based distro.
  8. The XFCE panel should work as usual. However, the Workspace Switcher plugin doesn’t seem to reflect i3’s workspace number sometimes. For this reason, in the plugin’s properties, I enabled Show miniature view so I can see miniatures of the open windows in a particular workspace instead of the workspace number.

This is how my setup ended up looking:

This post was originally posted on Saturday 10 February 2018.

Posted: May 26, 2018.
Tags: xfce, i3