wmx -- another window manager

wmx is another window manager for X.  It is based on wm2 and provides
a similarly unusual style of window decoration; but in place of wm2's
minimal functionality it offers many of the features of more
conventional managers, often in the most simplistic implementations

This release

This is the eighth release, dating from November 2014.

Building wmx

You will need a Unix machine, X libraries and a C++ compiler such as
gcc.  You will also need a mouse, preferably with three buttons.  Your
X server and libraries must be R4 or newer and must support the Shape
extension.  If you want to use frame background-pixmaps (see "Pixmaps"
below), you will need the Xpm header and library.

wmx makes relatively heavy demands on the plain 2D performance of your
X server, because of the use of shaped windows, but it shouldn't place
too much of a load on other aspects of your system.

Inspect the file Config.h.  This lists everything that can be usefully
configured before building, with comments to tell you what means what.
Change the settings to something that looks suitable now, and ensure
that the fonts are set to something unlikely not to be found.

Having edited Config.h, run "./configure" and then "make".  This should
build wmx.

Using wmx

To run wmx, make sure you're not already running a window manager,
make sure the DISPLAY variable is correctly set and the X server is
running, and then execute the file "wmx".  There are no command-line
options or X resources, and there is no start-up file.  If your X
server doesn't support the Shape extension, wmx will exit (and will
never work on your server); if it can't find the required fonts or
allocate the required colours, it will also exit (but you should be
able to fix this by changing the definitions in Config.h and

Available window manipulations are:

 -- To focus a window: depends on the focus policy you selected
    in Config.h before compiling.  See "Focus policy", below.

 -- To raise a window: click on its tab or frame, unless you have
    auto-raise on focus set in Config.h.

 -- To move a window: make sure it's in focus, then click and drag
    on its tab, or Alt-click and drag anywhere on it (see Keyboard
    controls, below, for more about Alt combinations).

 -- To hide a window: make sure it's in focus, then click on the
    button at the top of its tab.

 -- To recover a hidden window: hold down left button on the root
    window for the root menu, and choose the window you want.

 -- To start a new xterm: use the first item on the left-button root
    menu ("New"), unless you've disabled it in Config.h.

 -- To delete a window: make sure it's in focus, click on the
    button on the tab, hold the mouse button for at least a
    second and a half until the cursor changes to a cross, then
    release.  (I know, it's not very easy.  On the other hand,
    things like Windows-95 tend to obscure the fact that most
    windows already have a perfectly good Close option.  If the
    default delay doesn't suit you, change it in Config.h and

 -- To resize a window: make sure it's in focus, then click and
    drag on its bottom-right corner.  For a constrained resize,
    click and drag on the bottom-left or top-right corner of
    the enclosing window frame.

 -- To flip around amongst the windows on-screen: click with the right
    mouse button on the root window or on any window's frame or tab.

 -- To switch between desktops (or "Channels"): click with the middle
    mouse button towards the top-right corner of the root window.  A
    big green number will be displayed showing which channel you are
    currently on.  Click again before this number disappears to change
    to the next channel.  If you click with the left button after the
    first middle-button click, you will move down a channel instead
    of up.

 -- To move a window from one channel to another: click with the
    middle mouse button on its frame, and then keep clicking until you
    reach the channel you want to move it to.

 -- To start a new application of your choice: use the middle mouse
    button on the root window, anywhere other than the top-right
    corner of the root window.  If you have any executable programs in
    your $HOME/.wmx directory -- or other directory named in
    CONFIG_COMMAND_MENU -- they will be listed on a menu and you can
    choose one to be started up.  (You can add and remove programs
    while wmx is running.)  REMEMBER, $HOME/.wmx IS A DIRECTORY, not
    a file, so please don't write to me asking what the file format is.

 -- To exit from wmx: move the mouse pointer to the very edge of the
    screen at the extreme lower-right corner, and click left button on
    the root window for the root menu.  The menu should have an extra
    option labelled "Exit wmx"; select this.

All move and resize operations are opaque.

Keyboard controls

By popular request, there are now some keyboard controls available.
The key combinations are configurable in Config.h -- the most
important one is that for the Alt modifier.  The default bindings are:

 -- To raise the focused window in the stacking order: Alt/cursor-Up

 -- To lower the focused window: Alt/cursor-Down

 -- To flip through the windows on screen: Alt/Tab (equivalent to
    clicking the right mouse-button on the focused window's frame)

 -- To hide the focused window: Alt/Return

 -- To delete the focused window: Alt/BackSpace

 -- To expand the focused window to the full height of the screen:

 -- To contract the focused window after expanding it: Alt/PageDown

 -- To expand the focused window to the full screen (maximise):

 -- To contract the focused window after expanding it (unmaximise): 

 -- To expand the focused window to the full width of the screen:
    Alt/KP_Add (numeric pad +)

 -- To contract the focused window after expanding it:
    Alt/KP_Subtract (numeric pad -)

 -- If you want the same key to maximise/unmaximise set

 -- To switch channels: Alt/cursor-Left and Alt/cursor-Right

 -- To switch directly to channel number N, provided there is
    a channel N (i.e. some client has been created there already):
    Alt plus F-key N.  Thus for channel 2 press Alt/F2 and so on.

 -- To make the currently focused window "sticky", so it appears on
    all channels: Alt/Pause.  Repeat to unstick the window.

 -- To pop up a keyboard-powered client menu: Alt/Menu; for a
    keyboard-powered new-application menu: Alt/Multi_Key.  (On my
    PC, Menu is bound to the rightmost Windows-95-specific key and
    Multi_Key to the one next to it.)  You can then use cursor-Up
    and cursor-Down, Return, and Escape to choose, select or cancel
    from the menu.

Some of these bindings (notably the keyboard menu) can be switched off
altogether in Config.h.

