Switching to Wayland (Sway)

Like every other desktop Linux user for the past many years I've used X11. I was on i3wm1 for quite some time until I was introduced to EXWM2 which I used exclusively for about 18 months, I've even held a talk3 about it. But at some point it got too annoying, for example in multi monitor use cases.

At this point my first step was to go back to set up i3wm again. With that set up I wanted to give SwayWM4 another attempt, it was years ago I've checked it out before. I think my previous experience was when the project was new. At that point (if I remember correctly), not even the window decorations looked like the ones in i3wm.

Key map

As a US Dvorak typist that sometimes types Swedish, I have opinions about key maps. Since I used xmodmap before to customize my key map to make it work for me, I needed to replicate this for Sway.

It took some tinkering, but I've ended up with the following custom key map:

// This file defines my own custom keymap. More information about which
// parts that gets included are available in the different subfolders in:
// /usr/share/X11/xkb/
xkb_keymap {
  xkb_keycodes { include "evdev+aliases(qwerty)" };
  xkb_types    { include "default" };
  xkb_compat   { include "complete" };
  xkb_symbols  {
    include "pc+us(dvorak)+inet(evdev)+ctrl(nocaps)+eurosign(e)+kpdl(dot)"

    // Less than/Greater than/Pipe key on Swedish keyboards becomes Compose
    replace key <LSGT> { [ Multi_key ] };

    // Scroll Lock becomes Compose
    replace key <SCLK> { [ Multi_key ] };
  };
  xkb_geometry { include "pc(pc105)" };
};

I put that as a file somewhere, and then I have the following in my sway configuration:

input "type:keyboard" {
  xkb_file /path/to/xkb/file
}

Browsers

I use Firefox as my main browser, it works mostly fine native on Wayland. It happens now and then that I encounter things that are less than perfect (especially at work) where I'll give in and run some Blink based browser in Xwayland.

Firefox just needs some convincing with MOZ_ENABLE_WAYLAND=1 in the environment set.

Editor

As a long time Emacs user I'll just keep using Emacs. To begin with I did so in Xwayland - but it had some issues at some point which pushed me to try out the pgtk branch from a user on GitHub. It's been great since I started using it and that branch is now accepted as a feature branch on Savannah, so now I hope it's mainlined before Emacs 28.

Screen sharing

It works! *

See Detailed setup of screen sharing in Wayland (Sway) for more detailed notes on getting this to work.

* It works to do full screen sharing using pipewire, xdg-desktop-portals and xdg-desktop-portals-wlr. This requires the right environment variables - then it works fine, with the limitation that you can only share the entire screen - but not single windows.

This limitation is extra annoying when using an ultra wide monitor5 since nobody else can actually see this stream properly. One hacky workaround I have for this is to run a browser in Xwayland which makes it possible to share other Xwayland applications. Then to have an Emacs instance running in Xwayland, then I can share that Emacs window. Since Emacs is so flexible I can share most things through that.

To get Firefox screen share to work, NixOS have pulled in some patches from Fedora, then you just run it in Wayland mode and it's fine.

Chrome has a flag to enable pipewire support.

I know there's a flag that can be provided to xdg-desktop-portals-wlr to specify which screen to share. I'm not sure how to manage that easily in a multi screen environment.

Miscellaneous applications

  • Screenshots: grim -g $(slurp) - | swappy -f -
  • Back light: acpiilight
  • Lock screen: swaylock & swayidle
  • Notifications: mako
  • PDF Viewer: emacs with pdf-tools
  • Launcher: rofi in Xwayland (I should look into wofi some day)
  • Image viewer: emacs or feh in Xwayland
  • Graphical display settings: wdisplays is great!
  • Command line display settings: wlr-randr

Conclusions

My road to Wayland with Sway have for sure have had a couple of road bumps. The only real bump that has been a software limitation has been how screen sharing works, but I've found workarounds for these situations that works for me.

The overall experience have been a much nicer Linux desktop, there's no tearing, everything just gives the perception and feels faster and smoother.

Footnotes:

2

Emacs X Window Manager – https://github.com/ch11ng/exwm

3

EXWM Talk – ~/talks/

5

Previous post: Ultra wide monitor

Date: 2021-02-17 Wed 22:00

Author: Elis Hirwing <elis@hirwing.se>

Created: 2021-05-23 Sun 15:02