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SPECTRWM(1) Bitrig Reference Manual SPECTRWM(1)
spectrwm - window manager for X11
spectrwm is a minimalistic window manager that tries to stay out of the
way so that valuable screen real estate can be used for much more
important stuff. It has sane defaults and does not require one to learn
a language to do any configuration. It was written by hackers for
hackers and it strives to be small, compact and fast.
When spectrwm starts up, it reads settings from its configuration file,
spectrwm.conf. See the CONFIGURATION FILES section below.
The following notation is used throughout this page:
<Name> Named key
M1 Mouse button 1
M3 Mouse button 3
spectrwm is very simple in its use. Most of the actions are initiated
via key or mouse bindings. See the BINDINGS section below for defaults
spectrwm first tries to open the user specific file, ~/.spectrwm.conf.
If that file is unavailable, it then tries to open the global
configuration file /etc/spectrwm.conf.
The format of the file is <keyword> = <setting>. For example:
color_focus = red
Enabling or disabling an option is done by using 1 or 0 respectively.
Colors need to be specified per the XQueryColor(3) specification.
Comments begin with a #. When a literal '#' is desired in an option,
then it must be escaped with a backslash. i.e. \#
The file supports the following keywords:
Launch an application in a specified workspace at start-of-day.
Defined in the format ws[<idx>]:application, e.g. ws:xterm
launches an xterm in workspace 2.
External script that populates additional information in the status
bar, such as battery life.
Place the statusbar at the bottom of each region instead of the top.
Border color of the status bar(s) in screen x.
Border color of the status bar(s) on unfocused region(s) in screen x.
Set status bar border thickness in pixels. Disable border by setting
Background color of the status bar(s) in screen x.
Set default bar_toggle state; default is 1.
Set default bar_toggle_ws state on workspace x; default is 1.
Font used in the status bar. Either Xft or X Logical Font Description
(XLFD) may be used to specify fonts. Fallback fonts may be specified
by separating each font with a comma. If all entries are XLFD syntax,
font set will be used. If at least one entry is Xft, Xft will be
used. Note that if Xft is in use, only the first font that
successfully loads will be used regardless of missing glyphs. The
default is to use font set. Also note that dmenu does not support Xft
bar_font = Terminus:style=Regular:pixelsize=14:antialias=true
bar_font = -*-profont-medium-*-*-*-11-*-*-*-*-*-*-*,Terminus:pixelsize=14,-*-clean-medium-*-*-*-12-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
Font set examples:
bar_font = -*-terminus-medium-*-*-*-14-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
bar_font = -*-profont-medium-*-*-*-11-*-*-*-*-*-*-*,-*-terminus-medium-*-*-*-14-*-*-*-*-*-*-*,-*-clean-medium-*-*-*-12-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
To list the available fonts in your system see fc-list(1) or
xlsfonts(1) manpages. The xfontsel(1) application can help with the
Color of the font in status bar in screen x.
Set the bar_format string and overrides clock_format and all of the
enabled options. The format is passed through strftime(3) before
being used. It may contain the following character sequences:
Character sequence Replaced with
+< Pad with a space
+A Output of the external script
+C Window class
+D Workspace name
+F Floating indicator
+I Workspace index
+N Screen number
+P Window class and title separated by a
+S Stacking algorithm
+T Window title
+U Urgency hint
+V Program version
+W Window name
++ A literal `+'
All character sequences may limit its output to a specific length,
for example +64A. Any characters that don't match the specification
are copied as-is.
Justify the status bar text. Possible values are left, center, and
Note that if the output is not left justified, it may not be properly
aligned in some circumstances, due to the white-spaces in the default
static format. See the bar_format option for more details.
Bind key combo to action x. See the BINDINGS section below.
Set window border thickness in pixels. Disable all borders by
setting to 0.
Set region containment boundary width in pixels. This is how far a
window must be dragged/resized beyond the region edge before it is
allowed outside the region. This has no effect when manipulating the
window with key bindings. Disable the window containment effect by
setting to 0.
