How to switch from XFCE to i3?


I installed the official Manjaro XFCE edition some weeks ago and want to switch to i3 now.

Side track (explaining why not doing a fresh install): I succesfully installed the community edition Manjaro i3 on another laptop (that had Ubuntu) a couple hours ago but for whatever reason I cannot boot from the same installation USB on this machine. Maybe the installation USB is somehow single-use (?? :D), i.e. it is modified during the install so that I cannot use it for multiple subsequent installs, or maybe the media is only bootable if Manjaro is not already installed, or maybe I just don’t know how to boot. I moved the USB to the top of the boot list and made sure secure boot was off. Anyway, I figured it may be easier to just switch the windowing system of my existing Manjaro installation rather than making sense of what’s wrong with the fresh install USB that I just used.

Question (TL;DR: i3 doesn’t start): I installed i3-wm with pamac which got i3 for me (version 4.20.1). As instructed in Arch Wiki, I tried running i3 with xinit, by issuing command xinit i3, to which the log was “Only console users are allowed to run the X server”. Then I googled to instead modify the .xinitrc file (that I had not ever opened before, i.e. it was presumably in the shape that it comes in the official Manjaro XFCE edition), replaced the only exec line with one that says exec i3 and rebooted. I got rebooted to XFCE still. Then I tried deleting all of whatever was in the .xinitrc, leaving only the line exec i3 and tried again, with the same result. So clearly .xinitrc in my home is not what determines which windowing system is used. Now I need more hints. What to do?

You should choose i3 from lightdm while logging in which is the default display manager on manjaro xfce. Also you should consider installing i3 package group as it contains many useful packages like i3status, i3-wm/i3-gaps etc.

Do you still use lightdm (login-manager) ? You need to change user-session there.

/etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf → edit it → replace: user-session=i3

I do have such file and I made the suggested edit but I don’t know if I’m using it (lightdm). Either way, after rebooting I’m still getting into XFCE instead of i3. Is the contents of ~/.xinitrc relevant?

$ ls -lah /etc/lightdm/
total 32K
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root 4,0K 18. 3. 15:38 .
drwxr-xr-x 93 root root 4,0K 29. 4. 11:12 ..
-rw-r--r--  1 root root   40 14. 8.  2020 keys.conf
-rw-r--r--  1 root root 6,6K 29. 4. 11:09 lightdm.conf
-rw-r--r--  1 root root  494  1. 3. 04:11 lightdm-gtk-greeter.conf
-rw-r--r--  1 root root  465 14. 8.  2020 users.conf
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root root 1,5K 14. 8.  2020 Xsession

$ cat /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf
# General configuration
# start-default-seat = True to always start one seat if none are defined in the configuration
# greeter-user = User to run greeter as
# minimum-display-number = Minimum display number to use for X servers
# minimum-vt = First VT to run displays on
# lock-memory = True to prevent memory from being paged to disk
# user-authority-in-system-dir = True if session authority should be in the system location
# guest-account-script = Script to be run to setup guest account
# logind-check-graphical = True to on start seats that are marked as graphical by logind
# log-directory = Directory to log information to
# run-directory = Directory to put running state in
# cache-directory = Directory to cache to
# sessions-directory = Directory to find sessions
# remote-sessions-directory = Directory to find remote sessions
# greeters-directory = Directory to find greeters
# backup-logs = True to move add a .old suffix to old log files when opening new ones
# dbus-service = True if LightDM provides a D-Bus service to control it
#minimum-vt=7 # Setting this to a value < 7 implies security issues, see FS#46799

