I've been using i3wm for the past few days on Kubuntu 14.04.1 LTS (Ubuntu derivative), and it's a bit different of an experience.
Since Ubuntu uses the LightDM Display Manager, you can install i3wm and give it a try alongside your current window manager.
Just install the proper packages using the following in your shell:
sudo apt-get install i3
Note that Ubuntu uses an older version of i3, due to the process that Ubuntu uses to upstream new packages to their repositories. You can also follow the instructions found here from the i3wm site, to use the latest stable version.
Once you have i3 installed, just log out to your display manager which is what handles your login & starts your window manager. Click the window manager box & change it to i3, and login. You should now be in i3wm, and a prompt will come up to generate your configuration file & ask you which modifier key you want to use (Alt or Super).
Some basic keybinds to help you with your first usage:
Mod+Enter # Starts a terminal session
Mod+d # Brings up dmenu, which finds commands from your $PATH
Mod+Shift+e # Prompt to exit i3wm
Your config file will be in
.i3/config, and has a list of all keybindings. It's quite configurable, I have mine set so that
mod+b brings up my web browser, and
mod+m brings up steam. I also bound my windows switching directional keys to
hjkl rather than
jkl;to match vim keybindings that I use in every other program that I can use them in, and just rebound horizontal split to
You can also add things to your
.i3/config that you want to run at startup, by using
exec on it's own without a preceding
bindsym. For example, I put this line in my
.i3/config to change my background:
exec_always --no-startup-id feh --bg-scale ~/pictures/Backgrounds/background01.jpg
I also added in some others, like
exec --no-startup-id volumeicon and
exec --no-startup-id nm-applet for tray icons, for an ALSA volume icon & a network manager.
One thing that's a bit different is my updating process, I'm not running an update notifier so after I run updates via the command line, I run the following script to check whether or not the file
if [ -f /var/run/reboot-required ]; then
echo 'A system restart is required.'
A thing I like about i3wm is that I'm starting to use the command line a lot more, and learning a lot along the way. I recommend keeping Unity as a fallback, just in case you decide to go back.
The User's Guide on the i3wm website is very helpful, and should help you in getting started with further configuration to your