My Setup Using Suckless Software

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Introduction

Hi! In this post, I’ll go through about my current setup using suckless programs. Some people like suckless software (including me) and some of them hate it, whether if it’s because they don’t like patching stuff, or they don’t like suckless philosophy which they don’t want to exceed a certain number of lines.

Window Manager

DWM (Dynamic Window Manager)

Suckless has a window manager called DWM which stands for Dynamic Window Manager. It has less than ~2000 SLOC and to be honest, I don’t really care about the lines of code limit. I just like this Window Manager purely because of its features.

DWM has 3 layouts by default. They are tiling with master and stack layout, floating, and monocle. One of the reasons I chose DWM is because of the master and stack layout. There are some WM with master and stack layout except DWM, but I don’t like them as much as DWM. For example, I don’t want AwesomeWM because I don’t fancy writing config in Lua.

UPDATE Tue, October 27, 2020

lmao guess who’s suddently got so obsessed with Lua and decided to use AwesomeWM

Another example is Xmonad, that’s an instant big no. It has a ton of Haskell dependencies and its config file is written in Haskell which I never heard of until I found out this WM. I’m not saying that it’s bad, I just don’t want to write Haskell.

Installation

Suckless way of installing software is compiling it from the source. It’s so easy, you literally need to run 2 commands and then you’re done. I use DWM 6.2

I always went with the tarball because the git version always gave me a headache when I patch it. To install DWM, you need to cd into dwm directory and run

$ make && sudo make install

That’s it. DWM is compiled and installed. It only took a couple of seconds on my X220.

Patching

One of the suckless key features is patching. To add new functionality, you need to patch it your own. I honestly like this concept. They gave you a bare minimum software that you can add some features by patching it on your own.

I personally use 5 of them and a little bit of tweaking on dwm.c file. Here are those patches.

  • Actual Fullscreen

    As its name suggests, it enables actual fullscreen behaviour instead of toggling the bar off and go to monocle mode.

  • Per Tag

    This patch enables per tag behaviour which means if you enable floating mode on the first tag, it won’t be applied to another tag. I like this behaviour more than DWM’s default behaviour which applies to all of the available tags.

  • Status2d

    This patch gives you a new syntax for statusbar colour. It also capable of drawing rectangles to your statusbar but I personally don’t use it. I only use it for changing my statusbar icon colour.

  • Vanity Gaps

    The most essential feature of a window manager for me. If a tiling window manager doesn’t have this feature, I won’t use it. It makes me feel less claustrophobic.

  • Swallow Patch

    I recently use this patch to fix the usual behaviour when you open a program that spawns another window from terminal, the terminal window doesn’t do anything but it stays there. If you close it, the program will also get killed. This patch allows you to spawn a program from terminal and that program will take the terminal window instead of spawning a new one. If you close the program, your terminal still there.

  • Centered

    I modify the original isCenter patch so I don’t have to define which class that needs to be centered, I just apply it globally. If you interested in how it looks, here it is.

    // center floating window
    if (c->x == selmon->wx) c->x += (c->mon->ww - WIDTH(c)) / 2 - c->bw;
    if (c->y == selmon->wy) c->y += (c->mon->wh - HEIGHT(c)) / 2 - c->bw;

    Place it inside manage(Window w, XWindowAttributes *wa) function in between of wc.border_width = c->bw; and XConfigureWindow(dpy, w, CWBorderWidth, &wc);, then recompile it. That’s it, you’re done.

  • No Monocle Border

    I don’t like any border when in monocle mode so I tried to use no border patch and it doesn’t work, I don’t know why. So I add this code that I found on the internet instead.

    if ((&monocle == c->mon->lt[c->mon->sellt]->arrange) && (!c->isfloating)) {
          wc.border_width = 0;
          c->w = wc.width += c->bw * 2;
          c->h = wc.height += c->bw * 2;
      }

    Add that to resizeclient(Client *c, int x, int y, int w, int h) function after wc.border_width = c->bw; then recompile it.

