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Linux 101: What’s a tiling window manager?

If you’re looking to up your productivity and efficiency on the Linux desktop, Jack Wallen thinks you might benefit from a tiling window manager. Learn what these types of desktops can do for you.

Image: Jack Wallen

If you’re new to Linux, you’ve probably never heard of a tiling window manager. If you’re new to Linux, and you mistakenly try out a tiling window manager, you’re in for a surprise. Tiling window managers have been around for a while and for the uninitiated they can be a real challenge. 

The idea behind the tiling window manager is to efficiently and automatically organize your desktop for you. Most tiling window managers do this quite well—you open one app and it places it, automatically maximized, on your screen. Open another app and it splits the screen with the first app. Continue opening apps and you’ll find each app continues to split. 

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By handling app windows this way, tiling window managers always make the most out of your screen real estate. Most tiling window managers make it so you can navigate around open windows by way of the keyboard, which helps even more to up your efficiency. You can even drag windows to resize them, so one can use more screen than the other. What you cannot do, however, is free resize a window. 

There are some tiling window managers (such as the one you can enable on Pop!_OS) that allow you to select certain windows as exceptions to float in the screen. To be honest, getting used to a tiling window manager is a challenge. 

You’ve been accustomed to dragging and resizing windows at will for years, and to have your desktop decide and dictate that action for you can be a bit jarring at first. However, once you acclimate yourself to the tiling window manager, you’ll find them incredibly efficient and productive. 

If you’d like to try a tiling window manager out, look at Pop!_OS, i3, bspwm, herbstluftwm, awesome and Ratpoison.

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