Installing BSPWM on Debian

How to install BSPWM, a dynamic tiling window manager

The following setup is crafted to fit my needs, and have been inspired by multiple /r/unixporn rices. This configuration relies on MX Linux 21 XFCE.

BSPWM with Polybar, custom config

Start your journey:

> sudo apt install bspwm sxhkd polybar compton rofi dunst nitrogen i3lock redshift cmus ranger

First thing: DO NOT START BSPWM. Copy the example configuration to your ~/.config folder and make sure bspwmrc is executable :

> cd ~/.config/ && mkdir -p bspwm sxhkd
> cp /usr/share/doc/bspwm/examples/bspwmrc ~/.config/bspwm/
> cp /usr/share/doc/bspwm/examples/sxhkdrc ~/.config/sxhkd/
> chmod u+x ~/.config/bspwm/bspwmrc

Notice that Bspwm uses two config files:

  • bspwmrc that start programs and defines your WM rules
  • sxhkdrc that handles keyboard shortcuts

So take the time to configure your settings before running your BSPWM session!

Keybindings: sxhkdrc

Check the config file, learn/modify the keybindings to your liking:

> vim ~/.config/sxhkd/sxhkdrc

Basic shortcuts (not all default):

Super + d:                rofi
Super + Return: terminal
Super + Shift + return: floating terminal
Super + {1–9}: go to ws
Super + Ctrl + {Left, Right}: go to ws
Super + Shift + {1–9}: move window to ws
Super + f: floating
Super + w: monocle
Super + q: close window
Super + Shift + q: quit wm
Super + l: session menu
Super + Esc: reload sxhkd
Super + Alt + e: reload bspwm

Config file: bspwmrc

Check the config file:

> vim ~/.config/bspwm/bspwmrc

Declare the apps to autostart when launching a session:

  • make sure sxhkdrc is launched at start: pgrep -x sxhkd > /dev/null || sxhkd &
  • compositing manager: compton --backend glx --vsync opengl-swc &
  • polkit usr/lib/xfce-polkit/xfce-polkit &
  • bar (here polybar, throught a script): ~/bin/ &
  • wallpaper: nitrogen --restore &

Then specify windows and workspaces rules . When settings rules you may need to check programs name/label/class with xprop.

Bar: polybar

We won’t use the default bspwm bar, but Polybar: highy customizable and documented. And fully compatible with bspwm.

> mkdir ~/.config/polybar
> cp /etc/polybar/config.ini ~/.config/polybar/
> vim ~/.config/polybar/config

We start Polybar through a script referenced in bspwmrc:

#!/usr/bin/env sh# Terminate already running bar instances
killall -q polybar
# Wait until the processes have been shut down
while pgrep -x polybar >/dev/null; do sleep 1; done
# Launch: 'top' is the name of my Polybar
polybar &

Done, now it’s time to work on the config file.

Install a NerdFont to display icons on your bar:

> wget
> sudo cp -avr JetBrainsMono/ /usr/share/fonts/truetype/
> fc-cache -f -v
> rm

Compositor: compton

I’ve tried a few compositor, mostly forks of Picom adding blur, rounded corners and animations. Heavy on CPU, mostly work in progress, sometimes impressive, but in the end an optimized compton.conf is the best solution.

# shorter shadows
shadow-radius = 5;
shadow-offset-x = -5;
shadow-offset-y = -5;
shadow-opacity = 0.8;
# faster animations
fade-in-step = 0.07;
fade-out-step = 0.07;

Launcher: rofi

Rofi is a fantastic customizable launcher for Linux, we use it instead of dmenu and to manage additional menus such as Session menu.

To launch Rofi open a terminal and enter: rofi -show drun

This will launch Rofi in desktop run mode: it allows users to quickly search and launch an application from the Desktop Entries. These are used by most Desktop Environments to populate launchers and menus. Drun mode features:

  • favorites list, with frequently used programs sorted on top
  • auto starting terminal applications in a terminal

Rofi config file is in: ~/.config/rofi/config.rasi. You may compose multiple themes and call them in CLI: rofi -shwo drun -theme path/to/file.rasi I'm using this option for bspwm session menu.

ScreenLocker: i3lock

Fantastic screenlocker, to use as it is, and before suspending your machine. It only takes PNG files as background image.

  • lock: i3lock --image ~/Pictures/Backgrounds/lock.png
  • lock & suspend: i3lock --image ~/Pictures/Backgrounds/lock.png && sudo pm-suspend
BSPWM with Polybar, alternative settings

Have fun!



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