Floating and Sticky Windows in BSPWM

linux   bspwm   index

BSPWM is a tiling window manager, with various interesting and unique features that I haven’t seen anywhere else. One of these features is sticky floating windows.

A sticky window, is one that persists on all workspaces all at once. In other words, once you mark a window as ‘sticky’, it will stick to its place even when you switch to another workspace.

This feature works best with floating windows, because a tiled window will behave unpredictably on another workspace with existing tiles.

We can make windows floating and sticky, manually, with the following commands.

# set to floating
bspc node -t floating

# set to sticky 
bspc node -g sticky

Obviously, these can be mapped to keys with sxhkd. But, we can also define rules, to set these properties automatically with bspc rule.

These rules work based on the window class and instance names, which we can retrieve using xprop. Look for WM_CLASS and WM_NAME.

At first glance, it may not seem obvious what this may be used for, so here are a few of the ways that I used it.


I have an ultrawide monitor, so it works well for me, to send all mpv windows to a corner of my screen. Moreover, I can freely switch between workspaces while still keeping the mpv screen in view. This can also work with the Firefox Picture-in-Picture window.

Here is the relevant bspwmrc config:

bspc rule -a mpv \
     state=floating sticky=on follow=off focus=on \
bspc rule -a "*:Toolkit:Picture-in-Picture" \
     state=floating sticky=on follow=off focus=on \


Onboard is an onscreen keyboard. I use it on the desktop for typing words in languages that I don’t know, but sometimes need.

bspc rule -a Onboard state=floating sticky=on


There are some terminal based programs, like volume controls or calculators, that this may apply as well.

But, since we don’t want all terminals to open floating and sticky, we need to define our own class when running, and map our rule to this class only.

Here is my sxhkd definition, for terminal based programs that I intend to run as sticky/floating.

super + x ; {c,v}
    alacritty --class progterm -e {qalc -nocurrencies,pulsemixer}

And the rule in bspwmrc:

bspc rule -a Alacritty:progterm state=floating sticky=on

Note, that other terminals may use different switches for the class, for example xterm is -class.