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xmonad is a tiling window manager for X. Windows are arranged automatically to tile the screen without gaps or overlap, maximizing screen use. Window manager features are accessible from the keyboard: a mouse is optional.

xmonad is written, configured and extensible in Haskell. Custom layout algorithms, key bindings and other extensions may be written by the user in configuration files.

Layouts are applied dynamically, and different layouts may be used on each workspace. Xinerama is fully supported, allowing windows to be tiled on several physical screens.

For more information, please visit the xmonad website: http://xmonad.org/


Install the xmonad package which provides a very basic configuration, ideally also install xmonad-contrib for most notably a more useful desktop configuration as well as additional tiling algorithms, configurations, scripts, etc.

Alternatively, install xmonad-gitAUR, the development version, with some additional dependencies; and likewise xmonad-contrib-gitAUR.

Note: If you choose to use the ArchHaskell repositories, you need to install the haskell-xmonad package instead of xmonad, as they have different dependencies.

Starting xmonad

Select Xmonad from the session menu in a display manager of choice.

Alternatively, append exec xmonad to the ~/.xinitrc file and then start the session by executing startx.

Make sure you have the Xterm package installed or have changed the terminal emulator in the configuration. Otherwise you will not be able to do anything in Xmonad.

Note: By default, xmonad does not set an X cursor, therefore the "cross" cursor is usually displayed. To set the expected left-pointer, see Cursor themes#Change X shaped default cursor.


Create the ~/.xmonad directory and the ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs file and edit it as described below.

After changes to ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs are made, use the Mod+q shortcut to recompile and have them take effect.

Tip: The default configuration for xmonad is quite usable and it is achieved by simply running without an xmonad.hs entirely.

Because the xmonad configuration file is written in Haskell, non-programmers may have a difficult time adjusting settings. For detailed HOWTO's and example configurations, we refer you to the following resources:

The best approach is to only place your changes and customizations in ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs and write it such that any unset parameters are picked up from the built-in defaultConfig.

This is achieved by writing an xmonad.hs like this:

import XMonad

main = xmonad def
    { terminal    = "urxvt"
    , modMask     = mod4Mask
    , borderWidth = 3

This simply overrides the default terminal and borderWidth while leaving all other settings at their defaults (inherited from the XConfig value defaultConfig).

As things get more complicated, it can be handy to call configuration options by function name inside the main function, and define these separately in their own sections of your ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs. This makes large customizations like your layout and manage hooks easier to visualize and maintain.

The simple xmonad.hs from above could have been written like this:

import XMonad

main = do
  xmonad $ defaultConfig
    { terminal    = myTerminal
    , modMask     = myModMask
    , borderWidth = myBorderWidth

myTerminal    = "urxvt"
myModMask     = mod4Mask -- Win key or Super_L
myBorderWidth = 3

Also, order at top level (main, myTerminal, myModMask etc.), or within the {} does not matter in Haskell, as long as imports come first.

The following is taken from the 0.9 configuration file template. It is an example of the most common functions one might want to define in their main do block.

  terminal           = myTerminal,
  focusFollowsMouse  = myFocusFollowsMouse,
  borderWidth        = myBorderWidth,
  modMask            = myModMask,
  -- numlockMask deprecated in 0.9.1
  -- numlockMask        = myNumlockMask,
  workspaces         = myWorkspaces,
  normalBorderColor  = myNormalBorderColor,
  focusedBorderColor = myFocusedBorderColor,

  -- key bindings
  keys               = myKeys,
  mouseBindings      = myMouseBindings,

  -- hooks, layouts
  layoutHook         = myLayout,
  manageHook         = myManageHook,
  handleEventHook    = myEventHook,
  logHook            = myLogHook,
  startupHook        = myStartupHook

The package itself also includes a xmonad.hs, which is the latest official example xmonad.hs that comes with the xmonad Haskell module as an example of how to override everything. This should not be used as a template configuration, but as examples of parts you can pick to use in your own configuration. It is located in an architecture and version dependant directory in /usr/share/ (e.g. find /usr/share -name xmonad.hs).

A base desktop configuration

In xmonad-contrib is a better default configuration for average desktop uses. It is also helps with problems in some modern programs like Chromium.

It can be added like so:

import XMonad
import XMonad.Config.Desktop

main = xmonad desktopConfig
    { terminal    = "urxvt"
    , modMask     = mod4Mask

Exiting xmonad

To end the current xmonad session, press Mod+Shift+Q. By default, Mod is the Alt key.

