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FVWM is a stable, powerful, efficient, and ICCCM-compliant multiple virtual desktop window manager for the X Window system. It requires some effort to learn to use it well, since it is almost entirely configured by editing configuration files with a text editor, but those who persist end up with a desktop environment that works exactly the way they want it to work. Development is active, and support is excellent. And for those who wonder, FVWM means Feeble Virtual Window Manager.

Installing FVWM

Install the package fvwm which is available in the official repositories.

You can also install fvwm-patchedAUR from the AUR, or if you have archlinuxfr (see Unofficial user repositories) added to your /etc/pacman.conf it can be installed with pacman like a regular package.

Starting FVWM

FVWM will automatically be listed in kdm/gdm in the sessions menu. Otherwise, add

exec fvwm2 


exec fvwm

to your user's .xinitrc.

A sample .xinitrc might be as follows:


case $1 in
        exec ck-launch-session fvwm
        exec ck-launch-session awesome
        exec ck-launch-session $DEFAULT_SESSION

SLiM is good login manager with few dependencies that acts well with FVWM. SLiM can also be used with multiple environments so it is helpful if one wants several environments and real control of the process.

Bringing Out its Power

When you start FVWM for the first time, you will get something that looks very blank. When you left-click on the desktop, you will be able to select a very basic configuration for FVWM. Chose the modules you want and you are ready to get started. You will undoubtedly want to do more to create your desktop, so here are some tips:

  • Although it is outdated, the Zensites FVWM beginners guide[1] helps to understand how FVWM functions and how to build your basic setup.
  • The Gentoo Linux Wiki has a useful guide on configuration.[2]
  • The FVWM homepage[3] includes documentation[4], a FAQ [5], and links to a Wiki[6]) and the FVWM forums[7].
  • The best way to come up with the desktop you want is probably to check out the configurations in the FVWM forum[8] or at Box-Look.org,[9] choose one you like, install it, and modify it to taste.
  • As you work with what other people have done, you may find it helpful to look at the tips on configuration files by Thomas Adam, the most active FVWM developer.[10]
  • FVWM-Crystal, which is also in the Arch repositories, is an add-on that makes FVWM much easier to configure, although the easier configuration allows much less flexibility than direct editing of configuration files.
  • XdgMenu is a useful utility for generating menus.
  • Fvwm plays well with xcompmgr for simple compositing effects.
  • Useful applications are similar to those suggested for Openbox or Fluxbox.


  1. Zensites FVWM beginners guide.
  2. Gentoo Wiki configuration guide.
  3. FVWM Homepage.
  4. FVWM Homepage documentation.
  5. FVWM Homepage FAQ.
  6. FVWM Wiki.
  7. FVWM Forums.
  8. Configurations in the FVWM forum.
  9. Box-Look.
  10. Thomas Adam on common mistakes in configuration files.