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Catwm is a small, lightweight tiling window manager created by pyknite. It was first announced in an Arch Linux forum post.


Method 1

Install catwm-gitAUR.

Method 2

If for some reason method one fails, try this one. Visit the official github page and download each file.

Before you compile catwm, you may want to skip to the Configuration section to configure it.

Then, while in the directory as the downloaded files, run the following as a non-root user:

$ make

Then, run the following as root:

# make install
# make clean


Run catwm with xinit.


Catwm uses its config.h file for configuration. By default, some hotkeys are already set (Note: the default MOD key is the Alt key):

  • MOD + h (decrease the size of a current window)
  • MOD + l (increase the size of a current window)
  • MOD + x (close current window)
  • MOD + Tab (change to next window)
  • MOD + k (change to previous window)
  • MOD + j (change to next window)
  • MOD + Shift + k (move current window up)
  • MOD + Shift + j (move current window down)
  • MOD + Enter (change master to current window)
  • MOD + Space (switch mode/maximize)
  • MOD + c (lock - requires slock)
  • MOD + p (open dmenu - requires dmenu)
  • MOD + Shift + Return (open urxvt - requires urxvt)
  • MOD + Left (previous desktop)
  • MOD + Right (next desktop)
  • MOD + 0-9 (change to desktop #)
  • MOD + q (quit catwm)

Add Custom Keybindings

To add custom keybindings, you must edit config.h and recompile catwm. That's why it is important to set them up on the initial installation to avoid having to do this again. I'll show you a scenario in which you would need to add a keybinding to open the thunar filemanager with MOD+t.

First, you must add a line such as the following underneath the already-defined const char*s (Note: You can name it whatever you want. In this case, I named it thunarcmd):

const char* thunarcmd[] = {"thunar", NULL};

I'll explain this a little more in detail. The part after the const char* and before the [] is the title, which is thunarcmd. Inside the curly brackets is where you enter the command to be executed. Each command fragment that is seperated by a space is it's own value. What I mean by that is that the command sequence ncmpcpp next would be entered as {"ncmpcpp", "next", NULL}. The NULL value must be included at the end of each hotkey.

To actually register the hotkey with the window manager, you must look below that at the struct named keys[]. This is where catwm stores all of it's keybindings. An example entry for the thunarcmd[] we made above would be:

{ MOD,     XK_t,     spawn,     {.com = thunarcmd}},
  • The first element specifies the first sequence that is pressed (MOD for the modkey only, MOD|ShiftMask for the modkey and then the shiftkey).
  • The second element specifies the actual key that is pressed to differenciate it from other similar hotkeys. In this case, we set it to t, which has "XK_" in front of it because that's how Xorg reads key presses. Just remember to include "XK_" in front of it and you'll be fine. Some examples of these include XK_a for the a key, XK_Space for the space bar, and XK_1 for the 1 key. Note that these are case-sensitive, so XK_a is not the same as XK_A. So for this example, the entire hotkey senquence that needs to be pressed is MOD+t.
  • The third element just specifies the function spawn(), which has been written to pass the command to the shell for execution. You do not really need to know what spawn is for, so simply include it for things like this.
  • The final element inside the brackets specifies which char that was previously defined to use. In our case, it was thunarcmd[]. so we would do {.com = thunarcmd}. The .com stands for command.
  • After this, recompile, hope for no errors, and install.

    Set Volume Up/Down Hotkeys

    NOTE: This requires amixer, provided by alsa-utils

    You must set hotkeys in config.h to point to volup and voldown. Here is an example:

    { MOD, XK_Down, spawn, {.com = voldown}},
    { MOD, XK_Up, spawn, {.com = volup}},

    That would set hotkeys that make Mod+Down lower the volume and Mod+Up raise the volume according to whatever volup and voldown are set to.

    To change what percentage the volume is incremented/decremented by, edit voldown and volup. For example, to make it 2% increments/decrements, you would do:

    const char* voldown[] = {"amixer","set","PCM","2\%-",NULL};
    const char* volup[] = {"amixer","set","PCM","2\%+",NULL};

    Set Next/Previous Song Hotkeys

    NOTE: This requires mpd, and mpd software such as ncmpcpp or mpc, capable of changing songs from the command line.

    You must set hotkeys in config.h to point to next and prev. Here is an example:

    { MOD|ShiftMask, XK_Right, spawn, {.com = next}},
    { MOD|ShiftMask, XK_Left, spawn, {.com = prev}},

    This would set MOD+Shift+Right to go to the next song and MOD+Shift+Left to go to the previous song.


    My volume hotkeys do not work!

    Make sure you have the right device defined in volup and voldown. Two common ones are "Master" and "PCM".

    const char* voldown[] = {"amixer","set","Master","5\%-",NULL};
    const char* volup[] = {"amixer","set","Master","5\%+",NULL};
    const char* voldown[] = {"amixer","set","PCM","5\%-",NULL};
    const char* volup[] = {"amixer","set","PCM","5\%+",NULL};

    If both of those do not work, try to use one of the devices outputted by the amixer command. Also make sure you have the alsa-utils package installed.

    If all of that still doesn't work, check to see if the device is not muted in alsamixer.