Guide to X11/Window Managers

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Window Managers


A window manager is a program which draws the frames around windows and allows the user to move, resize, iconify, and otherwise manage windows. Unlike with some other window environments, one can find many window managers for X11.

Features and Facilities of Window Managers

Using X11 Without a Window Manager


One can also use X11 without a window manager. Typically, one writes a session script which starts an "xterm" at a "-geometry" location. Keyboard-oriented users may start a keyboard shortcut daemon like xbindkeys and manage windows through Xresources geometry hints or with tools like xdotool.

See the resources at

0-9, a, b, c

  • 2wm An initial version of the stereo window manager written by Anselm Garbe.
  • 3dwm 3D Workspace Manager is a compositing window manager by Niklas Elmqvist and Robert Karlsson.
  • 4dwm The window manager that is normally used on Silicon Graphics workstations running IRIX
  • 9wm An emulation of the Plan 9 Window Manager
  • aegis a scriptable window manager written in C++ (in development)
  • aewm a minimal X window manager written in C
  • aewm++ Based on aewm, but rewritten in C++
  • afterstep A stacking window manager is a continuation of the BowMan window manager... based on fvwm
  • ahwm a small stacking window manager by Alex Hioureanu
  • alloywm A stacking window manager based on aewm
  • alptwm A small fast window manager based on dwm
  • amaterus A GTK+ based stacking window manager
  • amiwm An X11 window manager that tries to make your display look and feel like the Amiga Workbench
  • anarchy A lightweight window manager written in scheme
  • antico A fast and simple window manager based on Qt libraries
  • antiwm A minimal full screen keyboard driven window manager
  • asclassic A classic window manager based on afterstep
  • awesome A highly configurable, next generation dynamic window manager primarily targeted at power users, developers
  • awm The Ardent Window Manager was an early window manager for the X Windowing System.
  • azalea A gnustep window manager based on openbox3
  • badwm A window manager based on evilwm
  • beryl A legacy Xgl compositing window manager, which was later merged with compiz
  • blackbox a small fast and efficient stacking window manager with simple to use menus.
  • bluetile a dynamic window manager
  • blwm FreeBSD: "Portuguese derivative of qvwm, simplified to conserve resources"
  • braintop
  • bspwm An alternative window manager which uses tree-like spacing and changes are triggered with bspc shell commands.
  • calmwm
  • clementine FreeBSD: "Has title bars, iconizing, and styles (unstable)"
  • clfswm
  • compiz Xgl accelerated amazing modular window manager, which matches Apple's Expose, uses a cube for the four desktops, and adds neat effects like window fading, transparent alt-tab window selection, and window warping when dragging at high velocity. After installing, look up shortcut keys.
  • ctwm - Claude's Tab Window Manager is an extension to twm, that provides multiple desktop support and other facilities
  • cwm Included in OpenBSD. Excellent code base, very minimal system requirements. OpenBSD: "cwm has several novel features, including the ability to search for windows. It features a very simple and attractive aesthetic."

d, e, f, g

  • dtwm - the CDE window manager
  • dwemo
  • dwm - dynamic window manager
  • dxwm - a window manager used on DECwindows workstations
  • e16
  • e17
  • echinus
  • eclipse
  • ecomorph
  • ede includes a window manager, FreeBSD: "Equinox Desktop Environment"
  • efsane
  • enlightenment has expensive graphics, OpenBSD: "Enlightenment goes beyond this, not just Managing Windows, but providing a useful, good looking graphical shell from which to work."
  • epiwm FreeBSD: "Another fast, small, configurable window manager"
  • euclidwm a minimalistic tiling window manager
  • evilpoison
  • evilwm a lightweight minimalistic window manager for the X windowing system
  • expocity FreeBSD: "A metacity spin-off with Expose(tm)-like features"
  • exwm a full-featured tiling X window manager for Emacs
  • failsafewm
  • firebox
  • fluxbox — "Looks like blackbox and handles styles, colors, window placement and similar thing exactly like blackbox (100% theme/style compability)" (Package size: 681 KiB, plus its dependencies (OpenBSD 4.1))
  • flwm A lightweight window manager that utilizes the FLTK toolkit.
  • framer
  • fvwm the F Virtual Window Manager (meaning of F is uncertain), a twm derivative with nice appearance, virtual desktops, but obscure text configuration files
  • fvwm2 a newer version of fvwm, OpenBSD: "Fvwm... provides a virtual/multiple disjoint desktop, a 3D look for windows decorations, shaped/color icons.... A nice button-bar can be used to provide convenient access to frequently used functions or programs."
  • fvwm95 feels like Windows 95 (similar to AnotherLevel for fvwm2), OpenBSD: "It tries to emulate the good features of a well known product without bloating the regular fvwm code."
  • fxwm
  • golem OpenBSD: "Design goals are that it be fast and lightweight, as well as very customizable in any way that will not prevent the first goal from being realized."
  • gwm A Generic Window Manager with a builtin lisp interpreter (from Bull)
  • gwml

