Woah, is that an upgraded blog? Yes.
First I want to mention that blog posts are now being written in Markdown and
converted to HTML and RSS feeds on the fly by a PHP script I hacked together.
Formatting in the RSS feeds should be a lot nicer now, and I don't have to
do anything beyond write the Markdown and put the file in the
directory. But that's the reason you now once again have duplicate blog posts.
I apologize for that.
Today I want to talk about something a little different. I've talked about the software I use in the past, but not really my system as a whole. If you've used spde in the past, you're already familiar with it because it sets up a system nearly identical to mine, except it doesn't have any of my files on it.
I apologize in advance for the ridiculous length of this blog post, I know it's long, but I wanted to go into detail about absolutely everything. Despite the long length of this blog post though, I still have not said everything I have to say. Insane, I know. I do not expect that you read all of this, but I want to truly document why I do what I do.
Regardless, I thought I'd write about my workflow, to hopefully give you some ideas on how you could potentially improve yours. Or at the very least, you could point out the flaws in my workflow so I can improve mine.
These are the goals for my workflow. If possible, everything I use should be designed around these goals. They are:
- Use the mouse as little as possible.
- Some applications like the web browser just suck by design. In those cases I don't make any attempt to fix it.
- Use text as much as possible, because then I can use Vim which doesn't use the mouse.
- Get stuff done as quickly as possible. I need to be able to write code, text and documents quickly. The quicker the better.
- Some, but not too much eyecandy.
- Ideally written in C/C++ or shell script as well. But that's just because it's what I'm most familiar with, and I like being able to fix bugs in programs I use by myself. Of course, I would still use a good program even if it wasn't written in a language I know.
My operating system that I actually use is running on top of an Arch system in a QEMU virtual machine. Both the host system and the guest system have full disk encryption, as I believe this should be a standard. The reason I use a virtual machine for the actual work is because it allows me to only pass through some USB devices or some PCIe devices. It also allows me to quickly test different configurations or operating systems, and allows me to quickly back up and restore my system. I still have copies of my Gentoo system that I could restore right now. This is close to time travel as it gets. Awesome.
The system isn't too special, it's a box with a Intel Core i9 10900, 16 GB of DDR4 RAM, an AMD Radeon RX 570 and 580. The reason I have two graphics cards is so I can leave one to the host. If I need two virtual machines to both have decent graphics I can leave the integrated graphics to the host and pass through the two GPUs. These GPUs are quite old now, but I don't play any games on my computer or do any graphically demanding work, so they are fine.
I use Arch Linux on both my laptop and desktop computer. I'm using a GNU/Linux distro because I value freedom and privacy, but also because it is impossible to achieve a good workflow on proprietary operating systems like Windows and macOS.
As for why I choose to use Arch, it gets updates often because it's a rolling release, PKGBUILDs (the format for building pacman packages) are very nice to work with for those who are familiar with shell scripting, and even if you're not into writing your own packages, there's the AUR (Arch User Repository) that users can push and pull from if the package you need isn't available in the main repositories.
While I could probably go with something like Parabola GNU/Linux-libre, my hardware does not fully support it, unfortunately.
I use a standalone window manager (more specifically a dynamic tiling window manager) because allow you to move your windows without using the mouse. The reason I don't use a desktop environment is because a desktop environment comes with all the programs I'm going to mention set up for you. Most of these programs are not designed with the goals I have in mind though, so I would be getting a lot of programs I don't want to use. A window manager as the name implies only manages the windows, and it is up to me to find other programs that do other things I need to do.
Also, this applies to tiling window managers specifically, but instead of placing windows on top of each other, when using a tiling window manager you always have access to every window. This makes a massive difference if you have many windows open all the time. Instead of wasting several seconds snapping windows to the corners of the screen, why not have your window manager automatically split the screen for you?
The window manager I have chosen is as you guys probably know by now, dwm because it's fast and allows plenty of customization because everything is done in the C programming language. Basic customization is easy even with no C knowledge, and patches can be applied to add extra functionality. If you do happen to know C, you can implement a lot of features you want yourself and submit patches to suckless, and if you don't know C it's a great opportunity to learn more about C. This technically makes dwm the most feature rich window manager, AND the most minimal window manager. Very cool.
