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How to use the Pop!_OS Tiling feature (and why you should)

If you're looking to up your efficiency game on the Linux desktop, you might consider a tiling window manager, which Pop!_OS includes out of the box.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
A woman uses a laptop at a sunny cafe table.
Alissa Kumarova/Shutterstock

All computer desktops are created equal, right? 


Unless you've been around the desktop block a few times, you might not be aware that some desktop interfaces are far more efficient than others. And it's not only about usability, it's also about making everything work as seamlessly as possible and helping create an environment for the user that is efficient and simple.

Linux has that in spades. You'll find a plethora of different desktops available, some of which will be immediately familiar and simple to use, and others that offer more features and complications. 

Also: How to choose the right Linux desktop distribution

There's one type of window manager that is like nothing you've ever used before, which is the tiling window manager. I've already covered what the best tiling window managers are, which also explains exactly what a tiling window manager is. 

For those that don't want to take the time to read the original piece, a tiling window manager is one that intelligently places newly opened windows for you, in such a way as to lay out all open windows using the most space available on the desktop. With this type of window manager, you don't have to worry about arranging and organizing the desktop such that you can work with applications side by side. It's easy and efficient.

It's also very different than any desktop you've ever used. So, for the average user, there is a bit of a learning curve involved.

That's why the Pop!_OS solution is ideal. With System76's Pop!_OS, you can easily switch between the regular Cosmic desktop or the tiling version. Everything you need to do this is included with the operating system, so it's far easier than you might have thought.

How to use the Pop!_OS Tiling feature (and why you should)

How easy is it? Let me show you.


The only thing you'll need is a computer (desktop or laptop) running Pop!_OS. I'll be demonstrating on a System76 Thelio desktop computer, running Pop!_OS 22.04.

Also: Pop!_OS might have a complicated name but it makes using Linux so easy 

1. Open the Tile Windows popup

In the system tray of your desktop (the top right corner), you should see an icon that looks like three rectangles together. Click that icon to reveal the Tile Windows popup menu.

The Pop!_OS COSMIC Desktop system tray.

The tiling window icon is the farthest on the left.

Image: Jack Wallen

2. Enable Tile Windows

From the Tile Windows popup, click the ON/OFF slider at the top until it's in the ON position. As soon as you turn Tile Windows on, every open window on your desktop will automatically be organized.

Tile Windows toggle bar

Turn on Tile Windows.

Image: Jack Wallen

3. Get better organized

You might find all of your windows are placed in tall columns. With certain applications that could be challenging. Fortunately, you can arrange those windows as needed. 

To do so, you only need to click and drag the app title bar. Say, for example, you have three applications open and the Tile Windows feature organizes them side by side, which might cramp a window horizontally. 

You could drag the center window to the bottom left corner such that the left half of the screen is taken up by a single application and the right half is taken up by two applications, splitting the space horizontally. 

Also: What are AppImages and how do you use them on Linux?

You can navigate between the tiled windows by using the Super key and arrow key combinations to move right, left, up, or down. You can also select a window with your mouse, but using the keyboard is always more efficient.

Three apps opened with Pop!_OS Tile Windows enabled.

Apps can easily be arranged by dragging them to different positions.

Image: Jack Wallen

How to add tiling exceptions

You may have an application you'd like to open in regular mode. For example, I prefer to have my email client open without being tiled. That way, I can move the window as needed and resize it accordingly. 

To add an exception, make sure the app is open and then click to open the Tile Windows popup again. From the popup, click Floating Window Exceptions. In the resulting window, click Select, and then select the app you want to add as an exception from your desktop. 

Also: The 3 tiers of Linux distribution difficulty 

You will be prompted to either select that current window or all windows associated with the app. When you're done, that app will appear as normal on the screen, where you can move it, resize it, and minimize it as needed.

The Gnome Workspaces overview.

Select the app you want to add a tiling exception.

Image: Jack Wallen

That, my friends, is all there is to using the Pop!_OS Tiling Window manager option in Pop!_OS. Some of you might not feel at home with this feature, while others will find it the most efficient PC interface available. The best thing about the Pop!_OS solution is that you can use it when needed and turn it off when not. That way, you get the best of both worlds at the flip of a switch.

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