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JWM (Joe's Window Manager) is a featherweight window manager for Xorg written in C. It is under active development and maintained by Joe Wingbermuehle. It is the default window manager base for distributions such as Puppy Linux and Damn Small Linux.

JWM uses approximately 5 MB of resident memory under normal operating conditions. As of January 2009, the size of the version present in the official Arch Linux repositories is under 76 KB packaged (compare to dwm at under 17 KB) and under 171 KB installed (compare to dwm at 68 KB). A minimally compiled version consumes approximately 136 KB of disk space and occupies under 1500 KB of resident memory.

Configuration is done via a single XML file ~/.jwmrc, there is native support for customizable panels and buttons, and it includes system tray dock.


Install jwm.

Warning: Recent SVN snapshots (e.g. 500) have migrated to Mod key masks (e.g. H to 4).

Starting JWM

Run the xinit program to start the X server and the JWM client program:

$ xinit /usr/bin/jwm

Alternatively, add exec /usr/bin/jwm to your Xinitrc. See also Start X at Boot.


A sample configuration file is located at /etc/system.jwmrc. Create ~/.jwmrc:

$ touch ~/.jwmrc


$ cp -i /etc/system.jwmrc ~/.jwmrc

Edit this file to establish the environment. See JWM Configuration for a complete list of available tags, attributes and values.

Note: The rolling content of JWM Configuration is based on the latest SVN snapshot and may not reflect the options available in the the current release.

Overview of selected tags

See JWM Configuration.

Tips and tricks

Improve <Tasklist> contrast

Change the default <Tasklist> settings to match the improved contrast style of the default <MenuStyle> and active <WindowStyle>:



Logout and refresh

<Exit/> (Logout) is the menu command to cleanly log out of the current X server.

<Restart/> (Refresh) is the menu command tag which reinitializes the configuration file and updates menus and keybindings accordingly.

<Restart/> and <Exit/> can be bound to the Ctrl+Alt modified keys following the example syntax below:

<Key mask="CA" key="r">exec:jwm -restart</Key>
<Key mask="CA" key="e">exec:jwm -exit</Key>

Reboot and shutdown

A system with systemd can be rebooted with the Restart and Poweroff menu options.

<Program label="Restart">systemctl reboot</Program>
<Program label="Poweroff">systemctl poweroff</Program>

Alternatively, use <Key> to bind the commands to a chosen key.

See Allow users to shutdown for additional information.


Conky can be run within the <StartupCommand> to provide the display of various data streams (e.g. battery life and AC adapter status for notebooks). xfdesktop may conflict with Conky; workarounds include:

  1. Review the Conky FAQ for workarounds in ~/.conkyrc
  2. <Group> Conky and specify the following <Option> tags in ~/.jwmrc:

Minimal build

Gains in UI response can be gleaned by not using menu icons and by disabling the use of Xft fonts. Further gains can be accomplished by removing support for external libraries with a custom build. The result is also a reduction in resource requirements. A minimal build compiled with Xft support and using Xft fonts is allocated approximately 3 MB of resident and 1.5 MB of shared memory. The same build compiled without Xft support is allocated under 1.5 MB and approximately 1.2 MB, respectively. See the Arch Build System page for further details.

Minimal PKGBUILD example

pkgdesc="A lightweight window manager for the X11 Window System"
arch=('i686' 'x86_64')

build() {
  cd "$srcdir/$pkgname-$pkgver"
  ./configure --prefix=/usr --sysconfdir=/etc --disable-fribidi \
  --disable-confirm --disable-icons --disable-png \ 
  --disable-xpm --disable-jpeg --disable-xinerama \
  --disable-xft --disable-xrender --disable-debug 

package() {
  cd "$srcdir/$pkgname-$pkgver"
  make BINDIR="$pkgdir/usr/bin" MANDIR="$pkgdir/usr/share/man" \
       SYSCONF="$pkgdir/etc" install

Minimal font suggestions




Manual tiling support

Tiling support can be added to JWM with the Poor Man's Tiling Window Manager. Assuming manage.py is part of the local PATH, various tiling actions can be assigned to keys, for example:

<Key mask="H" key="Up">exec:manage.py swap</Key>
<Key mask="H" key="Down">exec:manage.py cycle</Key>
<Key mask="H" key="Left">exec:manage.py left</Key>
<Key mask="H" key="Right">exec:manage.py right</Key>
Note: Run the env command to list the modified environments of the current user.


Additional troubleshooting

If X is not already running on tty1, Ctrl+Alt+F1 will allow you to review standard output errors and messages. See man script command for details on how to create a typescript of what is printed to the terminal.

All windows are transparent using compton

Adjust the window transparency in ~/.jwmrc:


Terminal windows do not fully maximize

Add a group with the iignore option to ~/.jwmrc, for example:


Verify configuration changes

To check the JWM configuration and return syntax errors (including associated line numbers), if any, run:

$ jwm -p
Note: Configuration changes are applied after restarting JWM via the <Restart/> command, available on the initial root menu. There is no need to restart the X server for changes to apply. Users are recommended to use jwm -p between configuration changes to ensure valid markup and a stable environment.

See also