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According to Wikipedia:

IceWM is a window manager for the X Window System graphical infrastructure, written by Marko Maček. It was coded from scratch in C++ and is released under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License. It is relatively lightweight in terms of memory and CPU usage, and comes with themes that allow it to imitate the UI of Windows 95, OS/2, Motif, and other graphical user interfaces". Configurability and presence of simple session management places IceWM between simplest DEs and feature-rich WMs.


IceWM can be installed from official repositories with package icewm.

Alternatively, the latest version from the testing branch (icewm-testingAUR) and CVS version (icewm-cvsAUR) are available from the AUR. These versions add new features and bugfixes (due to slow development they are often equal with extra/icewm).

Running as stand-alone WM

To run IceWM as a stand-alone window manager, append the following to ~/.xinitrc:

exec icewm

If you want mounting, tray icons, desktop background and session stuff to work use

exec ck-launch-session dbus-launch icewm-session

(try to determine yourself which part is optional and how to use icewmbg to set desktop background)

icewm-session will run icewm, icewmbg and icewmtray, so appending the following to ~/.xinitrc implements basic session management:

exec icewm-session
Note: Entries in ~/.xinitrc for another Window manager or Desktop environment should be commented or removed - see xinitrc for further information.

IceWM as a WM for desktop environments

Actions required to use IceWM with DE are basically same as ones for Openbox (and probably any other WM).


Although IceWM configuration is originally text-based, there are GUI-based tools available, notably icewm-utils in [community]. However these tools are relatively old and most users prefer to simply edit the text configuration files. Configuration changes from defaults can be made either system wide (in /etc/icewm/) or on a user-specific basis (in ~/.icewm/).

To change your icewm configuration from the default, simply copy the default configuration files from /usr/share/icewm/ to ~/.icewm/, for example:

Note: Do this as a regular user, not as root.
$ mkdir ~/.icewm/
$ cp -R /usr/share/icewm/* ~/.icewm/
  • preferences is the core configuration file for IceWM.
  • menu controls the contents of the IceWM application menu.
  • keys allows the user to customize keyboard shortcuts
  • toolbar row of launcher icons on the taskbar
  • winoptions behavior of individual applications
  • theme theme path/name
  • startup script or command (must be executable) executed on startup
  • shutdown the same for shutdown


  • menumaker from [community] is a Python script that automatically populates your applications menu based on what is installed in your system. Although this may result in a menu filled with many unwanted applcations, it may still be preferable to manually editing the menu configuration file. When running MenuMaker, use the -f flag to overwrite an existing menu file:
# mmaker -f icewm
# xdg_menu --format icewm --fullmenu --root-menu /etc/xdg/menus/ > ~/.icewm/menu


Some themes are included by default, much larger selection is available in the icewm-themes package in the repository, but even the best of them have a spartan, 'old Windows' feel. Much better examples (like [1], [2] or [3]) can be found at

File Managers

It should be noted that IceWM is a window manager only and therefore does not include a file manager. PCManFM and Rox Filer enable desktop icons, but iDesk can also be used to achieve this functionality.

Note: For a greater listing of file managers, examine the File managers category listing.

Related Articles

External Resources