Linux Flavor of the Month – Manjaro – I3WM -Review

Manjaro Linux’s tagline is “Enjoy the Simpliciy”. If you’ve ever taken Arch Linux (the distro Manjaro is based on) for a spin you will probably wonder… “How the hell can anything based on Arch be easy?” Even as a seasoned IT Pro and Developer, Arch tested my patience on my first install. This is the main reason I’ve always kind of shied away from Manjaro, as I’ve grown quite accustom to Debian and Debian based distros. Like any good Tinkerer though, I eventually wanted to try a new window manager, and had a peticular interest in trying a Tiling Window Manager. I settled on taking I3WM for a spin.

I first tried I3WM in Ubuntu, while I thought the idea of a “window snapping on steroids” was pretty cool. There were some pretty basic pieces of the puzzle missing (such as sound controls not working without additional setup/ more packages being installed.) Therefore, I wanted to give the Tiling window manager another go, this time with a distro that supported the tiling window manager out of the box. Enter Manjaro. With a ton of community supported versions, Manjaro seemed on the surface to be Arch, without a mountain of setup. I downloaded, installed, and immediately felt the difference.

Manjaro I3WM
Manjaro I3WM

Clearly, the creators of Manjaro I3WM gave a nice amount of effort to make this a much sexier version of I3WM (As I’ve toyed around with different versions of Manjaro, I’ve noticed a very good job being done with design.) Sound works out of the box, and I3’s info bar (dock) has been reworked to not only be prettier,  but to also display more useful information. Many useful command line and GUI pakages are installed; ranger (file manager), yaourt, pacman (package managers), and htop (system monitor) are amongst the MVPs. The makers of this version of Manjaro had an eye for UI/UX, as there is even a quick tip section on the desktop to get you started with I3WM.

As good as this version of Linux looks, it runs just as fast. Using less than 235MB of memory on a liveCD boot, you will be damned pleased with performance on most any machine.

There really are not many drawbacks to most versions of Manjaro from what I can see. It’s sleek, sexy, and fast. However, while I love I3WM, it is certainly not for people who don’t like learning curves. It took me a while to understand how to properly snap windows the way I wanted, and to understand some other caveats of using such a unique window manager. However, with that learning curve comes great reward.  After some fiddling and reading, My tiles pretty much auto populate with programs that I have set to run at start, and my workflow has never been faster.

While I think most people with the patience to learn Manjaro I3WM will love it, it takes a certain desire to appreciate the system. If you want something really simple, go for another version of Manjaro, if you want something super powerful and simple by comparison, Give Manjaro I3WM a whirl. As a developer, I’d give it an 88/100.

Some I3WM must-have documentation:

Quick Reference –

User Guide –

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11 thoughts on “Linux Flavor of the Month – Manjaro – I3WM -Review

  1. I am currently running i3 on 2 different laptops. On my older D620, I am running Manjaro i3 and have not had any real problems. 1st update needed keyrings for Arch and then Manjaro ran to enable me to update my system. My second laptop is an Asus 2in1 (laptop that flips all the way around and can be used as a tablet. I have this laptop dual booted with Windows (needed for work or would not have it) and Manjaro XFCE which I have set to use i3 as the WM. Works great and gives me some great features that XFCE has. I have also tried PACBANG (openbox distro similar to ARCHBANG but with different dev), ARCHBANG, ANTERGOS, and ARCHITECT linux (these last 2 give you more of a vanilla ARCH install without the time required to do an actual ARCH install). I prefer ARCH based os and keep coming back to MANJARO, great work by the dev and the community as well without the attitude you see on some ARCH message boards (IE…RTFM).

    1. Great info, good to see other people having success with Manjaro. I’m curious about XFCE with i3 as a replacement window manager; I may have to give it a try. 3 months later and i3 Manjaro has pretty taken over all of my desktop and laptop machines. I really like the quickness of using the keyboard, and the monitor independent workspaces is a huge advantage for me.

  2. looking to try out i3 and have been on the search for a “good” distro as i felt Ubuntu(which i first saw it being used on) would be rather heavy and wanted something even more lightweight so i can get as speed as possible.

    1. I Think you’ll be happy with this distro, if you prefer something with ubuntu based (without the bloat) You could also try WattOS. Let me know how it goes for you!

  3. Having played around with various tiling managers recently (Awesome, xMonad, and i3), and really enjoying them overall, I fully agree with a review I read over the holidays (apologies, forget where) where the reviewer mentions that (something like): “Manjaro i3wm will spoil you and make it difficult, if not nigh on impossible, to contemplate anything else; it has all of the benefits of a tiling wm, with none of the headaches.”

    I’m digging it… running alongside ElementaryOs Loki for when I want some easy eye-candy.

    1. I agree, for a traditional Keyboard and Mouse PC, I think this is the best OS/WM available, period. Now, to figure out which Desktop Environment to pair it with on my 2-in-1 Dell 7378 Laptop. I’ll probably go with Gnome, but I quite like the recent iterations of KDE too, though I’m not sure how usable that will be in tablet mode.

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