Status Indicators

Add new status indicators to the bar.

The i3bar is the UI component that is displayed by default at the bottom of the screen. To the left is workspace information. This is built-in to i3bar as it's designed to be directly integrated with i3-wm. On the right are various status indicators, which may vary based on which packages are installed. It's common to have the time (i3xrocks-time), notifications (regolith-rofication), and network I/O (i3xrocks-net-traffic). This page describes how to add new status indicators.


In Regolith, status indicators are simply small scripts that run once or on an interval that return text when they complete. This text is interpreted by i3bar and displayed. The program that executes the scripts is called i3xrocks. It is a fork of another program, i3blocks that adds two features that were necessary to support the Regolith desktop environment:

  1. Reading values from Xresources.
  2. Expressing configuration as a set of files, rather than one single file.

i3xrocks is invoked by i3-wm from within the i3 config file. Once started, i3xrocks reads it's configuration from the files it finds in /etc/regolith/i3xrocks/conf.d (or a user directory, see this reference page for details.) The configuration files in /etc/regolith/i3xrocks/conf.d describe, per status indicator, the path to the script to execute, the interval by which to run the script, and other variables that the script may need for it's configuration. Where possible, Xresources should be used to read configuration from, making updates and customizations more consistent.


The scripts that run are typically stored at /usr/share/i3xrocks/ and are generally executable from the command line. For example:

$ /usr/share/i3xrocks/time 
<span color="#E6E1CF"></span><span font_desc="JetBrains Mono Medium 13" color="#E6E1CF"> 05/30 19:06 </span>

You'll notice here some HTML-like formatting, and then the actual date and time. The structure of the data returned by the script can be any text, but to maintain a consistent look in Regolith we use the following convention:

<icon> <text>

The icon is represented by a font icon, or, a font that typically contains symbols rather than text. By default Regolith uses the fonts-materialdesignicons-webfont and other looks use fonts-font-awesome. The particular font and character used by the icon is defined by regolith-look Xresource definitions. For example, by default the icon for time is defined here. When providing your own icon, you can just use one from the installed font for your preferred look, or create a PR in the regolith-styles repo to include your new icon (with a Xresource name) for other users.


Before we saw the output of the time script. Let's deconstruct it:

<span color="#E6E1CF"></span><span font_desc="JetBrains Mono Medium 13" color="#E6E1CF"> 05/30 19:06 </span>

The first span block defines the icon of the status indicator. Notice how it does not specify a font. This is because, without a font specification, the default is used. In the case of Regolith looks, the default font is whatever icon font is specified in Xresources. In Regolith 1.4.1, the default look is lascaille and the icon font is fonts-materialdesignicons-webfont.

This color is read from Xresources in the script, rather than hardcoded. This allows the look of the status indicator to match the installed user's look.

The second span block contains the textual status information. Again we have a color (coming from Xresources), but also now a font. This is the secondary font passed to i3bar in the i3-wm config file. It also comes from Xresources. In general, to load icon character, the icon font and text font, as well as the colors, use the xrescat program with the appropriate keys. For the time script it is this:

LABEL_ICON=${icon:-$(xrescat i3xrocks.label.time )}
LABEL_COLOR=${label_color:-$(xrescat i3xrocks.label.color "#7B8394")}
VALUE_COLOR=${color:-$(xrescat i3xrocks.value.color "#D8DEE9")}
VALUE_FONT=${font:-$(xrescat i3xrocks.value.font "Source Code Pro Medium 13")}

Note the 3rd parameter to i3xrocks is a default value in the case that the key is undefined at runtime.


Status indicators can optionally perform actions when users click on them on the bar. To do this, test if the BUTTON variable has been set, and of so act accordingly. In the case of time, clicking the status causes the date/time preference dialog from GNOME to be loaded:

if [ "x${BUTTON}" == "x1" ]; then
    /usr/bin/i3-msg -q exec "/usr/bin/gnome-control-center --class=floating_window datetime"

conf.d Scripts

Once the script that generates the status text is ready, another configuration file is needed to tell i3xrocks to execute the script. This file should start with a number between 10 - 100 signifying where by default it should be positioned on the bar (bigger numbers are farther to the right.), and then the name of the script. Looking again at the time config block (in /etc/regolith/i3xrocks/conf.d/90_time):

# Date Time

By default, i3xrocks is configured to look in the /usr/share/i3xrocks directory for scripts. So [time] tells i3rocks to execute a script /usr/share/i3xrocks/time. The interval is used to know when to call the script, on a timer. See the i3blocks documentation for more fields and details about this configuration format.


File Count

To create a script that counts the number of text files in the /tmp directory, the command we could use is ls /tmp | wc -l. This returns a number of files and directories. We can make a script (/usr/share/i3xrocks/tmp-count) with the correct formatting like so:


LABEL_ICON=${icon:-$(xrescat i3xrocks.label.tmpfilecount T)}
LABEL_COLOR=${label_color:-$(xrescat i3xrocks.label.color "#7B8394")}
VALUE_COLOR=${color:-$(xrescat i3xrocks.value.color "#D8DEE9")}
VALUE_FONT=${font:-$(xrescat i3xrocks.value.font "Source Code Pro Medium 13")}

COUNT=$(ls /tmp | wc -l)

echo "<span color=\"${LABEL_COLOR}\">$LABEL_ICON</span><span font_desc=\"${VALUE_FONT}\" color=\"${VALUE_COLOR}\">$COUNT</span>" 

Notice how LABEL_ICON has a new key name ending with tmpfilecount and a default value of T. Until/unless regolith-styles is updated as mentioned above to include this new key, general users will not have i3xrocks.label.tmpfilecount defined in their system, so the fallback of T will be used.

Next we need a configuration script (/etc/regolith/i3xrocks/conf.d/50_tmp-count) that integrates our status script into the desktop:

# File Count in /tmp

This config file will render roughly in the middle of the right side of the bar, and will be updated every minute.

Further Reading

As i3xrocks is based on i3blocks with a few minor additions, it is safe to use the excellent and extensive documentation available for the project. Just keep in mind the modular configuration files and that you can reference Xresource keys directly from the config files.