Using MATE with i3 as window manager


MATE is, in my opinion, pretty awesome. Responsive, low resource requirements, yet provides a full DE, taking care of settings, SSH keyrings, …

i3 is also pretty awesome (but not awesome). However, it’s a window manager, not a desktop environment.

Wouldn’t it be great to combine the two? Well, you can. :wink:

Step 1: Install MATE

sudo pacman -S mate mate-extra

Step 2: Install i3

sudo pacman -S i3 dmenu-manjaro

Step 3: Switch MATE’s window manager

dconf write /org/mate/desktop/session/required-components/windowmanager "'i3'"

Step 4: Disable desktop icons

otherwise you get the desktop as an i3 window

dconf write /org/mate/desktop/background/show-desktop-icons "false"

Step 5: Log out and in

Once you’re logged in, i3 will prompt to create a default i3 config file at $HOME/.config/i3/config

Step Z: Undo

dconf write /org/mate/desktop/session/required-components/windowmanager "'marco'"
dconf write /org/mate/desktop/background/show-desktop-icons "true"

Alternatively, you can use dconf-editor if you want a graphical interface for making these changes. “Show desktop icons” is also an item in mate-tweak.

Known issues

  • MATE panel drawers don’t work properly: Reset the panel with e.g. killall mate-panel
  • Sometimes the panel appears on the wrong monitor on login: Reset the panel with e.g. killall mate-panel
  • Sometimes the desktop wallpaper disappears: Toggle show-desktop-icons false->true->false.

Transitioning to i3

Great tutorial! Will definitely give that a try in a VM - realy curious about that experience.

on an off-topic note - Why am I able to edit - YOUR - post?!?


Posts in #technical-issues-and-assistance:tutorials are wikis by default so they can be updated if the owner leaves them and they get stale.


on the topic now:

if I issue pacman -S mate mate-extras I get an error that “mate-extras” was not found.
pacman -S mate alone prompts me to choose with default being install all in the category.

Other than that - without mate-extras and following your tutorial - its a very amazing experience =)


Corrected; it should have been mate-extra


Nice guide! It is good to know that mate is flexible enough to allow for changing window manager.

In general I find that bspwm fits this kind of combination role better than i3, with xfce, lxde, lxqt etc. However, unlike i3, it requires you to write a configuration file to really be usable, so i3 is much easier to setup this way.

With bspwm you could potentially make desktop icons work (maybe), add openbox style desktop menus, and so on. It also has slightly better mouse support.

Btw, @jonathon, I did not know you were into tiling too. Is this new? If so, welcome to the dark side :slight_smile:. Otherwise, nice to know that there are other tiler users among developers.