i3 man page

i3 — an improved dynamic, tiling window manager


i3 [-a] [-c configfile] [-C] [-d all] [-v] [-V]


Disables autostart.
Specifies an alternate configuration file path.
Check the configuration file for validity and exit.
-d all
Enables debug logging. The all parameter is present for historical reasons.
Display version number (and date of the last commit).
Be verbose.
Use Xinerama instead of RandR. This option should only be used if you are stuck with the old nVidia closed source driver (older than 302.17) which does not support RandR.
Retrieve the i3 IPC socket path from X11, print it, then exit.
--shmlog-size <limit>
Limits the size of the i3 SHM log to <limit> bytes. Setting this to 0 disables SHM logging entirely. The default is 0 bytes.



i3 was created because wmii, our favorite window manager at the time, didn’t provide some features we wanted (multi-monitor done right, for example), had some bugs, didn’t progress since quite some time and wasn’t easy to hack at all (source code comments/documentation completely lacking). Still, we think the wmii developers and contributors did a great job. Thank you for inspiring us to create i3.

Please be aware that i3 is primarily targeted at advanced users and developers.


If you are using the nVidia binary graphics driver (also known as blob) before version 302.17, you need to use the --force-xinerama flag (in your ~/.xsession) when starting i3, like so:

exec i3 --force-xinerama -V >>~/.i3/i3log 2>&1

See also docs/multi-monitor for the full explanation.



i3 keeps your layout in a tree data structure.


An X11 window, like the Firefox browser window or a terminal emulator.

Floating Window

A window which "floats" on top of other windows. This style is used by i3 to display X11 windows with type "dialog", such as the "Print" or "Open File" dialog boxes in many GUI applications. Use of floating windows can be fine-tuned with the for_window command (see HTML userguide).

Split container

A split container contains multiple other split containers or windows.

Containers can be used in various layouts. The default mode is called "default" and just resizes each client equally so that it fits.


A workspace is a set of containers. Other window managers call this "Virtual Desktops".

In i3, each workspace is assigned to a specific virtual screen. By default, screen 1 has workspace 1, screen 2 has workspace 2 and so on... However, when you create a new workspace (by simply switching to it), it’ll be assigned the screen you are currently on.


Using XRandR, you can have an X11 screen spanning multiple real monitors. Furthermore, you can set them up in cloning mode or with positions (monitor 1 is left of monitor 2).

i3 uses the RandR API to query which outputs are available and which screens are connected to these outputs.


Here is a short overview of the default keybindings:


Open a new terminal emulator window.


Open dmenu for starting any application by typing (part of) its name.


Direction keys (left, down, up, right). They are on your homerow (see the mark on your "j" key). Alternatively, you can use the cursor keys.


Focus window in <direction>.


Move window to <direction>.


Switch to workspace <number>.


Move window to workspace <number>.


Toggle fullscreen mode.


Enable stacking layout for the current container.


Enable default layout for the current container.


Enable tabbed layout for the current container.


Toggle tiling/floating for the current container.


Select the first tiling container if the current container is floating and vice-versa.


Kills the current window. This is equivalent to "clicking on the close button", meaning a polite request to the application to close this window. For example, Firefox will save its session upon such a request. If the application does not support that, the window will be killed and it depends on the application what happens.


Restarts i3 in place. Your layout will be preserved.


Exits i3.


~/.i3/config (or ~/.config/i3/config)

When starting, i3 looks for configuration files in the following order:

1. ~/.config/i3/config (or $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/i3/config if set)

2. /etc/xdg/i3/config (or $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS/i3/config if set)

3. ~/.i3/config

4. /etc/i3/config

You can specify a custom path using the -c option.

Sample configuration.

# i3 config file (v4)

# Font for window titles. Will also be used by the bar unless a different font
# is used in the bar {} block below.
# This font is widely installed, provides lots of unicode glyphs, right-to-left
# text rendering and scalability on retina/hidpi displays (thanks to pango).
font pango:DejaVu Sans Mono 8
# Before i3 v4.8, we used to recommend this one as the default:
# font -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--13-120-75-75-C-70-iso10646-1
# The font above is very space-efficient, that is, it looks good, sharp and
# clear in small sizes. However, its unicode glyph coverage is limited, the old
# X core fonts rendering does not support right-to-left and this being a bitmap
# font, it doesn’t scale on retina/hidpi displays.

