Monday, March 31, 2014

Getting started with Herbstluftwm

It's no secret that I am a fan of tiling window managers. When my workflow consists of having 5+ Windows open in one workpspace, tiling is the easiest and most logical way to do it. So, what distinguishes herbstluftwm from other Window Managers, and how does one get started with it?

What Herbstluftwm does
Herbstluftwm is a manual tiling window manager. Which means, by default it ships with one pane where windows will be placed.
When you open windows in the workspace, they will maximize the space in this master pane. How they do so depends on what kind of layout you choose.                     

However, this is not the way that herbstluftwm is meant to be used. Manual tiling is about splitting your windows into sub-panes, like a binary tree.
Each pane essentially becomes a new herbstluftwm ready to hold windows or be split down even further.

You're probably saying to yourself "Well, that sounds top! How can I get started?"

The answer is a bit more complex than I would like to admit.

Setting up Herbstluftwm
Herbstluftwm works in a peculiar way, but a way that I personally find to be one of the best design patterns on Unix. Herbstluftwm is configured completely by a client, called herbstclient, that can be called from the command line. To facilitate consistency across sessions,  herbstluftwm allows a regular BASH script to be written to bind keys, run autostart programs, etc. This is usually placed in ~/.config/herbstluftwm/autostart. To launch herbstluftwm, just make sure that your ~/.xinitrc contains "herbstluftwm -c ~/.config/herbstluftwm".-c is the flag to set the configuration file.

My autostart script looks like this:

Now, barring the wallpaper I use, and a couple of programs that are not installed on many systems by default, it works very well. Windows+v for a horizontal split, Windows+h for a vertical one, etc. Whether or not you can even use this exact configuration, it's a good launching point for your very own herbstluftwm experience.

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