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Revision as of 23:24, 12 February 2014 by Earsplit (talk | contribs) (Added in troubleshooting for the most commonly asked problem)
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bspwm is a tiling window manager that represents windows as the leaves of a full binary tree. It has support for EWMH and multiple monitors, and is configured and controlled through messages.


Install bspwmAUR or bspwm-gitAUR from the AUR. You will also want to install sxhkdAUR or sxhkd-gitAUR, a simple X hotkey daemon used to communicate with bspwm through bspc as well as launch your applications of choice.

To start bspwm on login, add the following to ~/.xinitrc:

sxhkd -f 100 &
exec bspwm


Example configuration is found on GitHub.

Copy bspwmrc to ~/.config/bspwm/bspwmrc, sxhkdrc to ~/.config/sxhkd/sxhkdrc and make bspwmrc executable with chmod +x ~/.config/bspwm/bspwmrc.

These two files are where you will be setting wm settings and keybindings, respectively.

Documentation for bspwm is found by running man bspwm.

There is also documentation for sxhkd found by running man sxhkd.

Note for multi-monitor setups

The example bspwmrc configures ten desktops on one monitor like this:

bspc monitor -d I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X

You will need to change this line and add one for each monitor, similar to this:

bspc monitor DVI-I-1 -d I II III IV
bspc monitor DVI-I-2 -d V VI VII
bspc monitor DP-1 -d VIII IX X

You can use `xrandr -q` or `bspc query -M` to find the monitor names.

The total number of desktops were maintained at ten in the above example. This is so that each desktop can still be addressed with 'super + {1-9,0}' in the sxhkdrc.


There are two ways to set window rules (as of cd97a32).

The first is by using the built in rule command, as shown in the example bspwmrc:

bspc rule -a Gimp desktop=^8 follow=on floating=on
bspc rule -a Chromium desktop=^2
bspc rule -a mplayer2 floating=on
bspc rule -a focus=on
bspc rule -a Screenkey manage=off

The second option is to use an external rule command. This is more complex, but can allow you to craft more complex window rules. See these examples for a sample rule command. These scripts require lua-posix, lua and xwinfo.

If a particular window does not seem to be behaving according to your rules, check the class name of the program. This can be accomplished by running xprop | grep WM_CLASS to make sure you're using the proper string.


Currently, bar and dzen2 are supported with bspwm. Check the examples folder on the GitHub page for ideas or the Bar wiki page. The panel will be executed by placing panel & for bar or panel dzen2 & for dzen2 in your bspwmrc. Check the opt-depends in the bspwm package for dependencies that may be required in either case.

To display system information on your status bar you can use various system calls. This example will show you how to edit your panel to get the volume status on your BAR:

        volStatus=$(amixer get Master | tail -n 1 | cut -d '[' -f 4 | sed 's/].*//g')
        volLevel=$(amixer get Master | tail -n 1 | cut -d '[' -f 2 | sed 's/%.*//g')
        # is alsa muted or not muted?
        if [ "$volStatus" == "on" ]
                echo "\f6"$volLevel
                # If it is muted, make the font red
                echo "\f1"$volLevel

Next, we will have to make sure it is called and piped to $PANEL_FIFO:

while true; do
echo "S" "$(panel_volume) $(panel_clock) > "$PANEL_FIFO"
        sleep 1s
done &


Help! I get a blank screen and my keybindings don't work!

There are a few ways to debug this. First, a blank screen is good. That means bspwm is running.

I would confirm that you're xinitrc looks something like

sxhkd &
exec bspwm

The ampersand is important. Next, try spawning a terminal in your xinitrc to see if its getting positioned properly. It should appear somewhat "centered" on the screen. To do this, use this .xinitrc:

sxhkd &
urxvt &
exec bspwm

If nothing shows up, that means you probably forgot to install urxvt. If it shows up but isn't centered or taking up most of your screen, that means BSPWM isn't getting started properly. Make sure that you've chmod +x ~/.config/bspwm/bspwmrc .

Next, type pidof sxhkd in that terminal you spawned. It should return a number. If it doesn't, that means sxhd isn't running. Try to be explicit and run sxhkd -c ~/.config/sxhkd/sxhkdrc . You could also try changing the Super key to something like Alt in your sxhkdrc and see if that helps. Another common problem is copying the text from the example files instead of physically copying the file over. Copying / pasting code usually leads to indentation issues which sxhkd can be sensative to.

See also