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Tutorials/Using Other Window Managers with Plasma

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KWin is the default window manager (WM) in Plasma and has lot of features, but it only supports floating windows. Plasma lets you use another window manager, such as i3, bspwm or any other tilling window manager.

Plasma using i3 as window manager
Other window managers are only available when using These changes cannot be made for Wayland sessions yet. With Wayland maturing and Wayland extensions being standardized, this feature could be implemented in Wayland[1]

Most window managers require few, if any, changes to their configuration files.

Some considerations to be aware of when using another window manager:

  • Tiling window managers may have problems with components like panels. For some configurations, certain options will help alleviate issues
  • Most window managers do not have their own compositors, and therefore lack features like animations and transparency. If such effects are desired, a compositor such as compton is required

Using Another Window Manager with Plasma

Single User: Using System Settings

This is the simplest method, but only affects the user for which it is added.


  • Create a shell script ( as an example), containing the following
    export KDEWM=/usr/bin/i3

Replace /usr/bin/i3 with the path to the window manager desired.

  • Start System Settings
  • Select Startup and Shutdown
  • Select Autostart
  • Click the Add script button below the list
  • Enter the location of the script created earlier, or use the folder icon to use a dialog to find it. Click OK, the script will be added to the list
  • In the Run On column, select Before Session Startup from the drop down list
  • The chosen window manager will be used the next time you log in

System Wide: Adding an XSession

If superuser (root) access is available, a new session file for can be created.

This has several advantages: the alternate session is available to all users of the system, and changing back to KWin is as simple as logging out and back in.

The XSession file location varies between distributions, but is most of the time found in /usr/share/xsessions.

To add a session for an alternate window manager as superuser:

  • Copy the existing Plasma session file
    cp plasma.desktop plasma-i3.desktop
  • Using a text editor, open the file and change the Exec line, and optionally the Description
    [Desktop Entry]
    Exec=env KDEWM=/usr/bin/i3 /usr/bin/startplasma-x11
    Name=Plasma (i3)
    Comment=Plasma by KDE w/i3
In versions prior to Plasma 5.17, use startkde in place of startplasma-x11 in the Exec directive above.

  • The display manager must be restarted, most easily by rebooting
Ensure the correct path and name of the window manager application are used when modifying the Exec directive. If KDE is unable to start the window manager, the session will fail and the user will be returned to the login screen.

I3 configuration


Before starting the configuration, you should make sure i3 or i3-gaps are installed on your system. If they are not, use your package manager or Discover to install one of these two packages. You should also install a compositor such as "compton", since unlike KWin, i3 doesn't ship with an integrated compositor.

Create a default i3 configuration

If you already have an i3 configuration file (usually at .i3/config or .config/i3/config), you can skip this step.

Open a console and type i3-config-wizard. This command opens a small window that will help you create a configuration file.


Some i3 window rules help you to have notifications and some other plasma windows as floating windows:

for_window [title="Desktop — Plasma"] kill; floating enable; border none
for_window [class="plasmashell"] floating enable;
for_window [class="Plasma"] floating enable; border none
for_window [title="plasma-desktop"] floating enable; border none
for_window [title="win7"] floating enable; border none
for_window [class="krunner"] floating enable; border none
for_window [class="Kmix"] floating enable; border none
for_window [class="Klipper"] floating enable; border none
for_window [class="Plasmoidviewer"] floating enable; border none
for_window [class="(?i)*nextcloud*"] floating disable
for_window [class="plasmashell" window_type="notification"] floating enable, border none, move right 700px, move down 450px, no_focus 

Bspwm configuration

For the most part, bspwm requires little additional configuration.

  • A single Plasma panel, in most cases, is detected properly and bspwm will not place windows in its space. If the panel ends up presenting a problem, or when using multiple panels, the following may be added to .bspwmrc
    bspc config top_padding size
    where size is the size of the panel in pixels. Also valid are bottom_padding, left_padding, and right_padding. As many of these directives may be used as necessary for multiple panels.

Hints and Tips


You can open some Plasma components with DBus commands. So you can map keybinding to these DBus commands. To find a specific DBus command, you can look at QDbusViewer.

Some examples:

  • Open Krunner
    qdbus org.kde.kglobalaccel /component/krunner org.kde.kglobalaccel.Component.invokeShortcut 'run command'
  • Open logout confirmation screen
    qdbus org.kde.ksmserver /KSMServer org.kde.KSMServerInterface.logout -1 -1 -1

For i3, you can map a keybinding with the bindsym command. Example:

bindsym $mod+Shift+e exec <command>

For Bspwn, you need to use the bspc program. See Arch Linux wiki for more information.

More Information


This page was last edited on 18 January 2021, at 08:14. Content is available under Creative Commons License SA 4.0 unless otherwise noted.