It occurred to me today that I’ve never optimized Debian and i3 together for my own purposes. I’ve themed it in Lubuntu and Ubuntu which consisted of adding it alongside those distributions. However, for Debian I decided to start with a lean install of components add i3 and only what I actually need. This resulted in an extremely stable, lightweight that will only really needs occasional updates.

The System

This system will be used for web projects, offline backups, and general web surfing. I don’t have a need for any proprietary extras or the latest versions of anything critical. Even as a web developer Firefox ESR will be just fine. If I require the latest and greatest version of anything I may install flatpack, snap or AppImage.

i3 window manager displaying clockwise from left screefetch, cmus, ranger and htop
I added Compton X compositor for terminal transparency.

Notable Software

  • Compton – lightweight compositor for desktop transparency
  • lightdm – lightweight log in screen
  • vim – coding
  • ranger – file manager
  • screenfetch – system information
  • htop – interactive system resource information
  • alsamixer – ncurses alsa interface
  • cmus – ncurses music player
  • xfce4-terminal – my favorite terminal
  • pianobar – Pandora Radio terminal client

Naturally, I included several traditional GUI applications that I can’t live without which did lead to about 100 extra packages in all.

  • Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) – web browser
  • GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) – image editor
  • KeepassXC – Password Manager
Firefox, GIMP, and Ranger in i3wm
Firefox, GIMP, and Ranger in i3 window manager.

The result is a lightweight multitasking system that I’ve been using for nearly 10 years still handles everything I throw at it without breaking a sweat.

Multitasking in Firefox
Multitasking in Firefox
885 packages in all

After Ricing i3wm

Yesterday I spent a great deal of the evening ricing the desktop and customizing it to my liking.

Debian "work from home" desktop
My Debian work from home user desktop
terminal in i3 and debian
My work from home desktop with xfce4-terminal displaying screenfetch results

After installing “all the things I’m nearly at 1000 packages. RAM is at a respectable 1.5GB with a LAMP webhost and several tabs open in Firefox.
If you’re curious about my setup I’ve linked my latest configuration files below.


8 responses to “Debian Buster & i3wm”

  1. excellentroland Avatar

    In what Universe does anyone use/need a login manager [lightdm]??….

    1. Joseph Dickson Avatar
      Joseph Dickson

      I use more than one desktop environment, this is my perfferred method to switich between the two.

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