Using Wayland

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Introduction

The goal of this page is to relate experiences using Wayland working implementations, software replacement from the X11 world and so on.

Duck: please note I'm a former AwesomeWM user thus I'm not looking into major desktop implementations like GNOME or KDE but I'm trying to mix interesting pieces to fit my needs better. You can have a look at my configuration in my repository (Ansible rules).

Compositors

There's many Wayland compositor projects around but a lot are very experimental and many even already abandoned.

Working or prospective compositors follows.

Sway

(updated for 1.6)

Status: very active project, created a wlroots framework to share with other compositors, version 1.1+ is usable with some glitches, seamless xwayland integration

Packaging: in Debian with wlroots and swaybg

Notable problems:

  • copy-paste problems between Wayland and XWayland (segfaults, freezes, or simply stops working) mostly fixed in 1.6, experiencing hangs while pasting into certain apps (FF, Thunderbird, maybe Signal-desktop)
  • games under Wine may hang if run fullscreen and switching workspace (but windowed using the full screen size often works; using a virtual desktop is also a working option)
  • dialogs hidden under their parent (annoying with specific applications relying on child windows but most don't and there is a workaround)
  • contextual popup or menu not working yet (affects tray and IME completion selection, see below for IME solutions)

Way Cooler (spiritual successor of AwesomeWM)

Status: was being rewritten on top of wlroots but was unfortunately abandoned at the beginning of 2020. I need some time to cope with the sadness and remove this entry.

Tools

Display Manager

Bars

  • swaybar: Wayland (display workspaces, current window title, tray, time, CPU infos…)
    • integrated with sway, can use various commands to display stuff (i3status works fine and is packaged in Debian)
    • Status: works fine but tray support is limited (icon may be missing, contextual menu not working, WIP)
  • Waybar: Wayland (more fancy bar)

Session

  • swaylock: Wayland (lock screen)
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine
  • swayidle: Wayland (run custom actions on idle and back from idle)
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine and handle various events

Application Menu Runner

  • wofi: Wayland
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine
    • Usage: wofi --term=x-terminal-emulator
  • j4-dmenu-desktop + bemenu: X11 Wayland
    • j4-dmenu-desktop only is packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine
    • Usage: j4-dmenu-desktop --dmenu='bemenu --list 10 --wrap --ignorecase --no-overlap --prompt "Run:" --fn "pango:DejaVu Sans Mono 12"' --term=x-terminal-emulator
  • dmenu: X11
    • packaged in Debian (suckless-tools)
    • Status: works fine but impossible to switch back to it if you loose focus (need to kill it in a term)
    • Usage: dmenu_path | dmenu -p "Run:" -l 10 | xargs swaymsg exec

Notifications / Screen Overlay

  • mako: Wayland (notifications):
    • packaged in Debian (mako-notifier)
    • works fine
  • wob: Wayland (progressbar)
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine
  • xfce4-notifyd: X11 (notifications):
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine but display in the middle of the screen thus not very practical

Input Method

  • fcitx5: X11 Wayland
  • fcitx4: X11
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: untouched config from X11 works but completion menu may not be displayed; running fcitx-autostart fixed it (you may need to killall fcitx first)
  • ibus: X11 Wayland
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: ibus-wayland is available and was switched to using a newer version of the wayland input protocol (see Debian#905001 and linked upstream BR) but Sway use an even newer version (and this one only); I was not able to make completion work at the time but the bug is closed and I guess it's working now but I have not tested it.

So here are the various protocols:

Terminal

Screen Capture

  • grim: Wayland (screenshot)
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine
  • wf-recorder: Wayland (screen recorder)
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine
  • xdg-desktop-portal-wlr: Wayland (screenshot, screencast, and possibly remote-desktop)
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: experimental, requires pipewire >=0.3 and FF >=84; tested screencast with FF and GMeet, it worked but takes a few seconds to initialize and sometimes hang and it may not be possible to get it to work again withotu restarting Sway; currently sharing a specific window or output is not yet possible.

Screen Brightness

  • light:
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine
  • brightnessctl:
    • packaged in Debian (brightness-udev is needed to be usable as non-root)
    • Status: works fine

Browser

Electron Apps

The Electronframework is based on Chromium/Ozone which now has a Wayland backend. Support in Electron came in version 12 which enables Ozone. Detection of Wayland environment is not automatic yet. Currently Electron does not support client-side decorations at the moment, but on tiling compositors like Sway that's not a problem though. Moreover IME are not working yet.

To enable Wayland on the following applications you need to add the following options on the command line (or edit you .desktop file): --enable-features=UseOzonePlatform --ozone-platform=wayland

  • signal-desktop: X11
    • not packaged in Debian but upstream provides a package for Ubuntu that works on Debian
    • Status: works fine on XWayland, native Wayland support is WIP and working fine so far
  • VSCodium: X11 (OpenSource distribution of Visual Studio Code without telemetry and tracking)
    • not packaged in Debian but upstream provides a working package
    • Status: works fine on XWayland, native Wayland support is WIP and working fine so far

Misc Apps

  • Emacs: X11
  • libreoffice: X11 Wayland
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine on XWayland, native Wayland support if using the GTK3 backend (with the extra libreoffice-gtk3 package) and working well too
  • netevent: (Input-Event device cloning utility)
    • use case: if you wish to control several machines with the same keyboard and mouse, like with a KVM switch, then you can use devices from one to control others and switch machine using a special key
    • not packaged in Debian but materials provided upstream (needs this update though)
    • Status: works fine
  • thunderbird: X11 Wayland
  • wl-gammactl: Wayland
    • not packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine
  • wl-clipboard: Wayland
    • packaged in Debian
    • Status: works fine

Workarounds

GUI Frameworks

GTK uses GDK to draw and support for Wayland exists but a few things are missing thus it is not enabled by default. Other frameworks do not always enable Wayland by default depending on distro and version.

Currently this works fine (in ~/.xsessionrc):

# ensure GUI frameworks use Wayland
# breaks a few apps or behaviors (Chromium, Emacs…)
export GDK_BACKEND=wayland
export CLUTTER_BACKEND=wayland
export QT_QPA_PLATFORM=wayland-egl
# breaks a few apps or behaviors (Unity…)
#export SDL_VIDEODRIVER=wayland
export ELM_DISPLAY=wl
# enable Wayland on Mozilla apps
export MOZ_ENABLE_WAYLAND=1
export MOZ_WEBRENDER=1

Java Applications

Set _JAVA_AWT_WM_NONREPARENTING=1 in your environment (in ~/.xsessionrc) to fix behavior with menus and always on top issues (and maybe others).

Readings