A window manager is software that manages the windows that applications bring up. For example, when you start an application, there will be a window manager running in the background, responsible for the placement and appearance of windows.
It is important not to confuse a window manager with a desktop environment. A desktop environment typically consists of icons, windows, toolbars, folders, wallpapers, and desktop widgets. They provide a collection of libraries and applications made to operate cohesively together. A desktop environment contains its own window manager.
There are a few different types of window managers. This article focuses on tiling Wayland compositors.
A compositing window manager, or compositor, is a window manager that provides applications with a separate and independent buffer for each window. The window manager then processes and combines, or composites, output from these separate buffers onto a common desktop. It also controls how they display and interact with each other, and with the rest of the desktop environment.
Compositing window managers may perform additional processing on buffered windows, applying 2D and 3D animated effects such as transparency, fading, scaling, duplicating, bending and contorting, shuffling, and redirecting applications. The addition of a virtual third dimension allows for features such as realistic shadows beneath windows, the appearance of distance and depth, live thumbnail versions of windows, and complex animations.
Here’s our recommendations. All of the software is free and open source goodness.
Let’s explore the tiling Wayland compositors in detail. For each application we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, screenshots, together with links to relevant resources.
|Tiling Wayland Compositors|
|Sway||i3-compatible tiling Wayland compositor and a replacement for i3|
|Qtile||Full-featured, hackable tiling window manager|
|Hyprland||Dynamic tiling Wayland compositor based on wlroots|
|dwl||dwm for Wayland|
|river||Compositor with flexible runtime configuration.|
|newm||Written with laptops and touchpads in mind|
|Vivarium||Dynamic tiling Wayland compositor using wlroots|
|velox||Simple window manager based on swc|
|japokwm||wlroots and dwl based tiling wayland compositor|
|Cagebreak||Seeks inspiration from Ratpoison|
|Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation covers all categories of software.
The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk.
There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.