Wheel mouse

If you have a wheel mouse, you can use the wheel to switch channels.
Moving the wheel in the root window selects the next or previous
channel; moving it in the tab of a window moves that window up or down
a channel.

Focus policy

Config.h contains settings for focus policy.  There are three things
you can define to either True or False: CONFIG_CLICK_TO_FOCUS,
connected: together they define a focus policy.  The third is a
separate focus policy on its own and will only work if the first two
are both False.  CONFIG_AUTO_RAISE differs from
provides a short delay before raising each window.  The delay is also

Skeletal feedback

If you have CONFIG_MAD_FEEDBACK set to True in Config.h, you will get
some natty feedback effects when using the left-button root menu (the
Client menu).  Each window selected on the menu will be indicated with
a half-frame at the correct position on the screen, to make it easier
to distinguish between windows with similar names on the menu.  If you
have CONFIG_FEEDBACK_DELAY set to zero or more, then the window itself
will be shown on the screen after a delay.  You can use this to
speculatively see what a hidden window is showing, without having to
restore it and hide it again.

Dynamic configuration

This release allows a certain degree of configuration at runtime.

(I know, I'm sorry.)

The configuration is held as the target of a symbolic link residing at
~/.wmx/options (or in whichever directory the CONFIG_COMMAND_MENU is
found).  This target should be a string of the form a:b/c:d/e:f etc,
to set option a to value b, option c to value d, e to f and so on.
The available options are currently "menu" (full or part), "new" (on
or off), "keyboard" (on or off), "feedback" (on or off), and "focus"
(click, raise, delay-raise or follow).  If click focus is used, 
a "passclick" option can be set (on or off) to regulate whether 
the focus-giving click is also sent to the newly raised client. 
"focus:delay-raise" may be optionally followed by a comma and then a 
delay time in ms.

For example,

  amyl > ~ > ls -l ~/.wmx/options
  lrwxrwxrwx   1 cannam   cannam         39 Jan 12 10:16 /home/cannam/.wmx/options -> menu:full/new:off/focus:delay-raise,100
  amyl > ~ > 

The real problem with this scheme is that it makes Config.h harder to
read, because the defaults for the dynamically configurable options
are now held in Config.C instead.


wmx allows you to specify a background pixmap for the window frames.
If you set CONFIG_USE_PIXMAPS to True in Config.h and supply a file
./background.xpm which contains an Xpm pixmap called "background", wmx
will use this to colour in the frames.  If you also set
CONFIG_USE_PIXMAP_MENUS, the root menus will be filled in with the
background too.

An example file is included, although you may prefer to find your own.


This release also supports user-definable window groupings.  To put a
window in a group, press Alt/Ctrl/{0-9} (for the group of that
number).  To ungroup a window group, press Alt/Shift/{0-9}.  Pressing
Alt/{0-9} raises all the windows in the numbered group.  Like the
"sticky" mode, there is no visual feedback for window groups.


Set CONFIG_CLOCK to True in Config.h to get a digital clock shown
permanently in the top-left corner of the display background.

Decoration-free windows

wmx does not support borderless or undecorated windows, but there
is a friendly utility by Vadim Kolontsov, called "xnodecor", that you
can use to circumvent this limitation if you want.  See


xnodecor gives you absolutely stationary, sticky, fixed borderless
windows for applications such as meters that you feel you will never
want to move or remove.


Some versions of xterm and rxvt run badly with wmx.  If you use xterm
and find that it refreshes the window excessively slowly, you might
like to try experimenting with a different terminal emulation program.
I think it might help to ensure that the scrollbar is on the
right-hand side of the rxvt window and is thick enough that wmx's
resize handle doesn't obscure any of the text area.

NETWM and desktop environments

As of this release, wmx now includes a significant amount of support
for the NETWM extended window manager hints -- enough to make it
usable as the primary window manager with a GNOME or KDE desktop.
This support is incomplete; fixes and improvements will be welcomed
(more than bug reports will).


wmx was written by Chris Cannam, recycling a lot of code and structure
from "9wm" by David Hogan.

The sideways tabs on the window frames were Andy Green's idea.

Alan Richardson's "xvertext" font-rotation routines are used for
the window tabs.

Kazushi (Jam) Marukawa provided internationalisation code, which I
think is currently only tested for Japanese; see README.contrib for
his notes and copyright notice.

Jeremy Fitzhardinge provided the original application-menu code.

The dynamic configuration code is mostly due to Stefan `Sec' Zehl.

Multiheaded X support is due to Sven Oliver `SvOlli' Moll.

NETWM support for use with desktop environments was based on a
substantial patch from James Montgomery sent to the wmx mailing list
in November 2000.  A mere seven years later, I got around to
integrating and updating the patch, and only eight years and two
months after the original patch, it was released.  Sorry about that.

Earlier Gnome support was mostly due to Henri Naccache, as is the
support for shaped clients.

This release contains code and bug fixes provided by Eric Marsden,
Lasse Rasinen, Bill Spitzak, Jacques Garrigue, Stefan `Sec' Zehl, Sven
Oliver Moll, Richard Sharman, Martin Andrews, Glyn Faulkner, Zvezdan
Petkovic, Damion Yates, Teemu Voipio, Ben Stern and, well, probably
several other people.

If you want to hack the code into something else for your own
amusement, please go ahead.  Feel free to modify and redistribute, as
long as you retain the original copyrights as appropriate.

Mailing list

There is a mailing list for discussion of wm2 and wmx, hosted by
majordomo at 42.org.  To subscribe, send email to majordomo@42.org
with "subscribe wmx" in the body of the mail.  The list is archived on
the web at http://ml.42.org/wmx/.

Chris Cannam, cannam@all-day-breakfast.com
November 2014