  • Change Bar Height

    By default, DWM define bar height by calculating font size and adding 2px on top and bottom. It looks ugly to me, I want to be able to define my bar height. So I replaced some code with this.

    // previous
    bh = drw->fonts->h + 2;
    
    // new
    bh = user_bh ? user_bh : drw->fonts->h + 2;
    
    // config.h
    static const int user_bh = 28;

Those are all of my patches. I tried to make it as minimal as possible but keeping the look and feel that I like. If you don’t know how to apply a patch, here’s an example.

$ patch -p1 < ./path/to/patch.diff

Make sure you’re currently on the DWM directory, otherwise it wouldn’t work. As you can see, applying a patch is simple.

Statusbar

For the status bar itself, I use DWM Blocks and Lemonbar. Why do I use 2 status bars you might ask. Well, I’ll explain later because it’s quite a stupid reason.

I use DWM Blocks because it’s able to update each module with different intervals. For example, I update my date module every 1 minute and I can set my cpu module to update every 2 seconds. All of my modules are written in dash, a lightweight POSIX shell. You can check all of my modules here.

Now, the reason I use Lemonbar is that I want to draw a bottom border for DWM status bar. It’s stupid, yes I’m fully aware of that. I can’t find any patch to draw a border on DWM statusbar and I’m not familiar with C, so I use this trick instead.

It’s simple, you just need to draw Lemonbar with full width, how many px of height you want, and fill the offsetY matching your DWM statusbar height. Here’s what I did on my autostart.

echo "" | lemonbar -g x1+0+28 -d -B "#82aaff" -p &

It’s stupid, but hey, it works. I won’t complain ツ.

App Launcher

Dmenu

Dmenu is a piece of software to find a program name and execute it. But it’s more than that. Basically, you pipe it some lines then it spits back the line you’ve chosen to stdout. Let me give you an example of that.

echo "yes\nno" | dmenu

That simple command is echo-ing yes and no and piping it to dmenu. It will give you a dmenu prompt that you can type to choose the option or simply move the selection. If you press ESC, it will close dmenu prompt, but if you select one of them, it will give your selection to stdout which you can then process it however you want.

Installation

Just like any other suckless software, the way you should install it is by compiling it from the source. I use the tarball of it. You know the drill, cd to that directory and run

$ make && sudo make install

Out of the box, it’s very usable already. But, it looks ugly to me. I want to add just 1 patch to make it look a bit better.

Patching

As I said, I only use 1 patch for dmenu and that patch is…

  • Lineheight.

    It gives dmenu the ability to set the line-height by changing the line-height variable. I set it to 28 and my font size is 11.

    static unsigned int lineheight = 28;

Terminal

ST (Simple Terminal)

Suckless have a terminal called ST or Simple Terminal or Suckless Terminal. It’s the best terminal in my opinion. It supports true colour, ligatures, box drawing, unicode support, and more stuff that you can achieve by applying some patches.

UPDATE Tue, October 27, 2020

Some of you might think it’s the best, but then I came across Alacritty and it’s instantly became my new “best terminal” out there.

It’s ultra minimal out of the box. You don’t even have a scroll feature builtin. It’s reasonable because not everyone needs a scroll feature. For example, if you use tmux then the scroll feature would be redundant.

Installation

As usual, I use the tarball version and it’s currently at v0.8.3 which you can get from here. cd into that directory and run

$ make && sudo make install

There you have it, a barebone installation of ST. To be honest, I can’t use ST without applying some patches. I need some features that are provided by patches.

Patching

I use quite a lot of patches for ST. Mainly for the appearance. Here’s my list of patches.

  • Boxdraw

    This patch allows a line to be drawn gapless. I use this so that lines like tmux borders, fzf pop-up border, stuff like gotop, ytop, etc. This patch makes them look way better.

  • Bold is not bright

    This patch makes bold font the same colour as the regular font. I hate it when bold letters have a different colour than the regular ones.

  • Clipboard

    This patch makes ST use the same clipboard that the browser uses. I don’t like the default ST behaviour.

