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JWM (Joe's Window Manager) is a featherweight window manager for the X11 Window System written in C; it's under active development and is maintained by Joe Wingbermuehle. ...[A]lthough development on JWM has slowed quite a bit, [Joe Wingbermuehle is] still working on it on and off and...will hopefully have a new release ready one of these days.[1] JWM uses approximately 5 MB of resident memory under normal operating conditions. As of January 2009, the size of the version present in the official Arch Linux repositories is under 76 KB packaged (compare to dwm at under 17 KB) and under 171 KB installed (compare to dwm at 68 KB). A minimally compiled version consumes approximately 136 KB of disk space and occupies under 1500 KB of resident memory.

JWM is generally regarded as the lightest and fastest stacking window manager available for X11 and is the default window manager base for distributions such as Puppy Linux and Damn Small Linux. Numerous options allow for great flexibility of layout. Some of the more outstanding features of JWM include ease of configuration (a single XML file), native support for customizable panels and buttons and its inclusion of a system tray dock.

[1] Wingbermuehle, Joe. News. 06 Sep. 2008. 11 Feb. 2009 <http://joewing.net/index.shtml>.

Package Installation

Template:Package Official is part of the official Arch Linux [community] repository.

# pacman -S jwm
Warning: Recent SVN snapshots (e.g. 493) exhibit broken Hyper key mask behavior.

Starting JWM

To start JWM, simply type:

$ xinit /usr/bin/jwm

or include the appropriate entry (e.g. jwm or exec jwm) in your ~/.xinitrc file and

$ startx


Creating ~/.jwmrc

In adherence to the principles of The Arch Way, the look, feel and function of the JWM desktop is controlled by way of a single configuration file: Template:Filename
A sample configuration file is installed upon program installation and is located at Template:Filename. Create Template:Filename:

$ touch Template:Filename


$ cp -i Template:Filename Template:Filename

All that is left at this point is to establish the environment by editing the XML Template:Filename file.

  • JWM Configuration details the complete list of tags, attributes and values available for JWM.

Overview of Selected Tags


Load and fork Parcellite as a background daemon when JWM starts

 <StartupCommand>parcellite -d</StartupCommand>

Quietly connect to and fork the urxvtd daemon to the current $DISPLAY when JWM starts

 <StartupCommand>urxvtd -g -o -f</StartupCommand>

Enable DPMS (Energy Star) to turn the monitor off to its lowest state of power consumption state after 900 seconds of screen idle.

 <StartupCommand>xset dpms 0 0 900</StartupCommand>


Open Thunar in a specified directory

<Program label="Thunar">thunar ~/Desktop</Program>

Connect to the local CUPS web interface using the preferred web application (xdg-open):

<Program label="CUPS Printing">xdg-open http://localhost:631</Program>

Iconize and start FileZilla with Site Manager opened

<Program icon="filezilla.png">filezilla -s</Program>


Create containers for a list of additional programs to display as a submenus under <RootMenu>

<Menu label="Sample">
  <Program label="Xfburn">xfburn -d</Program>
  <Program label="urxvt Client">urxvtc</Program>
<Menu label="Example">
  <Program label="Opera">opera -nolirc -nomail</Program>
  <Program label="Writer">/opt/openoffice/program/swriter -nologo</Program>


Create a menu container displaying the label="Test" of height="24" pixels and bound to the left mouse button onroot="1" under <RootMenu>

<RootMenu labeled="true" label="Test" height="24" onroot="1">
    <Program label="Thunar">thunar ~/Desktop</Program>
    <Program label="CUPS Printing">xdg-open http://localhost:631</Program>
    <Program icon="filezilla.png">filezilla -s</Program>
  <Menu label="Sample">
    <Program label="Xfburn">xfburn -d</Program>
    <Program label="urxvt Client">urxvtc</Program>
  <Menu label="Example">
    <Program label="Opera">opera -nolirc -nomail</Program>
    <Program label="Writer">/usr/lib/openoffice/program/swriter -nologo</Program>

Create a nested menu container with no label, of height="32" pixels, and bound to the right mouse button onroot="3" under <RootMenu>

<RootMenu height="32" onroot="3">
    <Program label="Thunar">thunar ~/Desktop</Program>
    <Program label="CUPS Printing">xdg-open http://localhost:631</Program>
    <Program icon="filezilla.png" label="FileZilla">filezilla -s</Program>
  <Menu label="Sample">
    <Program label="Xfburn">xfburn -d</Program>
    <Program label="urxvt Client">urxvtc</Program>
  <Menu label="Example">
    <Program label="Opera">opera -nolirc -nomail</Program>
    <Program label="Writer">/usr/lib/openoffice/program/swriter -nologo</Program>


Preserve panel space by not displaying Squeeze and Xarchiver within the <Tasklist>


Always start Firefox maximized on desktop:2 without a title bar


Window Class

The xprop utility displays window and font properties in an X server.