Tips and tricks


The keyboard-centered operation in Xmonad can be further supported with a keyboard shortcut for X-Selection-Paste.

Also, there exists a function "pasteSelection" in XMonad.Util.Paste that can be bound to a key using a line like:

  -- X-selection-paste buffer
  , ((0, xK_Insert), pasteSelection)

Pressing the "Insert" key will now paste the mouse buffer in the active window.

Keyboard shortcuts

Default keyboard shortcuts are listed in the man page of xmonad.

Targeting unbound keys:

If you use Xmonad as a stand alone window manager, you can edit the xmonad.hs to add unbound keyboard keys. You just need to find the Xf86 name of the key (such as XF86PowerDown) and look it up in /usr/include/X11/XF86keysym.h. It will give you a keycode (like 0x1008FF2A) which you can use to add a line like the following in the keybindings section of your xmonad.hs:

((0,               0x1008FF2A), spawn "sudo pm-suspend")

Increase the number of workspaces

By default, xmonad uses a set of 9 workspaces. You can change this by changing the workspaces parameter:

import XMonad
import XMonad.Util.EZConfig (additionalKeys)

  xmonad $ defaultConfig
    { ...
    , workspaces = myWorkspaces
    , ...
    } `additionalKeys` myAdditionalKeys

myWorkspaces = ["1","2","3","4","5","6","7","8","9"] ++ (map snd myExtraWorkspaces) -- you can customize the names of the default workspaces by changing the list

myExtraWorkspaces = [(xK_0, "0")] -- list of (key, name)

myAdditionalKeys =
    [ -- ... your other hotkeys ...
    ] ++ [
        ((myModMask, key), (windows $ W.greedyView ws))
        | (key, ws) <- myExtraWorkspaces
    ] ++ [
        ((myModMask .|. shiftMask, key), (windows $ W.shift ws))
        | (key, ws) <- myExtraWorkspaces

Making room for docks/panels/trays (Xmobar, Tint2, Conky, etc)

Wrap your layouts with avoidStruts from XMonad.Hooks.ManageDocks for automatic dock/panel/trayer spacing:

import XMonad
import XMonad.Hooks.ManageDocks

  xmonad $ defaultConfig
    { ...
    , layoutHook=avoidStruts $ layoutHook defaultConfig
    , manageHook=manageHook defaultConfig <+> manageDocks
    , ...

If you ever want to toggle the gaps, this action can be added to your key bindings:

,((modMask x, xK_b     ), sendMessage ToggleStruts)

Using xmobar with xmonad

Merge-arrows-2.pngThis article or section is a candidate for merging with xmobar.Merge-arrows-2.png

Notes: Make use of the separate article available (Discuss in Talk:Xmonad#)

xmobar is a light and minimalistic text-based bar, designed to work with xmonad. To use xmobar with xmonad, you will need two packages in addition to the xmonad package. These packages are xmonad-contrib and xmobar from the official repositories, or you can use xmobar-gitAUR from the AUR instead of the official xmobar package.

Here we will start xmobar from within xmonad, which reloads xmobar whenever you reload xmonad.

Open ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs in your favorite editor, and choose one of the two following options:

Quick, less flexible

Note: There is also dzen2 which you can substitute for xmobar in either case.

Common imports:

import XMonad
import XMonad.Hooks.DynamicLog

The xmobar action starts xmobar and returns a modified configuration that includes all of the options described in #More configurable.

main = xmonad =<< xmobar defaultConfig { modMask = mod4Mask {- or any other configurations here ... -}}

More configurable

As of xmonad(-contrib) 0.9, there is a new statusBar function in XMonad.Hooks.DynamicLog. It allows you to use your own configuration for:

  • The command used to execute the bar
  • The PP that determines what is being written to the bar
  • The key binding to toggle the gap for the bar

The following is an example of how to use it:

-- Imports.
import XMonad
import XMonad.Hooks.DynamicLog

-- The main function.
main = xmonad =<< statusBar myBar myPP toggleStrutsKey myConfig

-- Command to launch the bar.
myBar = "xmobar"

-- Custom PP, configure it as you like. It determines what is being written to the bar.
myPP = xmobarPP { ppCurrent = xmobarColor "#429942" "" . wrap "<" ">" }

-- Key binding to toggle the gap for the bar.
toggleStrutsKey XConfig {XMonad.modMask = modMask} = (modMask, xK_b)

-- Main configuration, override the defaults to your liking.
myConfig = defaultConfig { modMask = mod4Mask }

Verify XMobar config

The template and default xmobarrc contains this.

