In popular Linux culture, tiling window managers are the domain of the ¸ber geeks. This is because they look austere, without any kind of window control or decoration, and often lack the pleasantries of a settings application or launch panel (the tiling window managers, not the uber geeks). Tiling window managers are also unforgiving, requiring manual configuration and serious time investment to fully purge users of evil mouse clicks before promptly filling empty brain matter with keyboard shortcuts.

Things are changing, however, and their minimalism and utility is beginning to invade the traditional desktop space where many of their best features are starting to coexist with the more traditional desktop environment. This is definitely a good thing because tiling window managers are quick, efficient, and often make best use of whatever screen real estate is available, and a lot of this innovation is happening on KDE Plasma. This is because it has a window scripting engine that can be harnessed to reconfigure window positions without replacing the window manager. This means you get to pick which parts of KDE to keep and which parts of a tiling window manager you want to use.

Plasma has always had relatively good tiling solutions, with the previously covered kwin-tiling script proving popular. This humble script takes over positioning duties and optionally removes window decoration, letting you switch between common layouts and window orders with tiling-friendly shortcuts. But there's now a new breed of tiling solutions for Plasma that build on the success of kwin-tiling, and Kröhnkite is one. Kröhnkite supports Plasma's activities, virtual desktops, and multiple screens, which is something kwin-tiling struggles with. It also takes its inspiration from dwm, the dynamic window manager, with monocle, spread, stair, and standard tiling layouts. It works well but still relies on manually editing configuration files for the best experience, which leaves room for another perhaps easier-to-use option for Plasma.

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Get the benefits of both KDE Plasma and a tiling window manager with Kröhnkite.

Window arranger


Bismuth is another tiling window manager for KDE Plasma (see Kröhnkite above). It does the same thing but with a little added refinement. In particular, it offers a convenient configuration pane as part of KDE's standard system settings application, and feels much more planned and better integrated. It's probably how Plasma would add tiling natively, especially as configuration panels are relatively rare in the world of tiling window managers. The setting page appears under the Window Management menu and lets you conveniently disable and enable tiling as well as customize tiling behavior. In particular, you can have separate layouts for different activities and virtual desktops, enable or disable specific tiling modes, choose where new panes will appear, set rules for specific window types (such as Yakuake always appearing on top without tiling), and change the appearance of the panels as they appear. It's powerful and easy to use.

In many ways, this is a genuine iteration of the kwin-tiling script which offers many of the same options without making them accessible through a GUI. You're also not as burdened by keyboard shortcuts because there aren't so many, and the ones that are used are standard across several different tiling managers. If you panic and need to disable tiling quickly, there's even a panel icon you can simply click, and after a simple installation process, Bismuth quickly feels like a default part of KDE. This needs to be tempered slightly with Plasma itself, which will often only apply changes to new windows, and it can be difficult to get back to a coherent display after breaking a couple of windows out of the tiling environment or disabling Bismuth. But this is because it straddles both tiling and the desktop, and regardless of these blips, it succeeds impressively well.

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Alongside settings for which tiling modes are enabled where, Bismuth can also disable window decorations and change the game between panels.

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