  • Set xprop to display the window class name of an application:
xprop WM_CLASS 
  • Click on the desired application window to display the string name of the window class:
WM_CLASS(STRING) = "urxvt", "URxvt"

xprop is part of the Template:Package Official package in the Arch Linux [extra] repository.

# pacman -S xorg-utils


Create a panel <TrayButton> displaying the label="Pattern" which launches the root:1 menu

<TrayButton label="Pattern">root:1</TrayButton>


Integrate, or <Swallow> into the tray the program whose name=wicd-gtk and allow the named program to execute the command wicd-gtk

<Swallow name="wicd-gtk">


  • Create a panel <Tray> of height="24" pixels offset x="0" pixels from the left of the screen and y="0" from the top of the screen. Display within the panel:
  1. A menu <TrayButton> which displays the root:1 menu.
  2. A <TaskList/> which displays running applications within the current desktop.
  3. A <TrayButton> with the text label="X" that minimizes open windows to show the root window, or desktop.
  4. A virtual desktop <Pager/> showing available workspaces.
  5. The <Swallow> integration of the Wicd network applet.
    1. It is recommended to set wicd-gtk within the <StartupCommand> tag.
  6. For supported applications, a system tray area for programs to <Dock/>.
  7. A <Clock> which displays the date and time in the specified format.
    1. Man strftime for time and date character conversion specifications.
<Tray x="0" y="0" height="24">
  <TrayButton label="Pattern">root:1</TrayButton>
  <TrayButton label="X">showdesktop</TrayButton>
  <Swallow name="wicd-gtk">
  <Clock format="%a %b %d %l:%M %p"></Clock>


Bind the F1 key to launch and display the root:3 menu

<Key key="F1">root:1</Key>

Bind the Super+l key combination to lock the screen (XScreenSaver)

<Key mask="S" key="l">exec:xscreensaver-command -lock</Key>


Elaborate configurations often <Include> files for ease of maintenance and control

<Key key="F1">root:1</Key>
<Key mask="S" key="l">exec:xscreensaver-command -lock</Key>

Contents of an example ~/.jwmrc-super-hyper-keys

<Key mask="PH" key="t">exec:thunderbird -addressbook</Key>
<Key mask="PH" key="h">exec:htop -u USER --sort-key PERCENT_MEM</Key>
<Key mask="PH" key="c">exec:catfish --hidden --path=/usr</Key>


Dismount all mounted TrueCrypt volumes when JWM shuts down

<ShutdownCommand>truecrypt -d</ShutdownCommand>

Recursively force the removal of the contents of the Trash folder when JWM shuts down

 <ShutdownCommand>rm -rf ~/.local/share/Trash/*</ShutdownCommand>

Verifying Configuration Changes

$ jwm -p

Runs the native configuration file checking utility of JWM and returns syntax errors (including associated line numbers) present in the configuration file, if any. If the syntax is correct and the configuration file is deemed properly marked up, there is no error code returned. Changes in the configuration file are available immediately after restarting, or refreshing JWM via the <Restart/> command. There is no need to restart the X server for changes to apply. The <Restart/> command is made available to the user as a command on the initial root menu. Users are recommended to use this tool in between configuration changes in order to ensure valid markup and a stable environment.

Additional Troubleshooting

If X is not already running on tty1, Ctrl+Alt+F1 will allow you to review standard output errors and messages. Man the script command for details on how to create a typescript of what is printed to the terminal.

Useful Tips & Tricks

Additional Applications

  • pal can be run within <Clock> to provide calendaring support and todo and event lists features.
<Clock format="%a %b %d %l:%M %p">xterm -hold -e pal</Clock>
  • Orage can be run within <Clock> to provide calendaring support and todo and event lists features.
  • slock can be bound to <Program> and/or <Key> to provide a featherweight X screen lock solution.
  • Parcellite can be swallowed within a tray(s) to serve as a lightweight X11 clipboard manager.
  • Conky can be run within the <StartupCommand> to provide the display of various data streams (e.g. battery life and AC adapter status for notebooks).
  • PCMan File Manager can be used to manage the desktop. The advantage of using PCMan File Manager is that it also doubles as a powerful GUI file manager.
  • Xfce Desktop Manager (or xfdesktop) can be used to manage the desktop. To circumvent the issue of xfdesktop redrawing over the root desktop window of Conky:
  1. Review the Conky FAQ for workarounds in Template:Filename
  2. <Group> Conky and specify the following <Option> tags in Template:Filename

Xinitrc Startup Applications

Startup applications can be executed outside of the <StartupCommand> by including the appropriate options in ~./xinitrc


/usr/local/bin/parcellite -d &
/usr/local/bin/Thunar --daemon &
/usr/local/bin/urxvtd -q -f -o &
/usr/local/bin/xcalib -d :0 /usr/share/color/icc/P221W-Native.icc
/usr/bin/nvidia-settings -a GPUOverclockingState=1 -a GPU2DClockFreqs=640,655 -a GPU3DClockFreqs=640,655 &
setxkbmap -option terminate:ctrl_alt_bksp &
exec ck-launch-session /usr/bin/jwm

Improve <Tasklist> Contrast

Change the default <Tasklist> settings to match the improved contrast style of the default <MenuStyle> and active <WindowStyle>


Power & Event Management

Power and event management commands can be run within <Key> and/or <Program> tags.

