Compositing Window Managers

13 Best Free and Open Source Tiling Wayland Compositors

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.

Our recommendations are captured in this ratings chart. All of the software is free and open source goodness.

Ratings chart for the best free and open source tiling Wayland compositors

Click the links in the table below to learn more about each compositor.

Tiling Wayland Compositors
Swayi3-compatible tiling Wayland compositor and a replacement for i3
HyprlandDynamic tiling Wayland compositor based on wlroots
QtileFull-featured, hackable tiling window manager
SwayfxSway with eye candy
dwldwm for Wayland
riverCompositor with flexible runtime configuration.
poloniumTiling window manager for KWin
newm-athaWayland compositor written with laptops and touchpads in mind
japokwmwlroots and dwl based tiling wayland compositor
CagebreakSeeks inspiration from Ratpoison
newmWritten with laptops and touchpads in mind
VivariumDynamic tiling Wayland compositor using wlroots
veloxSimple window manager based on swc

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