h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o

  • HackedBox FreeBSD: "Hackedbox is a small and fast window manager based on Blackbox"
  • haze
  • heliwm A compact window manager with minimal memory consumption
  • hpwm this window manager from Hewlett Packard offers a 3d look
  • i3
  • icewm a small window manager that one configures by editing text files or using third-party tools, OpenBSD: "Optimized for "feel" and speed, not looks. Features multiple workspaces, opaque move/resize, task bar, window list, clock, mailbox, CPU, Network, APM status."
  • integrity
  • interfacewm
  • ion OpenBSD: "Ion is a new kind of window manager that brings a text-editorish, keyboard friendly user interface to window management. Ion simply divides the screen into frames that take the whole screen."
  • ion2
  • ion3
  • jwm Linux: "Joe's window manager". Used in Puppy Linux.
  • kahakai A window manager with scripting language support (based on "waimea")
  • karmen A simple lightweight window manager with no additional dependencies other than xlib
  • kwin the window manager for KDE (formerly called kwm)
  • larswm FreeBSD: "Tiling Window Manager for X"
  • lucca
  • luminosity
  • /lunchbox
  • lwm FreeBSD: "A lightweight window manager"
  • maewm
  • matchbox FreeBSD: "Window manager suitable for low-resolution screens"
  • mavosxwm A minimal stacking window manager in early stages of development
  • MaXX Interactive Desktop; formerly "5dwm".
  • metacity a common GNOME window manager
  • miwm The Microscopic Window Manager written in C++
  • mlvwm FreeBSD: "Macintosh like window manager for X11"
  • monkeywm
  • mosquito
  • mpwm
  • mswm
  • multicursorwm
  • musca
  • mutter
  • mvwm
  • mwm Motif Window Manager included with Motif or OpenMotif, also found with the commercial Common Desktop Environment (CDE)
  • ncdwm
  • novawm FreeBSD: "A window manager for X, developed with speed, size, and style in mind"
  • olvwm - OPEN LOOK virtual window manager adds virtual windows to olwm
  • olwm - The OPEN LOOK window manager from Sun Microsystems for OpenWindows
  • omegawm
  • openbox OpenBSD: "Openbox is a standards compliant, fast, light-weight, extensible window manager."
  • orion FreeBSD: "An X11 window manager written in Scheme"
  • oroborox
  • oroborus OpenBSD: "Oroborus is a really minimalistic X11 window manager. It provides good default key bindings, full keyboard controls (in addition to the mouse!), ..."
  • oswm