At last, open up ~/.xmobarrc and make sure you have StdinReader in the template and run the plugin. E.g.

Config { ...
       , commands = [ Run StdinReader .... ]
       , template = " %StdinReader% ... "

Now, all you should have to do is either to start, or restart, xmonad.

Controlling xmonad with external scripts

Here are a few ways to do it,

  • simulate keypress events using xdotool or similar programs. See this Ubuntu forums thread. The following command would simulate the keypress Super+n:
xdotool key Super+n
  • wmctrl -If you have desktopConfig or EwmhDesktops configured, this is a very easy to use and standard utility.

Launching another window manager within xmonad

If you are using xmonad-gitAUR, as of January of 2011, you can restart to another window manager from within xmonad. You just need to write a small script, and add stuff to your ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs. Here is the script.


And here are the modifications you need to add to your ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs:

import XMonad
--You need to add this import
import XMonad.Util.Replace

main do
    -- And this "replace"
    xmonad $ defaultConfig
    --Add the usual here

You also need to add the following key binding:

--Add a keybinding as follows:
((modm .|. shiftMask, xK_o     ), restart "/home/abijr/bin/obtoxmd" True)

Just remember to add a comma before or after and change the path to your actual script path. Now just Mod+q (restart xmonad to refresh the configuration), and then hit Mod+Shift+o and you should have Openbox running with the same windows open as in xmonad. To return to xmonad you should just exit Openbox. Here is a link to adamvo's ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs which uses this setup Adamvo's xmonad.hs

KDE and xmonad

The xmonad wiki has instructions on how to run xmonad inside KDE

It also might be a good idea to set a global keyboard shortcut in KDE to start xmonad in case it is accidentally killed or closed.

IM Layout for Skype

In orded to create an IM layout for the newer versions of skype, the following code can be used:

myIMLayout = withIM (1%7) skype Grid
      skype = And (ClassName "Skype") (Role "")

Example configurations

Below are some example configurations from fellow xmonad users. Feel free to add links to your own.

  • brisbin33 :: simple, useful, readable :: config screenshot
  • jelly :: Configuration with prompt, different layouts, twinview with xmobar :: xmonad.hs
  • MrElendig :: Simple configuration, with xmobar :: xmonad.hs, .xmobarrc, screenshot.
  • thayer :: A minimal mouse-friendly config ideal for netbooks :: configs screenshot
  • vicfryzel :: Beautiful and usable xmonad configuration, along with xmobar configuration, xinitrc, dmenu, and other scripts that make xmonad more usable. :: git repository, screenshot.
  • vogt :: Check out adamvo's config and many others in the official Xmonad/Config archive
  • wulax :: Example of using xmonad inside Xfce. Contains two layouts for GIMP. :: xmonad.hs, screenshot.


GNOME 3 and xmonad

Tango-inaccurate.pngThe factual accuracy of this article or section is disputed.Tango-inaccurate.png

Reason: This no longer works with GNOME. It might still work with GNOME Flashback. (Discuss in Talk:Xmonad#)

With the release of GNOME 3 custom GNOME sessions[broken link: invalid section] require additional steps to make GNOME play nicely with xmonad.

Either install xmonad-gnome3AUR[broken link: archived in aur-mirror] from the AUR, or, manually:

Add an xmonad session file for use by gnome-session (/usr/share/gnome-session/sessions/xmonad.session):

[GNOME Session]
Name=Xmonad session

Create a desktop file for GDM (/usr/share/xsessions/xmonad-gnome-session.desktop):

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Xmonad GNOME
Comment=Tiling window manager
Exec=gnome-session --session=xmonad

Create or edit this file (/usr/share/applications/xmonad.desktop):

[Desktop Entry]

Finally, install xmonad-contrib and create or edit ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs to have the following

import XMonad
import XMonad.Config.Gnome

main = xmonad gnomeConfig

Xmonad should now appear in the list of GDM sessions and also play nicely with gnome-session itself.

Compositing in GNOME and Xmonad

Some applications look better (e.g. GNOME Do) when composition is enabled. This, however, is not the case in the default Xmonad window manager. To enable it add an additional .desktop file /usr/share/xsessions/xmonad-gnome-session-composite.desktop:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Xmonad GNOME (Composite)
Comment=Tiling window manager

And create /usr/sbin/gnome-xmonad-composite and chmod +x /usr/sbin/gnome-xmonad-composite:

xcompmgr &
gnome-session --session=xmonad

Now choose "Xmonad GNOME (Composite)" in the list of sessions during login. Reference man xcompmgr for additional "eye candy".

