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Kitti3 - Kitty drop down terminal service for i3wm

Project description

Kitti3 - Kitty drop-down manager for i3wm

Kitti3 turns Kitty into a drop-down, Quake-style floating terminal for the i3 window manager.


  • i3wm native, flicker-free visibility toggling
  • Multi-monitor support with adaptive resizing to active monitor resolution
  • Flexible choice of terminal position; freely selectable dimensions
  • Great responsiveness by leveraging i3wm's IPC API
  • Support for multiple concurrent instances
  • Kitty argument forwarding (e.g. --session)

Image of Kitti3

Installation and setup

Kitti3 is a Python 3 package that lives on PYPI.

  1. To install Kitti3, either:

    • use pipx (recommended):
      $ pipx install kitti3
    • or use pip:
      $ pip install kitti3 --user
    • or copy to somewhere on your $PATH, rename it to kitti3 and make it executable. (Note: in this case it's your responsibility to satisfy the Python dependencies)
  2. Ensure that Kitti3 is reachable (e.g. $ which kitti3); i3wm won't necessarily complain later if it isn't!

  3. Add the following to your ~/.config/i3/config:

    exec_always --no-startup-id kitti3
    bindsym $mod+n nop kitti3

    where $mod+n refers to your keyboard shortcut of choice. Take a look at the configuration section below for a list of the CLI options that kitti3 accepts.

  4. Restart i3wm inplace (e.g. $mod+Shift+r)

  5. Trigger the shortcut to verify that the terminal appears (slight flicker / tiling noise is normal on the first toggle when Kitty is spawned and floated by Kitti3)


Kitti3 does not make use of a dedicated configuration file, but its behaviour can be modified via commandline options:

$ kitti3 -h
usage: kitti3 [-h] [-n NAME] [-p {LT,LC,LB,CT,CC,CB,RT,RC,RB}]
              [-s SHAPE SHAPE] [-v]

Kitti3: i3wm drop-down manager for Kitty. Arguments following '--' are
forwarded to the Kitty instance

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -n NAME, --name NAME  name/tag used to identify this Kitti3 instance. Must
                        match the keybinding used in the i3wm config (e.g.
                        `bindsym $mod+n nop NAME`)
  -p {LT,LC,LB,CT,CC,CB,RT,RC,RB}, --position {LT,LC,LB,CT,CC,CB,RT,RC,RB}
                        where to position the Kitty window within the active
                        workspace, e.g. 'TL' for Top Left, or 'BC' for Bottom
                        Center (character order does not matter)
                        dimensions (x, y) of the Kitty window, each as a
                        fraction of the workspace size, e.g. '1.0 0.5' for
                        full width, half height 
  -v, --version         show kitti3's version number and exit

Command line options

-n, --name (default: kitti3)

The name option provides the string identifier used to connect a user-defined i3wm keybinding to the Kitti3 instance. Specifically, Kitti3 will listen to i3wm IPC events and toggle the visibility of Kitty when it encounters the bindsym command nop NAME - hence the requirement to include a "no-op" bindsym declaration in your i3wm config.

The name option value is also used internally to associate Kitti3 with the Kitty instance it manages (the latter is forwarded the argument --name NAME). For this reason it is worth ensuring that an instance name is chosen which is unlikely to collide with that of another application's window; it would be wise to avoid the likes of slack or discord.

-p, --position (default: RT)

The position option accepts a 2-char ID, which sets the Kitty window's location within the workspace (and implicitly in which directions to grow the window's dimensions). The window can be placed in one of nine locations:

  Left Center Right
Center LC CC RC
Bottom LB CB RB

The case and order of the characters are inconsequential (i.e. LB == bl).

Note that for backwards compatibility, the position option additionally accepts an older location format, with the following mapping. The default position if none is provided is actually right (refer to the note on shape below for why this matters). These choices will be removed in a future release.

Old New
top LT
bottom LB
left LT
right RT

-s, --shape (default: 1.0 0.3)

The shape option specifies the (x, y) dimensions of the Kitty window relative to its workspace. Allowed values are in the range [0, 1], where 1.0 corresponds to the full extent of the given workspace axis.

Note that for backwards compatibility, shape values will be interpreted in (y, x) order when position is set to left or right.