Enable or disable displaying the clock in the status bar. Disable by
setting to 0 so a custom clock could be used in the bar_action
Border color of the currently focussed window.
Border color of unfocussed windows.
Some applications have dialogue windows that are too small to be
useful. This ratio is the screen size to what they will be resized.
For example, 0.6 is 60% of the physical screen size.
Remove border when bar is disabled and there is only one window on
Window to put focus when the focused window is closed. Possible
values are first, next, previous (default) and last. next and
previous are relative to the window that is closed.
Whether to allow the focus to jump to the last window when the first
window is closed or vice versa. Disable by setting to 0.
Window to put focus when no window has been focused. Possible values
are first and last (default).
Window focus behavior with respect to the mouse cursor. Possible
default Set window focus on border crossings caused by cursor
motion and window interaction.
follow Set window focus on all cursor border crossings,
including workspace switches and changes to layout.
manual Set window focus on window interaction only.
Clear all key bindings and load new key bindings from the specified
file. This allows you to load pre-defined key bindings for your
keyboard layout. See the KEYBOARD MAPPING FILES section below for a
list of keyboard mapping files that have been provided for several
Select layout to use at start-of-day. Defined in the format
e.g. ws:-4:0:1:0:horizontal sets worskspace 2 to the horizontal
stack mode and shrinks the master area by 4 ticks and adds one window
to the stack, while maintaining default floating window behavior.
Possible stack_mode values are vertical, vertical_flip, horizontal,
horizontal_flip and fullscreen.
See master_grow, master_shrink, master_add, master_del, stack_inc,
stack_dec, and always_raise for more information. Note that the
stacking options are complicated and have side-effects. One should
familiarize oneself with these commands before experimenting with the
This setting is not retained at restart.
Change mod key. Mod1 is generally the ALT key and Mod4 is the
windows key on a PC.
Define new action to spawn a program p. See the PROGRAMS section
Add "quirk" for windows with class c and name n. See the QUIRKS
Allocates a custom region, removing any autodetected regions which
occupy the same space on the screen. Defined in the format
screen[<idx>]:WIDTHxHEIGHT+X+Y, e.g. screen:800x1200+0+0.
To make a region span multiple monitors, create a region big enough
to cover them all, e.g. screen:2048x768+0+0 makes the region span
two monitors with 1024x768 resolution sitting one next to the other.
Pixel width of empty space within region borders. Disable by setting
Position in stack to place newly spawned windows. Possible values
are first, next, previous and last (default). next and previous are
relative to the focused window.
Enable or disable displaying the current stacking algorithm in the
Set a preferred minimum width for the terminal. If this value is
greater than 0, spectrwm will attempt to adjust the font sizes in the
terminal to keep the terminal width above this number as the window
is resized. Only xterm(1) is currently supported. The xterm(1)
binary must not be setuid or setgid, which it is by default on most
systems. Users may need to set program[term] (see the PROGRAMS
section) to use an alternate copy of the xterm(1) binary without the
setgid bit set.
Pixel width of empty space between tiled windows. Negative values
cause overlap. Set this to the opposite of border_width to collapse
the border between tiles. Disable by setting to 0.
Enable or disable displaying the window class in the status bar.
Enable by setting to 1.
Enable or disable displaying the window title in the status bar.
Enable by setting to 1.
Enable or disable the urgency hint. Note that many terminal
emulators require this to be enabled for it to propagate. In xterm,
for example, one needs to add the following line xterm.bellIsUrgent:
true to .Xdefaults.
Enable or disable displaying the current master window count and
stack column/row count in the status bar. Enable by setting to 1.
See master_add, master_del, stack_inc and stack_dec for more
Enable or disable displaying the window name in the status bar.
Enable by setting to 1.
To prevent excessively large window names from pushing the remaining
text off the bar, it's limited to 64 characters, by default. See the
bar_format option for more details.