The best part is because you're forking the dwm window manager, you have the power to do anything you want. suckless can't randomly decide one day that they want to remove a feature that you depend on, or randomly break the project. If your dwm build breaks, it's your fault, because no one else is (presumably) working on it.
If you do not want to patch together a dwm build yourself, you can get mine here.
Most of the programs that I use are terminal applications. Therefore, the terminal emulator is an essential part of my setup. For the same reasons I chose dwm as my window manager, I've chosen st as my terminal emulator of choice. I'd argue st (which stands for simple terminal) has the most features out of any terminal, and most potential for customization and new features. While st by default has many fewer features than xterm, my fork of st for instance has transparency, sixel graphics, clickable URLs, scrollback, keyboard select, ligatures, proper underlines, multi font support, wide glyph support, and more.
While there are terminals that offer these features separately, I have yet to find one that offer all of the above. While st doesn't have all of these out of the box, all of them can be combined into your st fork by using patches. The one notable feature st is missing that some terminal emulators like Alacritty offer is GPU accelerated buffers. But in most cases, this just isn't necessary or noticeable.
This was partially taken from Luke's build of st but if I press Ctrl+Shift+c I get a spmenu list of commands I've ran, and if I select one it will copy the output of that command. It will not run the command again, it will parse the terminal buffer and copy the output text to my clipboard.
Once again, if you do not want to patch together an st build yourself, you can get mine here.
For simple tasks like moving a single file to a different place, I will
usually just use core utilities like
cp to copy files around. But for more
complicated tasks, I will use a program called
vifm. Vifm is a terminal file
manager, but I'm not using it because it's a terminal program. I'm using it because
it's incredibly efficient. It has Vi-style keybinds, doesn't use the mouse, supports
previewing PDFs, images, documents, music cover art and more using
ueberzugpp. It's excellent, and I have yet to find a graphical file manager anywhere
near as efficient.
If you're used to Vim, it will take almost no time to learn it.
dd deletes a line
in Vim, so naturally
dd deletes a file or directory in Vifm.
cw changes a
word in Vim, so in Vifm is renames a file or directory.
yy copies (yanks)
a line in Vim, so in Vifm it copies a file or directory. It has two panes, one of
which can be used as either a preview pane, or a second pane, allowing you to
for example quickly copy between one directory and another. Speaking of Vim..
The text editor I use should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following my blog for a while. If there is one skill I want every single person on the planet to learn it is the Vim text editor. Vim is the most important program in my workflow, and if I could only have one of the programs I mentioned in the blog post, it would definitely be Vim. Actually, more specifically Neovim. Neovim is just a fork of Vim which is more community oriented that also adds Lua scripting support and supports the XDG standard.
The reason you should use Vim is because it doesn't use the mouse for anything. While it is possible to use the mouse if you go out of your way to enable it, Vim is designed to be operated using exclusively the keyboard. Tasks that take a long time with a standard text editor, such as indenting thousands of lines, replacing complicated text becomes tasks that can be performed in seconds. And seemingly simple tasks like moving around in a file can be performed significantly faster with Vim. The mouse is no longer holding you back.
While it is true that it can have a steep learning curve, once you've actually
learned it, you will regret not having learned it earlier. Vim changes the way
you see and use programs, it changes the way you believe programs should be
designed. It's incredible. The "steep learning curve" isn't as bad though,
when you consider the fact that you can still use arrow keys when you begin
and the mouse to move between lines. So if you're coming from a simple text
editor you don't have to learn all of Vim's quirks all at once. You can
(and will) gradually learn it. You start with arrow keys, then start using
hjkl for movement and other basic keys like
Vim is already an upgrade from your standard text editor out of the box, but if you want the text editor of your dreams, one that can match your IDE or at the very least edit text at the speed of light, you can bind keys in your configuration. The ones that changed my life are:
nnoremap <C-h> <C-w>h
nnoremap <C-j> <C-w>j
nnoremap <C-k> <C-w>k
nnoremap <C-l> <C-w>l
nnoremap H :vertical resize +10<cr>
nnoremap J :resize -10<cr>
nnoremap K :resize +10<cr>
nnoremap L :vertical resize -10<cr>
If you can't tell already, these allow you to split your Vim window into
different sections using keybinds and resize those sections. If you want
a more proper IDE, you can use Vim plugins, which add functionality to it.
