evilwm—minimalist window manager for X11


evilwm [OPTION]…


evilwm is a minimalist window manager for the X Window System. It features plenty of reconfigurable mouse and keyboard controls while providing a clean display, uncluttered by less useful window furniture (like title bars).


--display display
specifies the X display to run on. Usually this can be inferred from the DISPLAY environment variable.
--term termprog
specifies an alternative program to run when spawning a new terminal (defaults to xterm, or x-terminal-emulator in Debian). Separate arguments with whitespace, and escape needed whitespace with a backslash. Remember that special characters will also need to be protected from the shell.
--fn fontname
specify a font to use when resizing or displaying window titles.
--fg colour
--fc colour
--bg colour
frame colour of currently active, fixed active, and inactive windows respectively. Either specify an X11 colour name like goldenrod, or a hex triplet like #DAA520.
--bw borderwidth
width of window borders in pixels.
--snap distance
enable snap-to-border support. distance is the proximity in pixels to snap to.
ignore monitor geometry and use the whole screen dimensions. This is the old behaviour from before multi-monitor support was implemented, and may still be useful, eg when one large monitor is driven from multiple outputs.
--numvdesks value
number of virtual desktops to provide. Defaults to 8. Any extras will only be accessible by pagers or using Control+Alt+(Left/Right).
draw a window outline while moving or resizing.
--mask1 modifier[+modifier]…
--mask2 modifier[+modifier]…
--altmask modifier[+modifier]…
override the default keyboard modifiers used to grab keys for window manager functionality.

mask1 is used for most keyboard controls (default: control+alt), and mask2 is used for mouse button controls and cycling windows (default: alt). altmask is used to modify the behaviour of certain controls (default: shift). Modifiers may be separated with + signs. Valid modifiers are 'shift', 'control', 'alt', 'mod1'…'mod5'.

--bind key[+modifier]…=[function[,flag]…]
bind a key pressed with specified modifiers to a window manager function. key is an X11 keysym name, modifiers are as above, but may also include 'mask1', 'mask2' and 'altmask' to refer to the globally-configured combinations. See FUNCTIONS for a list of available functions and the flags they recognise. If function is empty, a bind is removed.
--bind button=[function[,flag]…]
bind a mouse button to a window manager function. While modifiers can be specified, they will be ignored; the button on its own will trigger if pressed within a window's frame, or with 'mask2' held anywhere within a window. Function and flags is as with key binds above. Valid buttons are 'button1'…'button5'.
--app name/class
match an application by instance name and class (for help in finding these, use the xprop tool to extract the WM_CLASS property).

Subsequent --geometry, --dock, --vdesk and --fixed options will apply to this match.

-g, --geometry geometry
apply a geometry (using a standard X geometry string) to applications matching the last --app.
specify that application should be considered to be a dock, even if it lacks the appropriate property.
-v, --vdesk vdesk
specify a default virtual desktop for applications matching the last --app. Note that virtual desktops are numbered from zero.
-f, --fixed
specify that application is to start with a fixed client window.
-h, --help
show help
-V, --version
show program version

evilwm will also read options, one per line, from a file called .evilwmrc in the user's home directory. Options listed in a configuration file should omit the leading dash(es). Options specified on the command line override those found in the configuration file.


In evilwm, the focus follows the mouse pointer, and focus is not lost if you stray onto the root window. The current window border is shaded gold (unless it is fixed, in which case blue), with other windows left as a dark grey.

You can use the mouse to manipulate windows either by click/dragging the single-pixel border (easier when they align with a screen edge), or by holding down Alt and doing so anywhere in the window. The controls are:

Button 1
Move window.
Button 2
Resize window.
Button 3
Lower window.

Most keyboard controls are used by holding down Control and Alt, then pressing a key. Available functions are:

Spawn new terminal.
Delete current window. Hold Shift as well to force kill a client.
Lower current window.
H, J, K, L
Move window left, down, up or right (16 pixels). Holding Shift resizes the window instead.
Y, U, B, N
Move window to the top-left, top-right, bottom-left or bottom-right of the current monitor.
Show information about current window.
Maximise current window vertically on current monitor (toggle). Holding Shift toggles horizontal maximization.
Maximise current window to current monitor (toggle).
Toggle visible state of docks, eg pagers and launch bars.

If compiled with virtual desktop support, these functions are also available:

Fix or unfix current window. Fixed windows remain visible when you switch virtual desktop.
Switch to specific virtual desktop (internally, desktops are numbered from zero, so this actually switches to desktops 0—7; this only becomes important if you use application matching).
Switch to next lower numbered virtual desktop.
Switch to next higher numbered virtual desktop.
Switch to the previously selected virtual desktop.

