4 min read

On i3 Cheatsheet

My i3 config file resides in $HOME/.config/i3/.

I’ve tried to call out everywhere I’ve changed the i3 defaults, but I may have missed some.

Use xmodmap, a utility for modifying keymaps and pointer button mappings in X, to see all the values for the modifier key:

$ xmodmap
xmodmap:  up to 4 keys per modifier, (keycodes in parentheses):

shift       Shift_L (0x32),  Shift_R (0x3e)
lock        Caps_Lock (0x42)
control     Control_L (0x25),  Caps_Lock (0x42),  Control_R (0x69)
mod1        Alt_L (0x40),  Alt_R (0x6c),  Meta_L (0xcd)
mod2        Num_Lock (0x4d)
mod4        Super_L (0x85),  Super_R (0x86),  Super_L (0xce),  Hyper_L (0xcf)
mod5        ISO_Level3_Shift (0x5c),  Mode_switch (0xcb)

I’m using mod1 because I’m using the Alt key as my modifier key ($mod).

You can use xmodmap -pke to see a mapping of symbols to keycodes.

A note about the --no-startup-id switch:

From the i3 docs:

“The –no-startup-id parameter disables startup-notification support for this particular exec command. With startup-notification, i3 can make sure that a window appears on the workspace on which you used the exec command.

Also, it will change the X11 cursor to watch (a clock) while the application is launching. So, if an application is not startup-notification aware (most GTK and Qt using applications seem to be, though), you will end up with a watch cursor for 60 seconds.”

( In other words, it will display the cursor instead of the spinner, which is especially noticeable when setting a desktop background using feh and then going to an empty workspace. )


  • Create config file
    • i3-config-wizard in a terminal
  • Reload config file
    • $mod + Shift + c
  • Restart i3
    • $mod + Shift + r
  • Logout
    • $mod + Shift + e
    • Or, use dmenu:
      • $mod + d
      • ie-msg exit
  • Lock screen
    • i3lock in a terminal
    • Add to i3 config:
        # Set a background for the lock screen (only PNG is supported).
        set $i3lockwall i3lock -i $HOME/bulldog.png
        bindsym $mod+shift+x exec --no-startup-id $i3lockwall
  • Set background image
    • sudo apt-get install feh
    • Add to i3 config file:
        exec_always feh --bg-scale $HOME/wallpaper.jpeg


  • Vim bindings
    • h, j, k, l
  • arrow keys
    • I’ve removed support for the arrow keys, just like I’ve disabled them in my Vim configuration.

These are often combined with the $mod key and others to facilitate moving focus and workspaces and windows.

For example:

Modify i3 config file:

# change focus
bindsym $mod+h focus left
bindsym $mod+j focus down
bindsym $mod+k focus up
bindsym $mod+l focus right

# move focused window
bindsym $mod+Shift+h move left
bindsym $mod+Shift+j move down
bindsym $mod+Shift+k move up
bindsym $mod+Shift+l move right

Note that these have been changed from i3’s defaults.

When combined with an aforementioned key, I’ll just refer to it as a Move.


  • Create a terminal
    • $mod + Enter
  • Launch a program using dmenu (dmenu is opened at the top of the screen):
    • $mod + d
    • Type to filter the programs
  • Close a workspace
    • $mod + Shift + q


  • Move focused window
    • $mod + Shift + Move
  • Move focused window to another workspace
    • $mod + Shift + Number
  • Change window focus
    • $mod + Move
  • Create a new window vertically
    • $mod + Ctrl + v (changed from i3 default)
    • $mod + Enter or $mod + d
  • Create a new window horizontally
    • $mod + Ctrl + h (changed from i3 default)
    • $mod + Enter or $mod + d
  • Resize windows
    • $mod + r
    • Move
    • Esc to exit resize mode
  • Stack windows
    • $mod + s (s == stacking)
    • $mod + e to undo
  • Tabbed windows
    • $mod + w
    • $mod + e to undo


  • Turn a regular workspace into a scratchpad:

    • $mod + Shift + minus
  • Revert a scratchpad back into a workspace:

    • $mod + Shift + space
  • Start an application as a scratchpad when i3 starts:

    • In i3 config file:

      for_window [class="thunderbird-default"] move window to scratchpad, scratchpad show
      exec --no-startup-id thunderbird

      Note that the [class="thunderbird-default"] bits were determined by xprop.


Whether it be i3, vim, tmux, etc., I find it’s always a good idea to revisit your config files and remove what you don’t use to keep them as simple as possible. There’s nothing worse than an overly-complex config filled with garbage that is never used.