# use Mouse+Mod1 to drag floating windows to their wanted position
floating_modifier Mod1

# start a terminal
bindsym Mod1+Return exec /usr/bin/urxvt

# kill focused window
bindsym Mod1+Shift+q kill

# start dmenu (a program launcher)
bindsym Mod1+d exec /usr/bin/dmenu_run

# change focus
bindsym Mod1+j focus left
bindsym Mod1+k focus down
bindsym Mod1+l focus up
bindsym Mod1+semicolon focus right

# alternatively, you can use the cursor keys:
bindsym Mod1+Left focus left
bindsym Mod1+Down focus down
bindsym Mod1+Up focus up
bindsym Mod1+Right focus right

# move focused window
bindsym Mod1+Shift+j move left
bindsym Mod1+Shift+k move down
bindsym Mod1+Shift+l move up
bindsym Mod1+Shift+semicolon move right

# alternatively, you can use the cursor keys:
bindsym Mod1+Shift+Left move left
bindsym Mod1+Shift+Down move down
bindsym Mod1+Shift+Up move up
bindsym Mod1+Shift+Right move right

# split in horizontal orientation
bindsym Mod1+h split h

# split in vertical orientation
bindsym Mod1+v split v

# enter fullscreen mode for the focused container
bindsym Mod1+f fullscreen toggle

# change container layout (stacked, tabbed, default)
bindsym Mod1+s layout stacking
bindsym Mod1+w layout tabbed
bindsym Mod1+e layout default

# toggle tiling / floating
bindsym Mod1+Shift+space floating toggle

# change focus between tiling / floating windows
bindsym Mod1+space focus mode_toggle

# focus the parent container
bindsym Mod1+a focus parent

# focus the child container
#bindsym Mod1+d focus child

# switch to workspace
bindsym Mod1+1 workspace 1
bindsym Mod1+2 workspace 2
# ..

# move focused container to workspace
bindsym Mod1+Shift+1 move workspace 1
bindsym Mod1+Shift+2 move workspace 2
# ...

# reload the configuration file
bindsym Mod1+Shift+c reload
# restart i3 inplace (preserves your layout/session, can be used to upgrade i3)
bindsym Mod1+Shift+r restart
# exit i3 (logs you out of your X session)
bindsym Mod1+Shift+e exit

# display workspace buttons plus a statusline generated by i3status
bar {
    status_command i3status


This file is where you should configure your locales and start i3. It is run by your login manager (xdm, slim, gdm, ...) as soon as you login.

Sample xsession.

# Disable DPMS turning off the screen
xset -dpms
xset s off

# Disable bell
xset -b

# Enable zapping (C-A-<Bksp> kills X)
setxkbmap -option terminate:ctrl_alt_bksp

# Enforce correct locales from the beginning:
# LC_ALL is unset since it overwrites everything
# LANG=de_DE.UTF-8 is used, except for:
# LC_MESSAGES=C never translates program output
# LC_TIME=en_DK leads to yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm date/time output
unset LC_ALL
export LANG=de_DE.UTF-8
export LC_TIME=en_DK.UTF-8

# Use XToolkit in java applications
export AWT_TOOLKIT=XToolkit

# Set background color
xsetroot -solid "#333333"

# Enable core dumps in case something goes wrong
ulimit -c unlimited

# Start i3 and log to ~/.i3/logfile
echo "Starting at $(date)" >> ~/.i3/logfile
exec /usr/bin/i3 -V -d all >> ~/.i3/logfile



This variable overwrites the IPC socket path (placed in /tmp/i3-%u.XXXXXX/ipc-socket.%p by default, where %u is replaced with your UNIX username, %p is replaced with i3’s PID and XXXXXX is a string of random characters from the portable filename character set (see mkdtemp(3))). The IPC socket is used by external programs like i3-msg(1) or i3bar(1).


There is still lot of work to do. Please check our bugtracker for up-to-date information about tasks which are still not finished.

See Also

You should have a copy of the userguide (featuring nice screenshots/graphics which is why this is not integrated into this manpage), the debugging guide, and the "how to hack" guide. If you are building from source, run: make -C docs

You can also access these documents online at http://i3wm.org/

i3-input(1), i3-msg(1), i3bar(1), i3-nagbar(1), i3-config-wizard(1), i3-migrate-config-to-v4(1)


Michael Stapelberg and contributors

Referenced By

i3-config-wizard(1), i3-dump-log(1), i3-input(1), i3-ipc(1), i3-migrate-config-to-v4(1), i3-msg(1), i3-nagbar(1), i3-sensible-editor(1), i3-sensible-pager(1), i3-sensible-terminal(1), sway(1).

Explore man page connections for i3(1).

i3 4.12 03/06/2016