In addition to the above, Alt+Tab can be used to cycle through windows.

To make evilwm reread its config, send a HUP signal to the process. To make it quit, kill it, ie send a TERM signal.


The keyboard and mouse button controls can be configured with the --bind option to a number of built-in functions. Typically, these functions respond to an additional set of flags that modify their behaviour.

Delete a window. This is the co-operative way of closing applications, as it sends the client a signal indicating that they should shut down.
When called with the toggle flag, toggles visibility of any window claiming to be a dock.
With the toggle flag, toggle whether a window is fixed (visible on all virtual desktops) or not.
Shows extra information about the current window for as long as the key is held.
Kill a window. A more forceful way of closing an application if it is not responding to delete requests.
Lower the current window.
When bound to a button, moves a window with the mouse.

When bound to a key, if the relative flag is specified, moves a window in the direction indicated by other flags: up, down, left or right. Without the relative flag, moves a window in the direction specified by other flag to the edge of the monitor.

Cycle to the next window.
When bound to a button, resizes a window with the mouse.

When bound to a key, if the relative flag is specified, modifies the width or height of the window as indicated by other flags: up (reduce height), down (increase height), left (reduce width) or right (increase width). If instead the toggle flag is specified, maximises along axes specified by other flags: horizontal, vertical or both.

Start a terminal.
With the toggle flag specified, switch to the previously visible vdesk. With the relative flag set, either increase vdesk number (with up flag) or decrease it (with down flag).

If neither flag is specified, a numerical argument indicates which vdesk to switch to.


These are the default lists of modifiers, button and keyboard binds. The built-in binds use the globally-configurable modifier combinations 'mask1', 'mask2' and 'altmask', making a sweeping change to a different modifier combination easy.

Note that 'mod1' typically refers to the Alt key.


mask1 control+mod1
mask2 mod1
altmask shift

Button binds

bind button1=move,drag
bind button2=resize,drag
bind button3=lower

Keyboard binds

bind mask1+Return=spawn
bind mask1+Escape=delete
bind mask1+altmask+Escape=kill
bind mask1+Insert=lower
bind mask1+KP_Insert=lower
bind mask1+i=info
bind mask2+Tab=next

bind mask1+h=move,relative+left
bind mask1+j=move,relative+down
bind mask1+k=move,relative+up
bind mask1+l=move,relative+right
bind mask1+y=move,top+left
bind mask1+u=move,top+right
bind mask1+b=move,bottom+left
bind mask1+n=move,bottom+right

bind mask1+altmask+h=resize,relative+left
bind mask1+altmask+j=resize,relative+down
bind mask1+altmask+k=resize,relative+up
bind mask1+altmask+l=resize,relative+right

bind mask1+equal=resize,toggle+v
bind mask1+altmask+equal=resize,toggle+h
bind mask1+x=resize,toggle+v+h

bind mask1+d=dock,toggle
bind mask1+f=fix,toggle
bind mask1+1=vdesk,0
bind mask1+2=vdesk,1
bind mask1+3=vdesk,2
bind mask1+4=vdesk,3
bind mask1+5=vdesk,4
bind mask1+6=vdesk,5
bind mask1+7=vdesk,6
bind mask1+8=vdesk,7
bind mask1+Left=vdesk,relative+down
bind mask1+Right=vdesk,relative+up
bind mask1+a=vdesk,toggle




Copyright (C) 1999-2022 Ciaran Anscomb <evilwm@6809.org.uk>

This is free software. You can do what you want to it, but if it breaks something, you get to pay for the counselling. The code was originally based on aewm, so this is distributed under the same terms, which follow.


Copyright (c) 1998-2000 Decklin Foster.


You are granted permission to copy, publish, distribute, and/or sell copies of this program and any modified versions or derived works, provided that this copyright and notice are not removed or altered.

Portions of the code were based on 9wm, which contains this license:

9wm is free software, and is Copyright (c) 1994 by David Hogan.
Permission is granted to all sentient beings to use this
software, to make copies of it, and to distribute those copies,
provided that:

  (1) the copyright and licence notices are left intact
  (2) the recipients are aware that it is free software
  (3) any unapproved changes in functionality are either
        (i) only distributed as patches
    or (ii) distributed as a new program which is not called 9wm
            and whose documentation gives credit where it is due
  (4) the author is not held responsible for any defects
      or shortcomings in the software, or damages caused by it.

There is no warranty for this software.  Have a nice day.


xterm (1), xprop (1)

Updated 27 Sep 2022