Xfce 4 and xmonad

Use xfceConfig instead of defaultConfig after importing XMonad.Config.Xfce in ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs, e.g. adapting the minimal configuration above:

import XMonad
import XMonad.Config.Xfce

main = xmonad xfceConfig
    { terminal    = "urxvt"
    , modMask     = mod4Mask

Also add an entry to Settings > Session and Startup > Application Autostart that runs xmonad --replace.

Missing xmonad-i386-linux or xmonad-x86_64-linux

Xmonad should automatically create the xmonad-i386-linux file (in ~/.xmonad/). If this it not the case, grab a configuration file from the xmonad wiki or create your own. Put the .hs and all others files in ~/.xmonad/ and run this command from the folder:

xmonad --recompile

Now you should see the file.

Note: A reason you may get an error message saying that xmonad-x86_64-linux is missing is that xmonad-contrib is not installed.

Problems with Java applications

If you have problems, like Java application Windows not resizing, or menus immediately closing after you click, see Java#Applications not resizing with WM, menus immediately closing.

Empty space at the bottom of gvim or terminals

See Vim#Empty space at the bottom of gVim windows for a solution which makes the area match the background color.

For rxvt-unicode, you can use rxvt-unicode-patchedAUR.

You can also configure xmonad to respect size hints, but this will leave a gap instead. See the documentation on Xmonad.Layout.LayoutHints.

Chromium/Chrome will not go fullscreen

If Chrome fails to go fullscreen when F11 is pressed, you can use the XMonad.Hooks.EwmhDesktops extension found in the xmonad-contrib package. Simply add the import statement to your ~/.xmonad/xmonad.hs:

import XMonad.Hooks.EwmhDesktops

and then add handleEventHook = fullscreenEventHook to the appropriate place; for example:

        xmonad $ defaultConfig
            { modMask            = mod4Mask
            , handleEventHook    = fullscreenEventHook

After a recompile/restart of xmonad, Chromium should now respond to F11 (fullscreen) as expected.

Multitouch / touchegg

Touchégg polls the window manager for the _NET_CLIENT_LIST (in order to fetch a list of windows it should listen for mouse events on.) By default, xmonad does not supply this property. To enable this, use the XMonad.Hooks.EwmhDesktops extension found in the xmonad-contrib package.

Keybinding issues with an azerty keyboard layout

Users with a keyboard with azerty layout can run into issues with certain keybindings. Using the XMonad.Config.Azerty module will solve this.

GNOME 3 mod4+p changes display configuration instead of launching dmenu

If you do not need the capability to switch the display-setup in the gnome-control-center, just execute

dconf write /org/gnome/settings-daemon/plugins/xrandr/active false

as your user, to disable the xrandr plugin which grabs Super+p.

Problems with focused border in VirtualBox

A known issue with Virtualbox (Ticket #6479) can cause problems with the focused window border. A solution can be found by installing a compositing manager like xcompmgr which overrides the incorrect behavior of vboxvideo.

Steam games (Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, …) and xmonad

There seems to be some trouble with xmonad and Source engine based games like Half-Life. If they do not start or get stuck with a black screen, a workaround is to start them in windowed mode. To do so, right click on the game in your Steam library and choose properties, click on launch options and enter [1]:


Another solution is to float the window of the game using the manage hook. For example, the following line can be used for Half-Life:

 className =? "hl_linux" --> doFloat

This can also be worked around by making XMonad pay attention to EWMH hints and including its fullscreen hook [2]:

  main = xmonad $ ewmh defaultConfig{ handleEventHook =
           handleEventHook defaultConfig <+> fullscreenEventHook }

This has a few other effects and makes it behave more akin to fullscreen apps in other WMs.

LibreOffice - focus flicking between main window and dialog

The LibreOffice UI defaults to the gtk engine outside a desktop environment. This may cause problems with some xmonad configurations resulting in focus rapidly flicking between the LibreOffice main window and any open LibreOffice dialog window. Effectively locking the application. In this case the environment variable SAL_USE_VCLPLUGIN can be set to explicitly force LibreOffice to use another UI theme as outlined in LibreOffice#Theme For instance

  export SAL_USE_VCLPLUGIN=gen lowriter

to use the general (QT) UI.

See also