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Manage i3wm workspaces in groups you control

Project description

i3 Workspace Groups

A Python library and command line tool for managing i3wm workspaces in groups that you define. I find this tool useful for managing a large number of workspaces in i3.


The main operations that the CLI tool i3_workspace_groups_tool supports are:

  • Assign the focused workspace to a group with a given name (and creating the group if it doesn't exist).
  • Switch the currently active group. Note that the active group is not necessarily the same as the focused group.
  • Navigation and movement within a group while ignoring the other groups. See examples below.

The tools provided use i3 workspace names to store and read the group for each workspace. For example, if a user assigns the workspace "mail" to the group "work", it will be renamed to "mail:word".

Example walk through

NOTE: This walk through assumes that you configured keybindings like the example i3 config.

Say we start with the following workspaces:

  1. A workspace named "1" with cat videos from YouTube.
  2. A workspace named "2" with a news reader.
  3. A workspace named "3" with a photo editor.
  4. A workspace named "4" with an email client for work.

An important thing to understand here is that every i3 workspace is always assigned to a single group. And since we haven't assigned any workspace to a group yet, all the workspaces are implicitly in the default group, which is labeled with the string "Ɗ".

After a few hours of leisure time, you decide to do some work, which requires opening a few windows on a few workspaces. In order to create a new group, first you switch to the workspace "4", and then you press Super+Shift+g, which will prompt you for a new for the new group. You decide to name it "work" and press enter. You will then notice that the workspace name will change in i3bar to "work:4". Then, you press Super+g in order to switch the active group. You will be shown a list of existing groups, which will now be "work" and "Ɗ" (for the default group). You should now see your workspaces in i3bar ordered as following: "work:4", "Ɗ:1", "Ɗ:2", "Ɗ:3". What happened here? When you switched to the "work" group, the first thing that the tool did was to move all the workspaces in the work group (only "work:email") to be in the beginning of the workspace list. Then, it renamed the workspaces in the default group to include the group name, so that they can be differentiated from other workspaces in the "work" group with the same name.

Then, you decide that you want to open a new terminal window in a new workspace. So you press Super+2, which will move you to a new workspace named "work:2". Note that although there is already a workspace with the name "2" in the default group (now shown as "Ɗ:2" in the workspace list), using Super+2 actually takes you to a new empty workspace in the group "work".

After some time working, you become lazy and you want to get back to cat videos, but you promise yourself to get back to work in a few hours, and you don't want to lose your open winows. So you press Super+g to switch the active work back to the default one. You should now see your workspaces in i3bar ordered as following: "1", "2", "3", "work:4". The focus will also shift to the first workspace in the default group ("1" in this case). Now that you're back in the default group, pressing Super+2 will again lead you to the workspace "2" in the default group.

i3 config

In order to use these tools effectively, commands need to be bound to keybindings. For example, my i3 config contains the following exerts:

set $mod Mod4

strip_workspace_numbers yes

set $exec_i3_groups_tool exec --no-startup-id ~/bin/

# Switch active workspace group
bindcode $mod+g exec --no-startup-id ~/bin/switch-active-workspace-group
# Move workspace to another group
bindcode $mod+Shift+g exec --no-startup-id ~/bin/assign-workspace-to-group

bindsym $mod+1 $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-number 1
bindsym $mod+2 $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-number 2
bindsym $mod+3 $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-number 3
bindsym $mod+4 $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-number 4
bindsym $mod+5 $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-number 5
bindsym $mod+6 $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-number 6
bindsym $mod+7 $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-number 7
bindsym $mod+8 $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-number 8
bindsym $mod+9 $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-number 9
bindsym $mod+0 $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-number 10

bindsym $mod+Shift+1 $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-number 1
bindsym $mod+Shift+2 $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-number 2
bindsym $mod+Shift+3 $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-number 3
bindsym $mod+Shift+4 $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-number 4
bindsym $mod+Shift+5 $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-number 5
bindsym $mod+Shift+6 $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-number 6
bindsym $mod+Shift+7 $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-number 7
bindsym $mod+Shift+8 $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-number 8
bindsym $mod+Shift+9 $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-number 9
bindsym $mod+Shift+0 $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-number 10

# Switch to previous workspace in group.
bindcode $mod+p $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-prev
# Switch to next workspace in group.
bindcode $mod+n $exec_i3_groups_tool workspace-next

# Move to previous workspace in group.
bindcode $mod+Shift+p $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-prev
# Move to next workspace in group.
bindcode $mod+Shift+n $exec_i3_groups_tool move-to-next

I also recommend keeping keybindings for the i3 built in workspace navigation commands, for example:

bindsym $mod+Control+1 workspace number 1
bindsym $mod+Control+2 workspace number 2
bindsym $mod+Control+3 workspace number 3
bindsym $mod+Control+4 workspace number 4
bindsym $mod+Control+5 workspace number 5
bindsym $mod+Control+6 workspace number 6
bindsym $mod+Control+7 workspace number 7
bindsym $mod+Control+8 workspace number 8
bindsym $mod+Control+9 workspace number 9
bindsym $mod+Control+0 workspace number 10


  • Workspace names are used for storing the group, so if another tool changes a workspace name without preserving the format that this project uses, the tool can make a mistake about the group assignment.
  • Workspace names must not include colons (:).
  • Group names must not include colons (:) or start with a digit.
  • Every group can have up to a 100 workspaces by default.


Active group

The active workspace is the one that appears in the workspace list in i3bar (by default the leftmost one), regardless of whether its focused or not. The active group is the group of the active workspace. This group will normally contain workspaces related to the task you're doing at the time it's active. When you want to work on another task, you can switch the active group. Workspaces that are not in the active group can still be interacted with, but some of the commands provided are designed to make it easier to interact with the workspaces of the active group.

Focused group

The group of the focused workspace.

Default group

The group of workspaces that were not assigned to a group by the user. This group is usually displayed as "Ɗ".


I plan to upload this to PyPI soon, but until then you can install the only dependency, i3ipc, using:

pip install i3ipc

Then you should be able to run the command line tool The scripts in the scripts directory also require that you install rofi.

Sway compatibility note

This project depends on i3ipc for its interaction with i3, so should also work the same on sway. That said, I didn't test it yet and i3 is my main window manager.

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