switching from i3 to sway

how to switch, and wayland based replacements

a few months back i switched from i3 to sway. since this is a “wayland compositor” and not an X11 window manager, i needed to switch some tools around the wm as well.

here are some snippets on what i did to make everything working on archlinux and manjaro.


just install sway, along with swayidle and swaylock (to lock the screen on inactivity), and xorg-xserver-wayland to run X11 applications on wayland.

sudo pacman -S sway swayidle swaylock xorg-xserver-wayland


-> sway wiki

the config file is located at ~/.config/sway/config.

if you dont have that, you can copy a default config from /etc/sway/config.

adapt the following things to your needs, and add them to your sway config!

keyboard layout

-> sway wiki / inputs

input * xkb_layout "de"

swayidle / swaylock

use swayidle to run a command on inactivity.

i turn off all outputs after 300s of inactivity, and lock the screen after 600s and “before sleep”.

exec swayidle -w \
      timeout 600 'swaylock -f -c 000000' \
      timeout 300 'swaymsg "output * dpms off"' \
           resume 'swaymsg "output * dpms on"' \
      before-sleep 'swaylock -f -c 000000'

also, i bind mod+escape to swaylock to lock manually. (-f daemonizes, -c 000000 sets a black screen)

bindsym $mod+Escape exec swaylock -f -c 000000


-> sway wiki / displays

if you dont switch screens a lot, its probably fine to just define your config in your sway config file. just get the available modes from swaymsg -t get_outputs, and set something like

output HDMI1 pos 0 0 res 1920x1080
output eDP1 pos 1920 0 res 1600x900 

instead of the port (HDMI1, eDP1) you can also use the name found in get_outputs!

the coordinates (pos 0 0) are starting in the upper left and grow right and downwards. the result will look something like this.

x y
0 0                1920 0
  |                  |               |
  |                  |               |
  |                  |               |
  |                  |               |
  |                  +---------------+
  |                  |

if you want to scale your screens, you can do so by setting output HDMI1 scale 2. in this case, the x-coordinate of the second screen is 1920*2, 3840!

the sway wiki does not recommend fractional scaling, but i never had issues with this and i like to run my hidpi screens on a scale around 1.6.


if you switch your displays often, eg. you connect your laptop to different screens with different setups, kanshi (arch user repo) is a nice tool to handle the configuration.

the idea is that you describe your different display setups, and when all displays in a setup are connected, the config will be applied.

to start, create a new config file in .config/kanshi/config. the syntax is a bit different from the sway config syntax.

    output eDP-1 enable scale 1.6 mode 2560x1440 position 0,0

    output eDP-1 enable scale 1.6 mode 2560x1440 position 0,0
    output "Some Display 0x0123" enable scale 2 mode 3840x2160 position 1600,0

    output eDP-1 enable scale 1.6 mode 2560x1440 position 0,0
    output "Another Display" enable scale 1.3 mode 2560x1440 position 1600,0

after you saved your config, try by starting kanshi: kanshi.

if everything works as you expect, add exec kanshi & to your sway config to run kanshi when you start sway!


to control screen brightness i decided to use brightnessctl. (i used light before, but brightnessctl is in the arch repos.)

just run sudo pacman -S brightnessctl to install, and add your user to the video group with sudo usermod -aG video USERNAME. otherwise, you wont be allowed to change brightness.

in sway config, add

bindsym XF86MonBrightnessUp exec --no-startup-id brightnessctl set 10%+
bindsym XF86MonBrightnessDown exec --no-startup-id brightnessctl set 10%-

to bind the keys to the brightnessctl commands.

hiding cursors on inactivity

i like to not see the curser when i dont use it. just add this to the sway config.

seat * hide_cursor 8000

other replacements

dmenu -> bemenu

since dmenu is x11, you could switch to bemenu. it feels the same, but is wayland.

sudo pacman -S bemenu

in sway config:

set $bemenu_options -i --nb "#3f3f3f" --nf "#dcdccc" --fn "pango:DejaVu Sans Mono 12"
set $menu_command bemenu $bemenu_options
set $menu dmenu_path | $menu_command | xargs swaymsg exec


for screenshots, i use a combination of grim and slurp.

slurp lets you select a region on screen and prints the coordinates, which you can use as input for grim, which then creates the actual screenshot.

in the end, i pipe the output to wl-copy (which is part of wl-clipboard), to paste it wherever i need it.

sudo pacman -S grim slurp wl-clipboard

sway config:

bindsym $mod+Print exec grim -g "$(slurp)" - | wl-copy


mako is a notification daemon.

sudo pacman -S mako

sway config:

exec mako --default-timeout 5000 &


if you used redshift before, you will notice that it doesnt work. there is an aur for a patched version: redshift-wayland-git

NetworkManager Applet

unfortunately the nm-applet is not showing on wayland. i just started to use “NetworkManager text user interface”, nmtui, instead.

fixing intellij

intellij starts with a blank window. the problem (and the solution) is described here

short version: fix it by adding _JAVA_AWT_WM_NONREPARENTING=1 to /etc/environment.

finding out which application is X or wayland

if you want to find out which applications are running on wayland, you can just start xeyes. the eyes only follow the cursor on X applications. :)

sudo pacman -S xorg-xeyes

running firefox on wayland

normally firefox is an X application, but you can set


and it will use wayland. just throw it in your /etc/environment, same as the intellij fix!

Last modified 2019.10.27