p, q, r, s, t

  • parti
  • pawm FreeBSD: "The Puto Amo Window Manager"
  • pekwm OpenBSD: "Pekwm is a fork of aewm++ which includes new features such as window grouping (a la fluxbox/pwm) a configurable keygrabber, Xinerama support, pixmap themeing and configurable buttons."
  • perlwm
  • phluid
  • piewm OpenBSD: "This is piewm, a tvtwm with "pie" (i.e., round) menus."
  • plwm
  • plpwm
  • pmwm
  • pswm The postscript window manager from Sun Microsystems
  • puppet A keyboard driven window manager with no window decorations. Written in Java
  • pwm OpenBSD: "PWM is a lightweight window manager for X11 with emphasis on usability. It was the first window manager to implement "tabbed frames"."
  • pwm2
  • pycawm
  • pywm PyWM is small, fast and extensible with Python. It's based on flwm.
  • qlwm
  • qtile
  • qlwm OpenBSD: "A window manager that takes advantage of qt to stay small and maintainable."
  • quarkwm
  • qvwm OpenBSD: "Qvwm is a Windows 95/98/NT like window manager..."
  • ratpoison similar to GNU screen, a tiling window manager which dislikes the mouse (see Wikibook Using Ratpoison)
  • rox
  • rtl A tiling window manager used by Siemens
  • sapphire FreeBSD: "Small window manager"
  • sawfish an efficient and configurable window manager that was formerly default for GNOME, OpenBSD: "Sawfish is an extensible window manager which uses a Lisp-based scripting language."
  • scrotwm
  • scwm The scheme constraints window manager
  • sigmawm The sigma window manager
  • sithwm A minimalist window manager based on evilwm with menus and multiple desktops
  • skatoswm
  • smallwm FreeBSD: "Window manager for low-memory systems, with title bars and shading"
  • spookwm
  • stumpwm is intended as the successor of ratpoison. Written in Common Lisp, and designed from the ground up to be customizable.
  • subtle is a another tiling window manager with a very flexible and dynamical layout, support for window tagging, mouse and keyboard control as well as an extendable statusbar.
  • sugar
  • swm Solbourne Window Manager
  • talwm
  • tecwm
  • tinywm FreeBSD: "Ridiculously tiny window manager"
  • toyd
  • treewm OpenBSD: "From the README:... In addition to the client windows the user can create desktops which can themselves contain windows and desktops."
  • tritium
  • trswm
  • tsubasa
  • tvtwm OpenBSD: "tvtwm is a version of twm which incorporates virtual desktops, similar to vtwm and swm."
  • twindy
  • twm the Tab Window Manager included with X11

u, v, w, x, y, z

  • UDE a window manager with a unique design (get used to it), developed by the "Unix Desktop Enviroment" project
  • ultimate window manager
  • universalwm An outdated window manager that it is still popular because of its speed
  • unwimp
  • uwm Ultrix Window Manager
  • vtwm FreeBSD: "Twm with a virtual desktop and optional Motif-like features"
  • vuewm
  • w9wm FreeBSD: "A hack of 9wm to give virtual screens"
  • waimea OpenBSD: "It uses Blackbox image rendering engine (Blackbox styles support) and can use Xft library for font rendering (anti-aliased font support)."
  • weewm FreeBSD: "Fast and ultra light window manager with total keyboard control"
  • whim A multiple desktop window manager written in tcl
  • whimsy
  • wimpwm
  • windowlab FreeBSD: "A small window manager for X11"
  • windowmaker a NextStep-like window manager that works well with GNUstep and has configurable themes
  • wm a simple titlebar window manager
  • wm2 a very minimal, small, fast window manager
  • wmaker
  • wmfs a tiling window manager
  • wmg FreeBSD: "Small GTK-based GNOME-compliant window manager"
  • wmi OpenBSD: "WMI... attempts to combine the best features of LarsWM, Ion, evilwm and ratpoison into one window manager.... WMI is the vim among the window managers..."
  • wmii FreeBSD: "The next generation of WMI window manager"
  • wmx OpenBSD: "It is based on wm2... but in place of wm2's minimal functionality, it offers many of the features of more conventional managers in the most simplistic implementations imaginable."
  • wwm Weird Window Manager
  • xcompmgr
  • xd640 a stacking window manager
  • xdswm
  • xfce-wm part of desktop environment called XFCE (Cholesterol-Free Desktop Environment which also has a toolbar and file manager, and uses less system resources than GNOME or KDE), FreeBSD: "XFce 4 window manager"
  • xige xilicius desktop environment
  • xfwm a compositing window manager
  • xmonad is a tiling window manager for X. Windows are arranged automatically to tile the screen without gaps or overlap, maximising screen use.
  • xpwm
  • xswm
  • xwem
  • xwm
  • yawm FreeBSD: "Has title bars, iconizing, maximizing, taskbar, placement, clock"
  • yeahwm A stacking window manager
  • zwm Written in C++, and available under the GNU General Public Licence