Hidden Wonders


Tiling Window Managers Don't Make Sense


Tiling window managers are window managers that automatically tile windows. Opening one window will take up the full screen, then a second window will take up half the screen and resize the first window to half the screen, and so on. Many automatically tile in a Fibonacci sequence pattern, while other tiling window managers leave this customization up to the user.

Tiling window managers are a cool, they are fun to look at, they are good for people making screenshots to post on Reddit, but they are not good for actually being productive for the vast majority of people. This is because of two reasons:

  1. You generally don’t want to tile your windows.
  2. You can obtain much of the functionality of tiling window managers by using a regular floating window manager.

My primary rebuttal of tiling window managers comes from a simple fact: there is often no benefit to tiling windows in the first place. Say you’re writing code, or an essay, or browsing the Internet. In all of these situations, you’d generally want the task you’re focusing on to take up the entire screen.

At the most, you’d want to display some supplemental information on a half or a fourth of the screen——like a documentation page while writing some code. However, all traditional floating window managers worth using contain basic tiling features that cover this use case very well——this includes Openbox, Kwin, and even Windows!

Additionally, when I personally want to display that extra information, I just put it on my secondary monitor. A second or third monitor is generally superior to using a tiling window manager when it comes to multitasking.

Many advocates of tiling window managers claim that the primary benefit of using one is that everything can be controlled with the keyboard, and it’s true. Controlling a computer with a keyboard as much as possible is far superior to using a mouse. However, what many people fail to realize is that pretty much all window managers provide configurable keybinding to easily tile windows——in the few use cases that makes sense, of course.

On KDE using Kwin, I have easy-to-use (vim-inspired) keybindings for tiling to the top, bottom, left, right, or corners of the screen. The control of my windows is entirely done using the keyboard, and without a tiling window manager. The big thing I’m missing present on most tiling WMs is a keybind to move focus of windows directionally, but I just use alt+tab and call it a day.

For those using a tiling window manager for the minimalism/low resource footprint, there are plenty of other options like Openbox that give you a traditional window manager experience without the bloat of a full DE. Openbox also provides easy configuration files for customizing whatever you want to change about the window manager.

The only point I’d give where it might make sense to use a tiling window manager is if you have a single, massive, very-high resolution monitor. In this case, the display is large enough that even small windows are large enough to work in without the screen starting to feel confining. However, I would always just prefer a second or third monitor to some TV-like mega monitor.

With all Linux users I’ve met, I’ve spoken to them about this matter, and they’ve all had the same opinion as me. It’s awesome that tiling window managers exist, but there are a lot of people using them that could have been equally served by the window manager they used before they switched. Master the features of your current tool before throwing it away for a new one.

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