I'm a great fan of Tiling Window Managers, but It's odd that I couldn't find any Linux Distro that features one as main WM.

For example, Crunchbang features OpenBox, Bodhi features E17, so... wich one features Xmonad/Awesome/I3/DWM...?

  • 3
    What is the “main WM” of a distribution? Most distributions ship a large number of window managers, and each user can choose his favorite. Nov 1, 2011 at 21:50

12 Answers 12


Salix Ratpoison 13.37 is released! This is probably the first ever linux distribution release featuring Ratpoison as the main window manager. The aim of the Ratpoison edition is to create a system that is fully usable with the keyboard only...

(via http://www.linux.org.ru/news/slackware/6856589 (a news item, in Russian))

Salix OS is a derivative of Slackware (via Zenwalk), as explained in the news item where I've read about it.


I don't believe there is. The reason for this is probably that people that use tiling window managers tend to be a) quite technically proficient, and b) tend towards minimalism—or exacting standards of control over their setups.

Neither of these two conditions lends themselves naturally to pre-built solutions.

If your window manager of choice is dwm, for example, why would you want to install a distro where someone else had made the majority of the decisions about the packages, environment etc for you?

You would be much better off with a minimal install of your base distro and configuring everything else yourself – which undermines the rationale for a tiling distribution.

  • Ubuntu rocks ;-) The problem of assembling a custom distribution yourself is even more maintenance. Most distributions only do well when you use the default configuration, the rest is usually terribly tested. If one really wants to take that road, I recommend Linux from Scratch or Gentoo. That way you have at least some reasonable source package management framework. Or if you want to win some speed-typing competition, stow is not bad.
    – Philip
    Nov 22, 2011 at 0:25
  • 2
    I have had no issues with Arch Linux (where this is the default) or with using the same approach from a minimal Debian install.
    – jasonwryan
    Nov 22, 2011 at 0:30
  • Last time I tried Debian was 3 years ago. I tried 3 releases and none was able to detect Harddrive and CD-ROM drive at the same time without any magic applied. Unfortunately I never tried Arch Linux...
    – Philip
    Nov 22, 2011 at 0:37
  • @Philip Please try Debian Wheezy now. It's ready for you buddy :)
    – capdragon
    Jul 30, 2013 at 15:58

Your best bet is to go for a "minimal install" of your favorite distro and then "build up" from there. A few distros I have used that offer minimalist installations:

  • Arch Linux would actually be perfect for the minimalist approach as you only install what you want (and dependencies). Awesome, Scrotwm, dwm xmonad, and other tiling WM are available either in community, extra or the AUR
  • Ubuntu offers an alternative download
  • The OpenSuSE DVD has a "minimal X" installation
  • Upvote for Arch Linux mention.
    – laebshade
    Nov 1, 2011 at 22:33
  • also if you don't want to go through the whole arch installation, choose a minimal installation with AntergOS
    – philx_x
    Sep 25, 2017 at 14:24

Just seen another note about a distro featuring such a window manager:

Awesome has been around for a few years now, but may be gaining some visibility now that Sabayon Linux has added an awesome edition. Guest author Koen Vervloesem has been using awesome for a number of years, and subscribers can click below for his look at the window manager from this week's edition.

Full Story


Manjaro-i3 is great.

Very sharp, works great ootb, but I'm not sure there is a huge community behind it.


I have had issues mixing de/wm's with i3, when I'm in 'get it done' mode I lean on a tiler vm on top of my gnome de since I can get more done with one twm screen than multi monitors in plasma, gnome etc.


I had the same problem as you, and that's why me and some of my friends started working on a small project called Woof OS. Its main edition includes the Qtile tiling window manager.

You can check it out here: https://woof-os.github.io
Or if you want the page for qtile edition: https://woof-os.github.io/qtile

While I am writing this answer, a minor UI update is going to be released :)

  • Wow, It's pretty cool you're making your own!
    – Gagan
    Jan 15, 2022 at 3:37


Zenix comes very close. Although I can't tell whether "Awesome" is the default window manager, at least the distro's website is full of it.

Besides that... You have to ask yourself the question whether you really want to do this. Those niche distributions usually suck when it comes to up-to-date packages and long time support. (Or they are for other reasons heavy in maintenance like Gentoo...)



There is: Regolith Linux, website: https://regolith-linux.org/,

Regolith is a modern desktop environment that saves you time by reducing the clutter and ceremony that stand between you and your work. Built on top of Ubuntu and GNOME, Regolith stands on a well-supported and consistent foundation.

It features the i3-wm, website: https://i3wm.org/

i3 is a tiling window manager, completely written from scratch. The target platforms are GNU/Linux and BSD operating systems, our code is Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) under the BSD license. i3 is primarily targeted at advanced users and developers (...)


wattOS Microwatt uses i3 window manager in the current version 10.

  • This link now results in an HTTP 403 error.
    – Jeff Schaller
    Jun 17, 2020 at 1:32

AntiX-17 (full) offers the choice of herbstuftwm along with Fluxbox, JWM & IceWM. You also get the options of SpaceFM & Rox for gui file managers & a nice console environment. Too much choice for my liking but you can build up a custom system from the AntiX core or net install images.


There is one named Hash Linux. It provides 4 preconfigured Arch variants, each with different window managers: Xmonad, Bspwm, Awesome and i3. Image downloads are available on Sourceforge. But the project website isn't working anymore and the latest versions available for download are atleast 9-10 months old.


There is a Manjaro respin featuring Awesome as the default WM.

You can download it from here.

  • 1
    This doesn't really answer the question as Manjaro doesn't ship with Awesome as a default WM...
    – jasonwryan
    Jul 20, 2013 at 5:14
  • 1
    In fact, there is a Manjaro respin featuring Awesome as the default WM. sourceforge.net/projects/manjaro-awesome-respin Apr 16, 2014 at 23:25
  • @jasonwryan Nowadays there are Manjaro Community Editions which I think would qualify as distributions. The Manjaro Awesome community edition ships with Awesome. Jun 18, 2019 at 14:37
  • The manjaro.org link now results in an HTTP 404 error.
    – Jeff Schaller
    Jun 17, 2020 at 1:33

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