My journey of ricing Arch Linux


I was inspired to rice my own Arch Linux operating system once I saw the creation of [1]. I highly recommend checking out this theme because its github page has a list of useful desktop environment extensions.

Figure 1 illustrates a broken down view of the components which need to be selected and installed in order to create a fully-fledged Desktop Environment.

Figure 1: Composition of a desktop environment extracted from “General recommendations - ArchWiki” (2022).

Thanks go to [2] for their detailed documentation which inspires this guide.


A list of available software for each component is shown in Figure 1.

Display Server

Is required to run Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs). The big players are:

  • [3] - The most modern display server in the list, as of today some programs might not work completely with this display server.

    Wayland is a replacement for the X11 window system protocol and architecture with the aim to be easier to develop, extend, and maintain. [3]

  • [4] - The oldest display server in the list.

    The X.Org project provides an open source implementation of the X Window System. [4]

Check out [5] about the history of display servers.

Display Driver

The default driver modesetting should work with most graphic cards, but it’s recommended to install a dedicated driver for AMD or NVIDIA products.

Window Manager

A window manager is system software that controls the placement and appearance of windows within a windowing system in a graphical user interface. [6]

Find a list of hand-picked window managers at [7]

For X

  • [8] - A dynamic window manager and the most used one.
  • [9] - A tiling window manager that represents windows as the leaves of a full binary tree.

For Wayland

Check out [10] for a list of available Compositors. Here is a selection of the most interesting to me:

  • [11] - A scrollable tiling window manager.
  • [12] - A tiling window manager completely written from scratch.


  • [13] - A highly configurable, next generation window manager with extensive standards support.


Compositors are responsbile for the following features:

  • transparent windows
  • transitions and animations
  • window drop shadows
  • V-sync

They are not ideal for gaming as they introduce additional latency.

See [14] for a detailed description of compositors.

Display Manager

A display manager, or login manager, is typically a graphical user interface that is displayed at the end of the boot process in place of the default shell. [15]

A selection of interesting graphical display managers. The full list is available at [15].

  • [16] - Fast and lightweight, supports fingerprint login. Supports both X and Wayland display server. Developed by canonical.
  • [17] - The recommened display manager for the KDE and Plasma desktop environments.

Terminal Emulator

A terminal emulator allows a user to interact with a shell from within Xorg.

Therefore, a terminal emulator is absolutely necessary in order to further interact with the shell when the graphical user interface is set up.

Popular terminal emulators for the X Window System are:


By going through Section 2 I ended up with the following components:

Display ServerX.orgBecause AwesomeWM is developed for X11
Window ManagerAwesomeWMDue to its fast and modern design
Display ManagerLightDMLightweight and fast, develop by canonical
Terminal EmulatorkittyFast and lightweight

Additional software to enhance the experience:

NitrogenA fast and lightweight (GTK2) desktop background browser and setter for X Window
rua[21]Arch User Repository (AUR) helper to install packages from the AUR
rofi[22]A popup window switcher and a replacement for dmenu
neofetch[23]A command-line system information tool

Table 1: Selected components alongside the reason.

  1. Set up Arch linux with the archinstall command and select the xorg graphics profile with the corresponding drivers (Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, $\ldots$).

  2. Install the window and display managers, alonside other packages with

pacman -Syu awesome lightdm lightdm-gtk-greeter kitty nano

Install a greeter theme for lightdm with

pacman -Syu lightdm-gtk-greeter

Enable the display manager with

systemctl enable lightdm.service

Test that the greeter and window manager are working with

pacman -Syu xorg-server-xephyr
lightdm --test-mode --debug

Check the console output if anything goes wrong.

  1. Install an AUR helper to simplify installation of packages from the [24]. I selected the helper [21], but more are listed at [25].

  2. Install the window switcher rofi with

packman -Syu rofi
  1. Next up is the customization of the awesome window manager. Copy the default and edit it with
cp /etc/xdg/awesome/rc.lua ~/.config/awesome/

Search for the section -- Prompt in the copied rc.lua file and modify the behaviour for opening the launcher:

awful.key({modkey}, "r",
    awful.spawn.with_shell("rofi -show drun")
  {description = "run prompt", group = "launcher"}),

Inspirations from other ricings

[i3-gaps] Picturesque


Ricing theme by CrypticSky (2022).


