A display manager, or login manager, is typically a graphical user interface that is displayed at the end of the boot process in place of the default shell. There are various implementations of display managers, just as there are various types of window managers and desktop environments. There is usually a certain amount of customization and themeability available with each one.
- 1 List of display managers
- 2 Loading the display manager
- 3 Session configuration
- 4 Tips and tricks
- 5 Known issues
List of display managers
- CDM — Ultra-minimalistic, yet full-featured login manager written in Bash.
- Console TDM — Extension for xinit written in pure Bash.
- nodm — Minimalistic display manager for automatic logins.
- LightDM — Cross-desktop display manager, can use various front-ends written in any toolkit.
- MDM — MDM display manager, used in Linux Mint, a fork of GDM 2.
- SDDM — QML-based display manager and successor to KDE4's kdm; recommended for Plasma 5 and LXQt.
- SLiM — Lightweight and elegant graphical login solution. (discontinued)
- XDM — X display manager with support for XDMCP, host chooser.
Loading the display manager
This should work out of the box. If not, you might have to reset a custom
default.target symlink to point to the default
After enabling SDDM a symlink
display-manager.service should be set in
/etc/systemd/system/. You may need to use
--force to override old symlinks.
$ file /etc/systemd/system/display-manager.service
/etc/systemd/system/display-manager.service: symbolic link to /usr/lib/systemd/system/sddm.service
In order to check the status of your user session, you can use loginctl. All polkit actions like suspending the system or mounting external drives will work out of the box.
$ loginctl show-session $XDG_SESSION_ID
Many display managers read available sessions from
/usr/share/xsessions/ directory. It contains standard desktop entry files for each DM/WM.
To add/remove entries to your display manager's session list; create/remove the .desktop files in
/usr/share/xsessions/ as desired. A typical .desktop file will look something like:
[Desktop Entry] Encoding=UTF-8 Name=Openbox Comment=Log in using the Openbox window manager (without a session manager) Exec=/usr/bin/openbox-session TryExec=/usr/bin/openbox-session Icon=openbox.png Type=XSession
Run ~/.xinitrc as a session
InstallingAUR will provide an option to run your .xinitrc as a session. Simply set 'xinitrc' as your session in your display manager's settings.
Starting applications without a window manager
You can also launch an application without any decoration, desktop, or window management. For example to launch
web-browser.desktop file in
/usr/share/xsessions/ like this:
[Desktop Entry] Encoding=UTF-8 Name=Web Browser Comment=Use a web browser as your session Exec=/usr/bin/google-chrome --auto-launch-at-startup TryExec=/usr/bin/google-chrome --auto-launch-at-startup Icon=google-chrome
In this case, once you login, the application set with
Exec will be launched immediately. When you close the application, you will be taken back to the login manager (same as logging out of a normal DE/WM).
It is important to remember that most graphical applications are not intended to be launched this way and you might have manual tweaking to do or limitations to live with (there is no window manager, so do not expect to be able to move or resize any windows, including dialogs; nonetheless, you might be able to set the window geometry in the application's configuration files).
Tips and tricks
Most display managers source
/etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d/. For more details, see xprofile.
Set the language
where your_locale is a value such as
Restart your display manager for the changes to take effect.
Incompatibility with systemd
Affected DM: MDM
Some display managers are not fully compatible with systemd, because they reuse the PAM session process. It causes various problems on second login, e.g.:
- NetworkManager applet does not work,
- PulseAudio volume cannot be adjusted,
- login failed into GNOME with another user.