Set the total number of workspaces available. Minimum is 1, maximum
is 22, default is 10.
spectrwm allows you to define custom actions to launch programs of your
choice and then bind them the same as with built-in actions. See the
BINDINGS section below.
Custom programs in the configuration file are specified as follows:
program[<action>] = <progpath> [<arg> [... <arg>]]
<action> is any identifier that does not conflict with a built-in action
or keyword, <progpath> is the desired program, and <arg> is zero or more
arguments to the program.
Remember that when using # in your program call, it must be escaped with
a backslash. i.e. \#
The following argument variables will be substituted for values at the
time the program is spawned:
$dmenu_bottom -b if bar_at_bottom is enabled.
program[ff] = /usr/local/bin/firefox http://spectrwm.org/
bind[ff] = Mod+Shift+b # Now M-S-b launches firefox
To cancel the previous, unbind it:
bind = Mod+Shift+b
menu dmenu_run $dmenu_bottom -fn $bar_font -nb
$bar_color -nf $bar_font_color -sb $bar_border -sf
initscr initscreen.sh # optional
screenshot_all screenshot.sh full # optional
screenshot_wind screenshot.sh window # optional
Note that optional default programs will not be validated unless
overridden. If a default program fails validation, you can resolve the
exception by installing the program, modifying the program call or
disabling the program by freeing the respective key binding.
For example, to override lock:
program[lock] = xscreensaver-command --lock
To unbind lock and prevent it from being validated:
bind = MOD+Shift+Delete
spectrwm provides many functions (or actions) accessed via key or mouse
The current mouse bindings are described below:
M1 Focus window
M-M1 Move window
M-M3 Resize window
M-S-M3 Resize window while maintaining it centered
The default key bindings are described below:
M-j, M-<TAB> focus_next
M-k, M-S-<TAB> focus_prev
M-<Keypad 1-9> rg_<1-9>
M-S-<Keypad 1-9> mvrg_<1-9>
The action names and descriptions are listed below:
term Spawn a new terminal (see PROGRAMS above).
menu Menu (see PROGRAMS above).
quit Quit spectrwm.
restart Restart spectrwm.
cycle_layout Cycle layout.
flip_layout Swap the master and stacking areas.
stack_reset Reset layout.
master_shrink Shrink master area.
master_grow Grow master area.
master_add Add windows to master area.
master_del Remove windows from master area.
stack_inc Add columns/rows to stacking area.
stack_dec Remove columns/rows from stacking area.
swap_main Move current window to master area.
focus_next Focus next window in workspace.
focus_prev Focus previous window in workspace.
focus_main Focus on main window in workspace.
swap_next Swap with next window in workspace.
swap_prev Swap with previous window in workspace.
bar_toggle Toggle overall visibility of status bars.
bar_toggle_ws Toggle status bar on current workspace.
wind_del Delete current window in workspace.
wind_kill Destroy current window in workspace.
ws_n Switch to workspace n, where n is 1 through
mvws_n Move current window to workspace n, where n is 1
rg_n Focus on region n, where n is 1 through 9.
mvrg_n Move current window to region n, where n is 1
ws_next Switch to next workspace with a window in it.
ws_prev Switch to previous workspace with a window in it.
ws_next_all Switch to next workspace.
ws_prev_all Switch to previous workspace.
ws_next_move Switch to next workspace with the current window.
ws_prev_move Switch to previous workspace with the current
ws_prior Switch to last visited workspace.
rg_next Switch to next region.
rg_prev Switch to previous region.
screenshot_all Take screenshot of entire screen (if enabled)
(see PROGRAMS above).
screenshot_wind Take screenshot of selected window (if enabled)
(see PROGRAMS above).
version Toggle version in status bar.
float_toggle Toggle focused window between tiled and floating.
lock Lock screen (see PROGRAMS above).
initscr Reinitialize physical screens (see PROGRAMS
iconify Minimize (unmap) currently focused window.
uniconify Maximize (map) window returned by dmenu
always_raise When set tiled windows are allowed to obscure
button2 Fake a middle mouse button click (mouse button
width_shrink Shrink the width of a floating window.
width_grow Grow the width of a floating window.
height_shrink Shrink the height of a floating window.
height_grow Grow the height of a floating window.
move_left Move a floating window a step to the left.
move_right Move a floating window a step to the right.
move_up Move a floating window a step upwards.
move_down Move a floating window a step downwards.
name_workspace Name the current workspace.
search_workspace Search for a workspace.
search_win Search the windows in the current workspace.
