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Notes: please use the first argument of the template to provide more detailed indications. (Discuss in Talk:Herbstluftwm#)

Herbstluftwm is a manual tiling window manager for X11 using Xlib and Glib.


Herbstluftwm can be installed with the package herbstluftwmAUR, available in the Arch User Repository.

First steps

Read carefully herbstluftwm and herbstclient man pages in your favorite terminal emulator or online (herbstluftwm, herbstclient). Also actually read them, they contain a lot of information from an explanation of the binary tree in which the layout is kept to config file options and possible values.


Copy /etc/xdg/herbstluftwm/autostart file to $HOME/.config/herbstluftwm/autostart. You can edit that file for your needs. Make sure the autostart file is executable, else you'll probably end up without keybindings!

Autostart file

# sample autostart file


# this is a simple config for herbstluftwm

function hc() {
    herbstclient "$@"

hc emit_hook reload

xsetroot -solid '#5A8E3A'

# remove all existing keybindings
hc keyunbind --all

# keybindings
hc keybind $Mod-Shift-q quit
hc keybind $Mod-Shift-r reload
hc keybind $Mod-Shift-c close
hc keybind $Mod-u spawn urxvt

#herbstclient load ${TAG_NAMES[0]} '(clients max:0)'

# tags
TAG_NAMES=( {1..4} )
TAG_KEYS=( {1..4} 0 )

hc rename default "${TAG_NAMES[0]}" || true
for i in ${!TAG_NAMES[@]} ; do
    hc add "${TAG_NAMES[$i]}"
    if ! [ -z "$key" ] ; then
        hc keybind "$Mod-$key" use "${TAG_NAMES[$i]}"
        hc keybind "$Mod-Shift-$key" move "${TAG_NAMES[$i]}"

# layouting
hc keybind $Mod-r remove
hc keybind $Mod-space cycle_layout 1
hc keybind $Mod-v split vertical 0.5
hc keybind $Mod-h split horizontal 0.5
hc keybind $Mod-s floating toggle
hc keybind $Mod-f fullscreen toggle
hc keybind $Mod-p pseudotile toggle

## resizing
hc keybind $Mod-Control-Left resize left +$RESIZESTEP
hc keybind $Mod-Control-Down resize down +$RESIZESTEP
hc keybind $Mod-Control-Up resize up +$RESIZESTEP
hc keybind $Mod-Control-Right resize right +$RESIZESTEP

## mouse
hc mousebind $Mod-Button1 move
hc mousebind $Mod-Button2 resize
hc mousebind $Mod-Button3 zoom

## focus
hc keybind $Mod-Tab        cycle_all +1
hc keybind $Mod-Shift-Tab  cycle_all -1
hc keybind $Mod-c cycle
hc keybind $Mod-Left  focus left
hc keybind $Mod-Down  focus down
hc keybind $Mod-Up    focus up
hc keybind $Mod-Right focus right
hc keybind $Mod-Shift-Left  shift left
hc keybind $Mod-Shift-Down  shift down
hc keybind $Mod-Shift-Up    shift up
hc keybind $Mod-Shift-Right shift right

## colors
hc set frame_border_active_color '#49351D'
hc set frame_border_normal_color '#73532D'
hc set frame_bg_normal_color '#BD9768'
hc set frame_bg_active_color '#BD8541'
hc set frame_border_width 2
hc set window_border_width 2
hc set window_border_normal_color '#AE8451'
hc set window_border_active_color '#F6FF00'
hc set always_show_frame 1
hc set default_frame_layout 2
hc set snap_distance 5
hc set snap_gap 5

## rules
hc unrule -F
#hc rule class=XTerm tag=3 # move all xterms to tag 3
hc rule focus=off # normally do not focus new clients
# give focus to most common terminals
hc rule class~'(.*[Rr]xvt.*|.*[Tt]erm|Konsole)' focus=on
hc rule windowtype~'_NET_WM_WINDOW_TYPE_(DIALOG|UTILITY|SPLASH)' pseudotile=on
hc rule windowtype='_NET_WM_WINDOW_TYPE_DIALOG' focus=on
hc rule windowtype~'_NET_WM_WINDOW_TYPE_(NOTIFICATION|DOCK)' manage=off
hc rule class=Opera tag=2
hc rule class~'(MPlayer|Vlc)' tag=3 fullscreen=on

## if you want to start a panel, do so here
hc pad 0 "" "" 18
# tint2 &


There is a tab-completion for the parameters for herbstclient. Try herbstclient list_commands to show all parameters.

Right now there's no error message if you use wrong parameters on a command, but only a non-zero return value. If you don't show the return value of a command anyway (e.g. in your $SHELL-prompt), you might want to echo $? to find the return value of the last command.

Multi-Monitor Support

Herbstluftwm supports multiple monitors independent of the monitors reported by xrandr, but instead by taking care of monitors itself. While this may seem tedious or clumsy at first, it brings a lot of flexibility and gives the user more control over his/her monitor-arrangement. To make a region of your monitor known to herbstluftwm as new display use the add_monitor command: herbstclient add_monitor 1920x1080+1280+0 4 to add your external monitor with a resolution of 1920x1080 right of you laptop display with a resolution of 1280x800 and display tag 4 on the external monitor.

To resize/move a herbstluftwm-monitor use the move_monitor command. A list of all currently defined monitors can be shown by list_monitors and removing monitors is done by remove_monitor. The manpage gives additional detail and examples.


The main way to control herbstluftwm is though commands to herbstclient. Since herbstclient can be called from any script, you have great flexibility in controlling herbstluftwm this way.

Script to switch to the next empty tag

The following ruby script allows you to switch to the (next or previous) (full or empty) tag. Call it with the arguments (+1 or -1) and (full or empty). For example, if you save the script to herbst-move.rb, then

ruby herbst-move.rb +1 full

will move you to the next full tag. I use the following key bindings.

hc keybind $Mod-Left  spawn ruby /home/carl/Ruby/herbst-move.rb -1 empty
hc keybind $Mod-Right spawn ruby /home/carl/herbst-move.rb +1 empty
hc keybind $Mod-Up spawn ruby /home/carl/Ruby/herbst-move.rb -1 full
hc keybind $Mod-Down spawn ruby /home/carl/Ruby/herbst-move.rb +1 full

And here is the script.


incr, type = ARGV

d = incr.to_i
if type == 'full'
  ch = '.'
  ch = ':'

array = `herbstclient tag_status 0`.scan(/[:\.\#][^\t]*/)
len = array.length
orig = array.find_index{|e| e[0] == '#'}

i = (orig+d) % len
  array[i][0] == ch
  i = (i+d) % len

if i != orig
  system "herbstclient use_index #{i}"

Script to cycle though paddings (or other settings)

Here is a ruby script to cycle through a set of paddings, although you can modify it to cycle though any collection of settings. The script knows the previous layout by looking for the presence of two dummy files in /tmp.


file1 = "/tmp/herbst-padding-1"
file2 = "/tmp/herbst-padding-2"

def herbst_run f
  system "herbstclient #{f}"

pad1 = 'pad 0 0 0 0 0'
pad2 = 'pad 0 0 20 0 200'
pad3 = 'pad 0 0 0 0 150'

files = [file1, file2].map{|f| File.exist? File.expand_path(f)}

if files == [false, false]  # 0 files
  herbst_run pad2
  system "touch #{file1}"
elsif files == [true, false]  # 1 file
  herbst_run pad1
  system "touch #{file2}"
else           # 2 files
  herbst_run pad3
  system "rm #{file1} #{file2}"

See also