Centered terminal with custom name and argument forwarding

The following i3wm configuration snippet produces a Kitty terminal positioned at the center of the workspace, filling half its height and 30% of its width. It is assigned the custom name "caterwaul", and the argument --session ~/.kitty_session is forwarded to Kitty when it is spawned.

exec_always --no-startup-id kitti3 -n caterwaul -p CC -s 0.5 0.3 -- --session ~/.kitty_session
bindsym $mod+n nop caterwaul

Note that any arguments following -- are ignored by Kitti3 and forwarded to the terminal when it is spawned.

Multiple instances

Multiple Kitti3 instances (and hence Kitty windows) can be run concurrently; they just need to be distinguished by unique instance names to avoid crosstalk, e.g.:

exec_always --no-startup-id kitti3 -n almond -p CT -s 0.5 0.25
bindsym $mod+t nop almond 
exec_always --no-startup-id kitti3 -n bubblegum -p CB -s 1.0 0.4
bindsym $mod+b nop bubblegum

Updating the configuration

Kitti3 must be respawned to trigger any changes made to its command line arguments in the i3wm config file. This can most easily be achieved by restarting i3wm inplace (e.g. $mod+Shift+r), which because of the use of exec_always will spawn a new instance of Kitti3. The old instance will automatically exit when it detects a restart event, so you should not see any stray instances hanging around.


  • Kitty (duh)
  • i3wm (tested with 4.19 but if you're stuck in the past should be fine on 3.xx)
  • Python >= 3.6
  • i3ipc-python (pip(x) will pull in >=2.0)


The following rant discussion was written some years ago and might not accurately represent the current day lay of the land.

The natives

If you're not too fussed about which terminal you're using then there are several alternatives out there that do drop-down out of the box, like guake and tilda. However, if you find yourself wanting to experiment with fonts that support programming ligatures (like the excellent FiraCode), your options quickly dwindle as terminals based on the VTE library (like the two above) still don't play well with ligatures.

The other bolt-ons

But you're here because you want to use Kitty, so forget about the natives for a second and instead ask yourself why you shouldn't just be using one of the other "drop-downifiers". Two notable mentions in this space are tdrop and i3-quickterm. tdrop is a swiss army knife that could probably turn a potato into a drop-down if you worked hard enough, but while feature rich it can be prohibitively slow and cause substantial flicker artifacts in i3wm during visibility toggling.

Kitti3 was actually inspired by the approach taken by i3-quickterm, which issues show/hide commands to i3 via IPC. It also supports other terminals than just Kitty, however its single-shot, mark-based design leads to some speed penalties and unwanted behaviour when spawning terminals. If you're open to using other terminals than Kitty (and have somehow made it this far into the readme), you should try it out. It was i3-quickterm's inability to display terminals as slide-ins (as opposed to drop-down or pop-up) that prompted the creation of Kitti3.

Kitti3 runs as a daemon and listens to events through i3wm's IPC API, using information about the active workspace to dynamically direct i3wm in how to best resize and position Kitty when visibility is toggled. This leads to excellent responsiveness and no flicker artifacts, as well as a seamless experience in multi-monitor, multi-resolution setups.

Bare-metal i3wm config

"But I don't have a hundred external monitors on my desk!" you cry out. Well, if you're running a single-monitor setup, or you're simply content with having the terminal displayed on your main monitor only, then you don't actually need Kitti3 or any of the other bolt-ons. i3wm is happy to take care of container floating and positioning if you're happy to work with absolute pixel values. This is where you start (add to ~/.config/i3/config):

exec --no-startup-id kitty --name dropdown 
for_window [instance="dropdown"] floating enable, border none, move absolute \
position 0px 0px, resize set 1920px 384px, move scratchpad
bindsym $mod+n [instance="dropdown"] scratchpad show

and the i3 user's guide will lead you the rest of the way.


Found a bug? Feel like a feature is missing? Create an issue on GitHub!

Want to get your hands dirty and contribute? Great! Clone the repository and dig in.

The project follows a setuptools based structure and can be installed in development mode using pip (from the project root directory):

$ pip install -e .

This exposes the kitti3 entry point console script, which starts the Kitty manager.


Kitti3 is released under a BSD 3-clause license; see LICENSE for the details.

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