Moving to a tiling window manager

Over two blog posts, I have described my journey towards minimalism – from Windows to Ubuntu at the beginning of the decade, then to Xubuntu over two years back, and onward to Arch Linux a year ago. While moving to Arch Linux, I abandoned desktop environments in favour of a relatively minimalist window manager (Openbox). I chose Openbox because I wanted something minimalist, but was not ready for a tiling window manager.

A couple of months back, I decided to explore tiling window managers which give much greater control over the placement of windows and are also more keyboard friendly. Many years ago, when I was dissatisfied with how often stacking window managers place new windows at arbitrary locations and size them inappropriately, I had discovered wmctrl which is a command line tool to activate, close, move, resize, maximize and minimize windows. By assigning hotkeys to suitable wmctrl commands, I could very quickly move windows to desired locations and sizes (for example, full height, flush left and filling two-thirds of the screen). Most often, I operated with a couple of windows that fully covered the screen. Slowly, I realized that I was using wmctrl to turn a stacking window manager into a tiling manager, and so it might make more sense to use a tiling manager.

I began my exploration of tiling window managers with awesome, but its out-of-the-box behaviour did not suit me at all, and so I decided to try i3. Trying these two in quick succession turned out to be a good idea because awesome and i3 have very different philosophies and default behaviours. By experiencing both of them, I could get a good sense of how to configure a tiling window manager to suit my needs. The decision to go back to awesome was driven by the perception that it could be customized more thoroughly by writing appropriate lua code.

My customization of awesome included the following:
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