One of the most important plugins I use is
Ctrlp which allows you to quickly
open files recursively in your current working directory. I usually bind
Ctrl+F but you can bind it to anything you want.
If you have a true color terminal (which you do if you use the aforementioned st) you have basically unlimited possibilities for customization. While images are a bit tricky, they can certainly be done.
Again, if you don't feel like doing all that configuration, you can get my configuration for Neovim here.
I like music, and I don't like music players that suck. Most of them suck, unfortunately. cmus is pretty nice though. It's fast and light, primarily because it's written in C and is a terminal application. While it's not entirely like Vim, it uses commands for navigation, supports playlists, metadata, and more. Pretty much all the basic media player functionality you could imagine. I've also heard of people using Ueberzug or similar to display the cover art inside cmus, but that isn't something I've tried yet.
You can control it without having the main program open using
Not only can you do basic media control with it such as next and previous track,
pause, shuffle, repeat, etc. but you can also use it to query information about
the playing track and cmus
itself. This is useful in shell scripts, and I'm using this with my conky config
to display the metadata and cover art for the playing track, and I'm also using
it with my status bar. This is really nice.
I've tried and used other music players in the past, such as Musique, moc, musikcube, but all of them lack features I need. I still use musikcube occasionally, because it has a really nice feature. You can run musikcube on the computer that contains your music and other computers on your network can connect to it. You can even use a web server like Apache with it if you want.
Either way, there isn't that much to say about cmus, it's just excellent, and
doesn't really require any configuration whatsoever. You just start it, add
a music directory using
:add ~/Music, update metadata using
and play your music.
For email client, I use another terminal application called
doesn't have Vi-style keybinds by default, but it can be customized significantly.
In this case though, I haven't bothered and instead I simply use a script
by Luke Smith called mutt wizard.
This script is very nice because it sets up mutt with appropriate inboxes,
downloads all the mail for you, sets up syncing and sets up neomutt with a sane
config for people who like Vi-style keybinds.
Of course, if you don't want to use Luke's script, you can definitely go and configure neomutt yourself. In fact I did this in the past. But for an ideal setup you need other programs along with it, and it's a lot to manage and set up. Luke's setup works perfectly for me, so all I do is install mutt wizard, log in and everything is ready to go and I can start syncing my emails.
I use RSS for media consumption, and this is for several reasons. RSS gives you what you want, and ONLY what you want. Nothing else. Most sites that people use like YouTube, Reddit and Twitter offer RSS feeds that you can use to get media. Odysee recently added RSS feeds as well, which is very nice. In fact, you might be reading this very blog post in an RSS reader.
Either way, I use a program called newsboat as my RSS reader. While it is a
bit bloated in terms of dependencies, it gets the job done, and it is quite
scriptable. It is also very easy to get into, you just add a few lines to
~/.config/newsboat/config and add your feeds to
and you're ready to go. Very nice.
I also use some scripts along with newsboat, that I can use to open, for
example videos in mpv, or other links in my web browser. I also have
a script to download videos using
yt-dlp so I can watch them later
locally without an internet connection.
My newsboat configuration can be found here if you don't want to deal with any of the configuration yourself. Keep in mind it doesn't come with any urls file though.
For viewing images, I use a program called
nsxiv. It is a fork of the
sxiv image viewer. Not too much to say here, but nsxiv is a very
scriptable image viewer. It can handle pretty much all types of images
you can imagine, it loads them in and displays them quickly.
It is controlled primarily using keybinds. It has pretty much all the features
you expect out of an image viewer, but also more specific features such
-o flag, which will output the path to the
images you mark. You can mark an image using the
m key. This is a super
For media playback, I use mpv. I've used VLC in the past, and while that's an okay player, it is a bit too bloated for me, and I don't really like the QT look it has. mpv is controlled primarily using keybinds, but can also be used with the mouse if all you need is basic features.
mpv has some pretty cool features though, such as YouTube playback using
youtube-dl. The nice thing about this is that there are plugins like
sponsorblock which as the name implies will skip sponsor segments in
YouTube videos. I would like to see VLC do this.
