Yabai - Efficient window management on macOS

Sumit Kumar Singh

Are you tired of dragging windows around and resizing them everytime you open or close an app in your workspace?

For the past several years I have tried numerous window management softwares like Moom, Spectacle and Rectangle.

I was using Rectangle since last year and was quite happy with the ability to move windows around quickly with keyboard shortcuts. I used to work on a multiple monitor setup, so it was easy to manage multiple windows and partitions on big screens.

Desk Setup

I was working on Linux for a while and bumped on i3wm, which is a tiling window manager. The nicest thing about a tiling manager is you can control nearly everything from the keyboard.

It’s very quick and easy to set up side-by-side windows, and resizing one automatically resizes the other. It really helps on smaller screens, since by default everything takes full space on screen with minimal window decoration.

As I switched back to my 13” Macbook again, I felt the lack of efficient window management on macOS. I started searching for a solution and found this open source project Yabai.

I use most of my IDE and terminal in full screen now due to the shortage of screen size. Whenever I open an app, it splits the previously active and new window in half and after closing it, the active window restores to full screen in a snap. That saves me few extra clicks of resizing the windows again and again.

This has improved my workflow and increased my productivity a lot.

You can follow the steps below to quickly get it running on your system.

Step 1: Disable System Integrity Protection

# If you're on macOS 10.14 and above, run
csrutil enable --without debug --without fs

# If you're on macOS 10.13, run
csrutil disable

csrutil status

Step 2: Install Homebrew

Homebrew is a package manager for macOS. Similar to pacman on arch or aptitude on ubuntu

Open Terminal and run

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install.sh)"

Step 3: Install Yabai

brew install koekeishiya/formulae/yabai

Start yabai service

brew services start yabai

You will get a prompt to allow yabai accessibility permissions. You can navigate to Security & Privacy, then Privacy, then Accessibility.

Accessibility Yabai

Now install the scripting addition.

sudo yabai --install-sa

Restart Dock.app to load the scripting addition

killall Dock

Step 3: Configure Yabai

Create a configuration file and make it executable

touch ~/.yabairc
chmod +x ~/.yabairc

There are multiple options for configuration you can put in yabairc file. Important configuration for tiling is binary space partitioning layout (bsp)

yabai -m config layout                       bsp

I also like to keep the auto balance on. In this configuration, windows always occupy the same space, independent of how deeply nested they are in the window tree.

yabai -m config auto_balance                 on

Make sure to restart the service to see the changes

brew services restart yabai

Here is a small demo of the working setup.

Let me know your experience after using this window manager 🤟.

#productivity  #development  #macos 

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