Which DE is compatible with i3 and looks sharp with HiDPI scaling?

Hi everyone! I love the idea behind EndeavourOS, thanks for making it possible.

I started out using XFCE because I wanted something lightweight and snappy. I want to work with i3, but have a desktop environment handling the system management stuff in the background. I followed this tutorial that everyone recommends and got XFCE + i3 working: https://feeblenerd.blogspot.com/2015/11/pretty-i3-with-xfce.html

But, I don’t like how XFCE handles HiDPI scaling. I have a 4k screen and one thing I like about it is that even when I scale my main laptop (a mac) up 2x, the fonts look much crisper and easier to read than on a 1080p monitor with 1x scaling. Call me pedantic but it makes my eyes much less tired when I spent all day reading text on a screen.

But with XFCE, this isn’t the case. I tried scaling everything to ‘0.5’ on XFCE 4.16, and sure the sizes seem right, but the text is pretty blurry and not very sharp. In fact it actually seems clearer if I use 1080p resolution and no scaling.

So, is there any desktop environment that I can use together with i3, but also handles scaling in a better way, ie the fonts look clear and sharp when scaled up on a 4k screen? Or would i3 alone be better (but then what can I use for system management)?


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what is in your eyes ‘system management’ ?

i3 wm with rofi or sway with wofi, is usable, it need some configure…

as every desktop environ ment all is configured in the session to load what it need , background / panel & wm … i3 wm direct dont need such session, that is mostly you self configure what you use for menu or file manager etc… thats with every WM… as 4k i dont know mayby bit more work , and as it works is more satifsy :slight_smile:

I guess by ‘system management’ I heard that DEs take care of a lot of stuff behind the scenes that I might miss…eg logging in the user and launching the session, and it also seems like they provide GUI for configuring all the user settings. You’re saying all that I would do with the command line then?

Desktop environmens like kde , do launch standard baloo and sort stuf you might not need…system itself does already logging for stuf … but for 4k screen is mostly the WM making a difference…

with i3 you mainly control your session you want in your wm what you use, logging or background programs might not need you dont have to affraid in i3… you know what it is…
xfce versus kde&gnome they do way more background software then xfce… but basicly is all what you autostart from startup… i3wm is mostly get used to how it works. then it can come fast.

I run XFCE on a 27" 4K monitor, and I find that scaling is unneccesary (for most scenarios). I change the dpi settings, and font sizes, and utilize WindowManager with larger (38 pixel) sizes, and it all works fine - and remains sharp.

I did a wiki-like post a while back on what I do, and never have yet updated it, or put it on the wiki here - but here’s the post - you might find that it works for you too…?

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I agree scaling isn’t necessarily the way to go or better. I use the DPI also and font size can also make a difference. On KDE the global setting works well for me although i don’t have a larger 4k screen to test it on.

Thanks for replying! I actually read through that post you linked before posting this thread, but I got a bit confused, because I saw in another post in this forum you said you don’t actually use all the options that you described in that post. For example, the post has stuff about GDK_SCALE and GDK_DPI_SCALE but I read you say that you don’t use those?

Would you mind saying which settings in particular you have changed on XFCE? Is it just the font DPI? That still leave all the ‘title’ text of the windows too tiny to read, and also some of the text of other apps (eg Jetbrains apps which are Java apps I think). I use i3, so maybe there is some other setting I need to change?

Would love to get XFCE working well if that’s an option :slight_smile:

You are a very prime example for someone that might be interested in giving my tutorial a try. Give it a go, you may find this to be the DE you’ve been waiting for. Post in the thread if you come across any questions!

My next suggestion would be KDE + THE khronkite script for window tiling.

Thanks for the link! I’ve actually got XFCE working well with i3 already, but my problem there is getting it to work with a 4k 27" screen, I can’t get everything to scale up properly and still have the fonts remain sharp/clear

That is exactly the project I have been working on in the past two days! Have some troubles syncing my i3wm setup and xfce for high dpi 4k screen.

Edit: for i3 this is what I use

Will see how to handle xfce.

The GDK_SCALE ertc stuff is essentially doing the same as setting scale in the settings app - too much for me. I change the DPI as I mentioned, and ALL the font sizes, including in Window Manager settings. Along with the larger titlebars, the result is quite good.

The only other size-related things I set are either application specific - or refer to QT settings (which are separate). For instance, I set the following:


to get reasonable results on QT apps (featherpad, kid3-qt, kolourpaint etc). I have a few screenshots posted in the Share Your Desktop thread, so you can see how it works out…