There are other nice scripts for mpv like downloading lyrics for music and displaying it and I think you can even get a script which streams from a piracy site if that's something you are into. Either way, mpv is excellent and almost perfect, from the way they treat their users on Twitter, to the playback, to the possible customization.
Bluetooth, Wifi, Wallpapers, and more
One interesting thing about my setup is that I use scripts for a lot of things. There is far too much to note here, so I will dedicate this section to the different scripts I use.
For bluetooth, I've written a script that uses
spmenu which interacts with the command
bluetoothctl. While you can do this using a GUI program
like blueman, this is incredibly fast. I just press
and it will automatically scan for devices to connect to. Most people
probably won't even have their bluetooth manager open when I'm already
connected to the device.
Same goes for wifi, but here the script is a wrapper for
For wallpapers, I'm once again using spmenu. I have a script that lists out my wallpapers and allows me to pick one. It also previews the images right there, no need for any external image viewers or anything. And when I choose a wallpaper, I have that work alongside my browser start page and window manager. When I select a wallpaper, the function in my config will use Pywal to get colors from that image and theme my terminal, status bar, web browser and web browser start page accordingly. And when my terminal emulator is themed, all TUI programs will be colored as well.
I have a lot more of these scripts, it never ends. I use similar spmenu scripts for clipboard management, password management, screen recording, taking screenshots and more. Scripts are incredibly useful.
Run launcher and bookmarking
For run launcher, I use spmenu_run. It handles both .desktop entries, traditional $PATH binaries, and even basic file management. Funnily enough, if you use spmenu_run on GNOME and plug in a device like a USB flash drive, it will actually ask if you want to open it in spmenu_run.
Bookmarking is also done using spmenu_run. If I type in
@ I can
get a list of bookmarks I've added, and I select one it will copy
the link to the clipboard. (or run any other command I want it to)
I will add entries using
@Cool link:echo https://cool.com | xclip -sel clipboard. I find
this more useful than regular bookmarks because I can run any
command I want, not just copy links to my clipboard. It's incredibly
versatile and customizable. I should note that I will still
occasionally use my browser's built in bookmarking though.
I won't go too much into detail, but the web browser I use is Ungoogled Chromium. I've chosen this web browser because although the codebase is anything but minimal, it has a clean user interface, can be themed with the rest of my system, runs very quickly on both new and old systems, respects your privacy, and can be extended using extensions.
I don't use that many extensions. I use uBlock Origin because an ad
blocker is essential if you want to use the modern web. There's just
no way around it. I also use Vimium, which adds basic Vim motions to
Chromium, and notably the
f (follow) functionality. This
was taken from Qutebrowser and allows you to navigate web pages
exclusively using the keyboard. I usually use JShelter as well, which
prevents some, but not all fingerprinting and other malicious things
websites like to do. It's not perfect, something like GNU IceCat would
be a LOT better for security, but this is good enough for me.
If you want to read more about why I like Ungoogled Chromium, check out my article titled Ungoogled Chromium - The best browser for most people.
For reading PDFs, I use Zathura. The reason I use it as my PDF reader is because it opens instantly, has Vi-style keybinds, and supports everything a basic reader should, such as printing. Zathura can be themed, and so can the documents. I have it set to always use a dark theme, because a blinding white page isn't very nice.
Not too much to say here, if you know how to navigate in Vim, you know exactly how to navigate in Zathura. It's that simple.
I write almost everything in Markdown. The only exception is this website. But even then, the blog posts themselves are written in Markdown.
I like Markdown because it can be converted to any format you want using programs like Pandoc. All the software I write now uses Pandoc to generate man pages. It is really convenient.
Alright.. so, that's my system, I guess. As you can tell, it's heavily designed around Vim like programs and the command line. If you were wondering why I'm such a big fan of the UNIX philosophy, specifically the "handle text streams", this is why.
I believe I've perfected my setup now, which shows because I haven't been doing any major changes to my setup or workflow all year. I did briefly attempt to move over to Wayland a while ago, and while I did manage to rewrite my scripts to support both X11 and Wayland, I have decided to stick with X11 and my dwm fork.
Anyways, I think that's all I have to say. Have a good day!