KDE and a Tiling Window Manager

Before I found KDE and fell in love with the flexibility it provides, I enjoyed tiling window managers for their simplicity and the fact that I could do much of my work without needing to mess around with a mouse or trackpad. I am familiar with i3, and decided to try get it running as the WM for my KDE Plasma desktop.

KDE actually provides a tutorial for doing just that. However, I run into a few stumbling blocks along the way.

Stumbling Block 1

I did not read the full tutorial properly. Replacing the WM is only supported on XOrg, using Xsessions. Wayland users are unable to replace KWin. When I first tried this, I decided to give sway a go, but this is a Wayland-only WM. This short-coming is noted in the tutorial I was following, but I did not read it until after I pulled half my hair out.

Stumbling Block 2

Xsessions with a = in the TryExec line will be silently hidden from the SDDM session selector list. In order to add a new Xsession, you copy one of the existing Xsessions under /usr/share/xsessions/ and change the Exec that it does. Changing the WM requires using env KDEWM=/usr/bin/i3 /usr/bin/startplasma-x11. The environment variable is what tells Plasma which WM to use. At first, I tried to change both the Exec and TryExec lines and then got very confused when the new session would not be available. After removing the TryExec line, everything worked like a dream.


I value the simplicity and speed of a tiling WM, but I have also enjoyed being able to select my wifi network from a popup menu and unmount drives with a click of a button. Replacing KWin with i3 has allowed me to get the best of both worlds – my windows sit nicely next to one another, I have independent workspaces on different monitors and I can change my wifi network without needing to mess around in nmcli.