# Seat configuration
# Seat configuration is matched against the seat name glob in the section, for example:
# [Seat:*] matches all seats and is applied first.
# [Seat:seat0] matches the seat named "seat0".
# [Seat:seat-thin-client*] matches all seats that have names that start with "seat-thin-client".
# type = Seat type (local, xremote)
# pam-service = PAM service to use for login
# pam-autologin-service = PAM service to use for autologin
# pam-greeter-service = PAM service to use for greeters
# xserver-command = X server command to run (can also contain arguments e.g. X -special-option)
# xmir-command = Xmir server command to run (can also contain arguments e.g. Xmir -special-option)
# xserver-config = Config file to pass to X server
# xserver-layout = Layout to pass to X server
# xserver-allow-tcp = True if TCP/IP connections are allowed to this X server
# xserver-share = True if the X server is shared for both greeter and session
# xserver-hostname = Hostname of X server (only for type=xremote)
# xserver-display-number = Display number of X server (only for type=xremote)
# xdmcp-manager = XDMCP manager to connect to (implies xserver-allow-tcp=true)
# xdmcp-port = XDMCP UDP/IP port to communicate on
# xdmcp-key = Authentication key to use for XDM-AUTHENTICATION-1 (stored in keys.conf)
# greeter-session = Session to load for greeter
# greeter-hide-users = True to hide the user list
# greeter-allow-guest = True if the greeter should show a guest login option
# greeter-show-manual-login = True if the greeter should offer a manual login option
# greeter-show-remote-login = True if the greeter should offer a remote login option
# user-session = Session to load for users
# allow-user-switching = True if allowed to switch users
# allow-guest = True if guest login is allowed
# guest-session = Session to load for guests (overrides user-session)
# session-wrapper = Wrapper script to run session with
# greeter-wrapper = Wrapper script to run greeter with
# guest-wrapper = Wrapper script to run guest sessions with
# display-setup-script = Script to run when starting a greeter session (runs as root)
# display-stopped-script = Script to run after stopping the display server (runs as root)
# greeter-setup-script = Script to run when starting a greeter (runs as root)
# session-setup-script = Script to run when starting a user session (runs as root)
# session-cleanup-script = Script to run when quitting a user session (runs as root)
# autologin-guest = True to log in as guest by default
# autologin-user = User to log in with by default (overrides autologin-guest)
# autologin-user-timeout = Number of seconds to wait before loading default user
# autologin-session = Session to load for automatic login (overrides user-session)
# autologin-in-background = True if autologin session should not be immediately activated
# exit-on-failure = True if the daemon should exit if this seat fails

# XDMCP Server configuration
# enabled = True if XDMCP connections should be allowed
# port = UDP/IP port to listen for connections on
# listen-address = Host/address to listen for XDMCP connections (use all addresses if not present)
# key = Authentication key to use for XDM-AUTHENTICATION-1 or blank to not use authentication (stored in keys.conf)
# hostname = Hostname to report to XDMCP clients (defaults to system hostname if unset)
# The authentication key is a 56 bit DES key specified in hex as 0xnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.  Alternatively
# it can be a word and the first 7 characters are used as the key.

# VNC Server configuration
# enabled = True if VNC connections should be allowed
# command = Command to run Xvnc server with
# port = TCP/IP port to listen for connections on
# listen-address = Host/address to listen for VNC connections (use all addresses if not present)
# width = Width of display to use
# height = Height of display to use
# depth = Color depth of display to use

$ cat ~/.xinitrc
# ~/.xinitrc
# Executed by startx (run your window manager from here)



# merge in defaults and keymaps

if [ -f $sysresources ]; then
    xrdb -merge $sysresources

if [ -f $sysmodmap ]; then
    xmodmap $sysmodmap

if [ -f "$userresources" ]; then
    xrdb -merge "$userresources"

if [ -f "$usermodmap" ]; then
    xmodmap "$usermodmap"

# start some nice programs

if [ -d /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d ] ; then
    for f in /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d/?*.sh ; do
        [ -x "$f" ] && . "$f"
    unset f

	local dbus_args=(--sh-syntax --exit-with-session)
	case "$1" in
		awesome) dbus_args+=(awesome) ;;
		bspwm) dbus_args+=(bspwm-session) ;;
		budgie) dbus_args+=(budgie-desktop) ;;
		cinnamon) dbus_args+=(cinnamon-session) ;;
		deepin) dbus_args+=(startdde) ;;
		enlightenment) dbus_args+=(enlightenment_start) ;;
		fluxbox) dbus_args+=(startfluxbox) ;;
		gnome) dbus_args+=(gnome-session) ;;
		i3|i3wm) dbus_args+=(i3 --shmlog-size 0) ;;
		jwm) dbus_args+=(jwm) ;;
		kde) dbus_args+=(startplasma-x11) ;;
		lxde) dbus_args+=(startlxde) ;;
		lxqt) dbus_args+=(lxqt-session) ;;
		mate) dbus_args+=(mate-session) ;;
		xfce) dbus_args+=(xfce4-session) ;;
		openbox) dbus_args+=(openbox-session) ;;
		*) dbus_args+=("$1") ;;

	echo "dbus-launch ${dbus_args[*]}"

exec $(get_session "$1")

$ i3 --version
i3 version 4.20.1 (2021-11-03) © 2009 Michael Stapelberg and contributors

May be you can read this manjaro wiki : Install Desktop Environments - Manjaro

The solution was to select the window manager from a GUI menu that is in the Manjaro’s login view.

I had no idea that such menu existed as I thought changing the config files contents alone would be sufficient. The other machine on which I installed the Manjaro i3 community edition the login view looks different and I thought that’s already part of the window manager. Apparently window manager is something that is bootstrapped after login, and during login some other window manager kind of thing is supposedly used for the credentials window.