A macOS Workspace With a Tiling WM
Update: Development of
chunkwmhas ceased in favor of
yabai. It’s recommended you now use
yabaifor your macOS tiling needs.
I speak for myself: The softwares and configurations I present here work great for my workflow but may not necessarily carry over to yours. I encourage you to use this article as one perspective to pick-and-choose from in your configuration development.
Learning curve: All the tools I mention here have a learning curve, the magnitude of which varies but is largely due to learning keybindings. I will say that once one learns to work with
vimeffectively, most other keyboard-based softwares are fairly easy to pick up, as many have similar semantics to
vim. Tips from personal experience can be found in section 3.1.
I work on a 15” 2016 MBP. It’s a really nice machine I was fortunate enough to buy with scholarship money a couple years back, and does nicely pretty much everything one buys a Mac for.
As I’ve become more productive, I’ve increasingly turned to power tools like
tmux, and most recently,
chunkwmA tiling window manager for macOS .
chunkwm in particular has been a big jump for me in terms of productivity and
workspace aesthetic. This post discusses my macOS configuration, motivated by my
My configuration files are available on GitHub at ayazhafiz/hmcd.
skhd for tiling windows
First, a definition - tiling window managers organize windows in compartmentalized buffers on a desktop, and often support handling windows on multiple desktops and monitors. I find this management useful for multitasking because the wm will automatically attempt to place new windows in an optimal spot, with the user having to adjust window sizes and locations only ad-hoc. A side effect of these managers is the orthogonal aesthetic they provide to one’s desktop, though the value of that may vary by taste. I quite like it.
chunkwm is a tiling wm for macOS. On
its own it’s pretty nice, but its full potential comes out with a hotkey daemon
skhd, which maps keystrokes to
arbitrary system actions.
skhd can be used for mapping hotkeys to
chunkcthe program that sends messages to
commands, enabling window management via just the keyboard.
chunkwm provides a configuration file for setting window gaps, border offsets,
border colors, and other aesthetic features;
skhd has a configuration file for
bindingsThe nice thing about
skhd is keybindings can act on more than just
chunkc - for instance, I have bindings for opening a terminal and web browser. .
I’ve made public my personal
alacritty as a terminal and
tmux as its multiplexer
Right now I use
alacritty as my terminal
emulatorFor a while I used
hyper, but people are right about the Electron bloat. I’ve heard good things about
kitty, but haven’t had the chance to use it. .
It’s great – fast as hell, not a battery leech, and has nice configuration
options with extensible keybindings (you can see my configuration
Especially with a transparent background and color palettes generated by
wal, it’s easily the most beautiful
application on my machine.
tmux? It may seem ridiculous to nest
terminal sessions within windows within a window manager, but I use
have just one terminal window open and manage various sessions inside it.
sessions persist independently of the emulator they are run in, so you can enter
and exit them anytime you want.
tmux allows for aesthetic and keybinding configurations via a
course, I’ve made mine
3: Power tools:
For a while, I thought
vim was a needlessly cumbersome tool, as I’m sure most
do initially. Once I began to seriously use it though, I realized my enhancement
in productivity, and now I use
vim for pretty much
everythingMore accurately, I use
Working with only a keyboard certainly imposed a learning curve, but has paid
off in a a tremendous speedup for literally everything I do on my machine. In
fact, the productivity benefits
vim has provided me are the primary reason I
switched to a key-bound tiling wm and and now do 90% of my work in a terminal
On a similar note, the
vim-like key bindings for browsing file systems. This is a boon for
productivity – at least over
Finder, in my experience.
If you’re looking for a beautiful, extensible text editor to replace your IDEs
and speedup your workflow, I cannot recommend
emacs is also really nice, if that’s more your thing. Regardless, the advantage of keybindings is undeniable – there’s a reason
VS Code and
Atom have command palettes. .
And once you get hooked on that, check out
ranger. And if you’re trying to get
really deep, maybe you even want a command-line email client like
mutt. There’s an entire world out there for you to
vim’s Learning Curve
vim’s learning curve kinda sucks if you haven’t worked much with key-bound
applications before. Getting over that hill is a personal journey, but I have
two tips from personal experience:
vimtutoris your best friend. Launch it up in your command line and go through all of it; the tutorial isn’t very long and will teach you everything you need to be functional in
vim. Make it the exclusive workspace for your next few projects, homework assignments, papers, whatever else. At first it might really suck and you might want to switch back editors, but soon it’ll click and you’ll begin to experience why it’s raved about so much. Non-toy usage of
vimwill also teach you all the tricks
vimtutordoesn’t and force you to configure the editor to your liking.
Speaking of configuration,
the other configurations I’ve made public, you should use it only to pick and
choose what you need - my preferences and plugins probably don’t exactly align
with your needs, and it’s useful to know what the commands you’re including
I hope this article has provided you with an additional perspective on macOS configuration options. If you choose to incorporate any of the tools I’ve discussed in your own workflow, that’s awesome! Though of course, my configuration is by no means is the “right” way to setup a workspace – hell, this one constantly evolves as my needs and preferences change.
If you find my configurations useful, have comments about this discussion, have another perspective you’d like share, or anything else related, please ping me. I’d love to chat.
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