  • Scrollback

    This patch enables scrolling on ST like most terminal out there. I can’t use ST without this feature because I don’t use tmux that often.

  • Font2

    This patch makes ST be able to set a fallback font. For example, I use Iosevka which doesn’t support CJK characters so I use Noto Sans CJK for the fallback to be able to render them properly.

  • Ligatures

    This is my favorite patch out of all of them. I can enjoy those sweet ligatures on ST rather than having to change to Kitty. It’s a bit buggy though if you scroll up the prompt will follow you. It doesn’t bother that much so I ignore that.

  • Xresources

    This patch makes ST apply colours from .xresources. I like this approach rather than changing its config.h to change the colour scheme.

  • Palenight Colour Scheme

    I change the default colour scheme on my build to Palenight. It’s such a great colour scheme and I love it.

Tips

Handling Rejected Patch

Sometimes when you are patching, the patch has a conflict with another patch. It’s easy to solve actually, it tells you where you have to fix it on the log message. It also gives you a file with a .rej suffix that contains all of the rejected changes. Here’s an example of it.

--- dwm.c
+++ dwm.c
@@ -163,6 +163,7 @@ static void detach(Client *c);
 static Monitor *dirtomon(int dir);
 static void drawbar(Monitor *m);
 static void drawbars(void);
+static int drawstatusbar(Monitor *m, int bh, char* text);
 static void enternotify(XEvent *e);
 static void expose(XEvent *e);
 static void focus(Client *c);
@@ -237,7 +238,7 @@ static void zoom(const Arg *arg);

 /* variables */
 static const char broken[] = "broken";
-static char stext[256];
+static char stext[1024];
 static int screen;
 static int sw, sh;           /* X display screen geometry width, height */
 static int bh, blw = 0;      /* bar geometry */

All you need to do is find some lines that match the surrounding of the line with - or + prefix, then replace it according to it. As you can see on the 7th line, there’s a line with + prefix. That means you need to add it to the original file which in this case is dwm.c. All you have to do is fine that surrounding lines and place it there. If it has a - prefix, you need to remove it.

Using VCS

I found that using VCS like Git is quite useful if you want to add a patch but don’t want to ruin your current build. Make a new branch of your current build and then patch it, that way you can always go to the other branch if you messed up. If you don’t know how to set up a repo, this might help you getting started.

Enabling colour emoji support

By default, suckless software doesn’t support colour emoji like this 👌. You have to remove the code that blocks it and install libxft-bgra. The file is called drw.c and the part that you need to remove is

/* Do not allow using color fonts. This is a workaround for a BadLength
 * error from Xft with color glyphs. Modelled on the Xterm workaround. See
 * https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=1498269
 * https://lists.suckless.org/dev/1701/30932.html
 * https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=916349
 * and lots more all over the internet.
 */
FcBool iscol;
if(FcPatternGetBool(xfont->pattern, FC_COLOR, 0, &iscol) == FcResultMatch && iscol) {
    XftFontClose(drw->dpy, xfont);
    return NULL;
}

After removing that, make sure you got libxft-bgra installed. Otherwise, it won’t work.

Desktop files

If you noticed, there’s no .desktop files after installing suckless software. You can either add it yourself or apply a patch for it. I prefer adding it myself. Here’s an example of my dwm.desktop located on /usr/share/xsessions/

[Desktop Entry]
Name=dwm
Comment=dynamic window manager
Exec=dwm
Type=Application

I don’t need ST desktop entry since I launch ST using keybind or dmenu which doesn’t need it. If you launch it from Rofi or something like that, you’ll need the desktop entry file.

Resources

If you want to get all of my suckless builds, you can get it on my Github repo and here are my scripts.

Conclusion

I like the suckless software because it works great and I like their way of distributing their stuff. They give you a barebones software that you can add some features through patches. This can get overwhelming since they have a lot of patches, like a lot.

All right then, thanks for reading this lengthy post. I hope you learn something new from this. Have a nice day!

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