Custom bindings in the configuration file are specified as follows:
bind[<action>] = <keys>
<action> is one of the actions listed above (or empty to unbind) and
<keys> is in the form of zero or more modifier keys (MOD, Mod1, Shift,
etc.) and one or more normal keys (b, space, etc.), separated by "+".
bind[reset] = Mod4+q # bind Windows-key + q to reset
bind = Mod1+q # unbind Alt + q
To use the currently defined modkey, specify MOD as the modifier key.
Multiple key combinations may be bound to the same action.
To bind non-latin characters such as ?? or ?? you must enter the xkb
character name instead of the character itself. Run xev, focus the window
and press the specific key and in the terminal output read the symbol
name. In the fallowing example for ??:
KeyPress event, serial 41, synthetic NO, window 0x2600001,
root 0x15a, subw 0x0, time 106213808, (11,5), root:(359,823),
state 0x0, keycode 24 (keysym 0xe5, aring), same_screen YES,
XLookupString gives 2 bytes: (c3 a5) "??"
XmbLookupString gives 2 bytes: (c3 a5) "??"
XFilterEvent returns: False
The xkb name is aring. In other words, in .spectrwm.conf add:
bind[program] = MOD+aring
KEYBOARD MAPPING FILES
Keyboard mapping files for several keyboard layouts are listed below.
These files can be used with the keyboard_mapping setting to load pre-
defined key bindings for the specified keyboard layout.
spectrwm_cz.conf Czech Republic keyboard layout
spectrwm_es.conf Spanish keyboard layout
spectrwm_fr.conf French keyboard layout
spectrwm_fr_ch.conf Swiss French keyboard layout
spectrwm_se.conf Swedish keyboard layout
spectrwm_us.conf United States keyboard layout
spectrwm provides "quirks" which handle windows that must be treated
specially in a tiling window manager, such as some dialogs and fullscreen
The default quirks are described below:
Gimp:gimp FLOAT + ANYWHERE
MPlayer:xv FLOAT + FULLSCREEN +
OpenOffice.org 2.4:VCLSalFrame FLOAT
OpenOffice.org 3.1:VCLSalFrame FLOAT
xine:Xine Window FLOAT + ANYWHERE
xine:xine Panel FLOAT + ANYWHERE
xine:xine Video Fullscreen Window FULLSCREEN + FLOAT
Xitk:Xitk Combo FLOAT + ANYWHERE
Xitk:Xine Window FLOAT + ANYWHERE
The quirks themselves are described below:
FLOAT This window should not be tiled, but allowed
to float freely.
TRANSSZ Adjusts size on transient windows that are
too small using dialog_ratio (see
ANYWHERE Allow window to position itself, uncentered.
XTERM_FONTADJ Adjust xterm fonts when resizing.
FULLSCREEN Remove border to allow window to use full
FOCUSPREV On exit force focus on previously focused
application not previous application in the
NOFOCUSONMAP Don't change focus to the window when it
first appears on the screen. Has no effect
when focus_mode is set to follow.
FOCUSONMAP_SINGLE When the window first appears on the screen,
change focus to the window if there are no
other windows on the workspace with the same
class/name. Has no effect when focus_mode
is set to follow.
Custom quirks in the configuration file are specified as follows:
quirk[<class>:<name>] = <quirk> [+ <quirk> ...]