Configuring the terminal

Install the following packages:

pacman -Syu neofetch

Then open the kitty terminal configuration. The configuration is inspired by

  • github/ParallaxWave’s blood_i3

    # setup font settings
    #font_family     Fira Code Retina Nerd Font Complete
    font_family    JetBrainsMono Nerd Font
    font_size 9
    disable_ligatures never
    # no bells. Ever.
    enable_audio_bell no
    bell_on_tab no
    # catppucin
    ## main colors
    background #1B1923
    foreground #D7DAE0
    selection_background #2D293B
    selection_foreground #F0AFE1
    url_color #A4B9EF
    cursor #B3E1A3
    ## tabs
    active_tab_background #1E1E28
    active_tab_foreground #D7DAE0
    inactive_tab_background #1B1923
    inactive_tab_foreground #A4B9EF
    tab_bar_background #15121C
    ## normal
    color0 #6E6C7C
    color1 #E28C8C
    color2 #B3E1A3
    color3 #EADDA0
    color4 #A4B9EF
    color5 #C6AAE8
    color6 #F0AFE1
    color7 #D7DAE0
    ## bright
    color8 #6E6C7C
    color9 #E28C8C
    color10 #B3E1A3
    color11 #EADDA0
    color12 #A4B9EF
    color13 #C6AAE8
    color14 #F0AFE1
    color15 #D7DAE0
    color16 #ECBFBD
    color17 #3E4058

    Configuring awesomewm

The default configuration file resides in ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua.

In order to configure autostart programs we need to create a new executable ~/.config/awesome/

# See

run() {
  if ! pgrep -f "$1" ;

run "~/.config/polybar/"

Then add the following line to the ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua to run the autorun script whenever the window manager is starts up:


Configuring the Status Bar

This guide is inspired by the installation guide provided by [27].

  1. For this we use [28], install it with
pacman -Syu polybar
  1. Copy the default configuration to the ~/.config/polybar folder
mkdir ~/.config/polybar
cp /etc/polybar/config.ini ~/.config/polybar/
  1. Adapt the configuration to suit your needs.

  2. Run polybar with a window manager (awesomewm) by creating a executable in ~/.config/polybar/


# Terminate already running bar instances
killall -q polybar
# If all your bars have ipc enabled, you can also use
# polybar-msg cmd quit

# Launch Polybar, using default config location ~/.config/polybar/config.ini
polybar mybar 2>&1 | tee -a /tmp/polybar.log & disown

echo "Polybar launched..."
  1. Execute the ~/.config/polybar/ when the window manager’s autorun script is called (see Section 5.2), by adding the following line to the ~/.config/awesome/
run "$HOME/.config/polybar/"
  1. Set up a polybar module for awesomewm to show the current open windows. Follow the installation guide from [29].

Other Resources


[1] supaboss, “nobara-dotfiles,” GitHub. Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[2] "General recommendations - ArchWiki." Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[3] “Wayland.” Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[4] “X.Org.” Oct. 2020 [Online]. Available:

[5] Dimitrios, “Linux Jargon Buster: What is a Display Server in Linux? What is it Used for?It’s FOSS, Dec. 2021 [Online]. Available:

[6] Contributors to Wikimedia projects, “Window manager - Wikipedia.” Oct. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[7] “Window Managers.” Jun. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[8] “AwesomeWM,” awesome window manager. Sep. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[9] "bspwm," GitHub. Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[10] “Wayland - ArchWiki.” Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[11] "Cardboard / cardboard $\cdot$ GitLab," GitLab. Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[12] "i3 - improved tiling wm." Oct. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[13] “Openbox.” Nov. 2014 [Online]. Available:

[14] A. Sharma, “Compositors in Linux,” DEV Community xn–1uga01807aca52bc, Apr. 2020 [Online]. Available:

[15] "Display manager - ArchWiki." Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[16] "lightdm," GitHub. Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[17] sddm, “sddm,” GitHub. Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[18] "Terminal emulators - ArchWiki." Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[19] "kitty." Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[20] “XTERM.” Jun. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[21] vn971, “rua,” GitHub. Dec. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[22] davatorium, “rofi,” GitHub. Dec. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[23] dylanaraps, “neofetch,” GitHub. Dec. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[24] “Arch User Repository.” Dec. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[25] "AUR helpers - ArchWiki." Dec. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[26] CrypticSky, “r/unixporn - [i3-gaps] Picturesque,” reddit. Dec. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[27] “Polybar - ArchWiki.” Nov. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[28] “Polybar,” Polybar.github. Oct. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[29] tam-carre, “polywins,” GitHub. Dec. 2022 [Online]. Available:

[30] "The Basics of Ricing Linux." Nov. 2016 [Online]. Available:

Peter W. Egger
Peter W. Egger
Software Engineer / Data Scientist

Maker culture enthusiast and aspiring data scientist.