<class> and <name> specify the window to which the quirk(s) apply, and
<quirk> is one of the quirks from the list above. For example:
quirk[MPlayer:xv] = FLOAT + FULLSCREEN + FOCUSPREV
quirk[pcb:pcb] = NONE # remove existing quirk
You can obtain <class> and <name> by running xprop(1) and then clicking
on the desired window. In the following example the main window of
Firefox was clicked:
$ xprop | grep WM_CLASS
WM_CLASS(STRING) = "Navigator", "Firefox"
Note that grepping for WM_CLASS flips class and name. In the example
above the quirk entry would be:
quirk[Firefox:Navigator] = FLOAT
spectrwm also automatically assigns quirks to windows based on the value
of the window's _NET_WM_WINDOW_TYPE property as follows:
_NET_WM_WINDOW_TYPE_DOCK FLOAT + ANYWHERE
_NET_WM_WINDOW_TYPE_TOOLBAR FLOAT + ANYWHERE
_NET_WM_WINDOW_TYPE_UTILITY FLOAT + ANYWHERE
In all other cases, no automatic quirks are assigned to the window.
Quirks specified in the configuration file override the automatic quirks.
spectrwm partially implements the Extended Window Manager Hints (EWMH)
specification. This enables controlling windows as well as spectrwm
itself from external scripts and programs. This is achieved by spectrwm
responding to certain ClientMessage events. From the terminal these
events can be conveniently sent using tools such as wmctrl(1) and
xdotool(1). For the actual format of these ClientMessage events, see the
The id of the currently focused window is stored in the
_NET_ACTIVE_WINDOW property of the root window. This can be used for
example to retrieve the title of the currently active window with
xprop(1) and grep(1):
$ WINDOWID=`xprop -root _NET_ACTIVE_WINDOW | grep -o "0x.*"`
$ xprop -id $WINDOWID WM_NAME | grep -o "\".*\""
A window can be focused by sending a _NET_ACTIVE_WINDOW client message to
the root window. For example, using wmctrl(1) to send the message
(assuming 0x4a0000b is the id of the window to be focused):
$ wmctrl -i -a 0x4a0000b
Windows can be closed by sending a _NET_CLOSE_WINDOW client message to
the root window. For example, using wmctrl(1) to send the message
(assuming 0x4a0000b is the id of the window to be closed):
$ wmctrl -i -c 0x4a0000b
Windows can be floated and un-floated by adding or removing the
_NET_WM_STATE_ABOVE atom from the _NET_WM_STATE property of the window.
This can be achieved by sending a _NET_WM_STATE client message to the
root window. For example, the following toggles the floating state of a
window using wmctrl(1) to send the message (assuming 0x4a0000b is the id
of the window floated or un-floated):
$ wmctrl -i -r 0x4a0000b -b toggle,_NET_WM_STATE_ABOVE
Floating windows can also be resized and moved by sending a
_NET_MOVERESIZE_WINDOW client message to the root window. For example,
using wmctrl(1) to send the message (assuming 0x4a0000b is the id of the
window to be resize/moved):
$ wmctrl -i -r 0x4a0000b -e 0,100,50,640,480
This moves the window to (100,50) and resizes it to 640x480.
Any _NET_MOVERESIZE_WINDOW events received for stacked windows are
Sending spectrwm a HUP signal will restart it.
~/.spectrwm.conf spectrwm user specific settings.
/etc/spectrwm.conf spectrwm global settings.
spectrwm was inspired by xmonad & dwm.
spectrwm was written by:
Marco Peereboom <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ryan Thomas McBride <email@example.com>
Darrin Chandler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Pierre-Yves Ritschard <email@example.com>
Tuukka Kataja <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jason L. Wright <email@example.com>
Reginald Kennedy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Lawrence Teo <email@example.com>
Tiago Cunha <firstname.lastname@example.org>
David Hill <email@example.com>
Bitrig 0.1 February 15, 2012 Bitrig 0.1
© 1994 Man-cgi 1.15, Panagiotis Christias <firstname.lastname@example.org>