Logout & Refresh

<Exit/> (Logout) is the menu command to cleanly log out of the current X server.
<Restart/> (Refresh) is the menu command tag which reinitializes the configuration file and updates menus and keybindings accordingly.
<Restart/> and <Exit/> can be bound to the Ctrl+Alt modified keys following the example syntax below:

<Key mask="CA" key="r">exec:jwm -restart</Key>
<Key mask="CA" key="e">exec:jwm -exit</Key>

Reboot & Shutdown

A system with sudo installed and properly configured can be rebooted with the Restart and Poweroff menu options.

<Program label="Restart">sudo reboot</Program>
<Program label="Poweroff">sudo poweroff</Program>

Template:Box Note

System power and event management can also be handled by HAL via dbus-send message signals without the need to modify the sudoers file.

<Program label="Restart">dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest=org.freedesktop.Hal /org/freedesktop/Hal/devices/computer org.freedesktop.Hal.Device.SystemPowerManagement.Reboot</Program>
<Program label="Shutdown">dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest=org.freedesktop.Hal /org/freedesktop/Hal/devices/computer org.freedesktop.Hal.Device.SystemPowerManagement.Shutdown</Program>
<Key mask="H" key="F4">exec:dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest=org.freedesktop.Hal /org/freedesktop/Hal/devices/computer org.freedesktop.Hal.Device.SystemPowerManagement.Suspend int32:0</Key
<Key mask="H" key="F12>dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest=org.freedesktop.Hal /org/freedesktop/Hal/devices/computer org.freedesktop.Hal.Device.SystemPowerManagement.Hibernate</Key>

System power management can also be handled by ConsoleKit via dbus-send message signals without the need to modify the sudoers file.

<Program label="Restart">dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest=org.freedesktop.ConsoleKit /org/freedesktop/ConsoleKit/Manager org.freedesktop.ConsoleKit.Manager.Restart</Program>
<Program label="Poweroff">dbus-send --system --print-reply --dest=org.freedesktop.ConsoleKit /org/freedesktop/ConsoleKit/Manager org.freedesktop.ConsoleKit.Manager.Stop</Program>

Custom Minimal Build

Gains in UI response can be gleaned by not using menu icons and by disabling the use of Xft fonts. Further gains can be accomplished by removing support for external libraries with a custom build. The result is also a reduction in resource requirements. A minimal build compiled with Xft support and using Xft fonts is allocated approximately 3 MB of resident and 1.5 MB of shared memory. The same build compiled without Xft support is allocated under 1.5 MB and approximately 1.2 MB, respectively. See the Arch Build System page for further details.

Minimal PKGBUILD Example

pkgdesc="A lightweight window manager for the X11 Window System"
arch=('i686' 'x86_64')

build() {
  cd ${srcdir/${pkgname}-${pkgver}

  ./configure --disable-confirm --disable-icons --disable-png  \ 
  --disable-xpm --disable-jpeg --disable-fribidi --disable-xinerama  \
  --disable-shape --disable-xft --disable-xrender --disable-debug  \ 
  --prefix=/usr --sysconfdir=/etc

  make BINDIR=$pkgdir/usr/bin \
       MANDIR=$pkgdir/usr/share/man \
       SYSCONF=$pkgdir/etc install

Minimal Font Suggestions




Manual Tiling Support

Tiling support can be added to JWM through the use of the Poor Man's Tiling Window Manager python script. Assuming manage.py is part of the PATH, various tiling actions can be keybound according to the example below

<Key mask="H" key="Up">exec:manage.py swap</Key>
<Key mask="H" key="Down">exec:manage.py cycle</Key>
<Key mask="H" key="Left">exec:manage.py left</Key>
<Key mask="H" key="Right">exec:manage.py right</Key>

Package Removal

To remove the JWM package while retaining its configuration files and dependencies:

# pacman -R jwm

To remove the JWM package and its configuration files while retaining its dependencies:

# pacman -Rn jwm

To remove the JWM package and dependencies not required by any other packages while retaining its configuration files:

# pacman -Rs jwm

To remove the JWM package, its configuration files and dependencies not required by any other packages:

# pacman -Rns jwm

{{Box Note|Pacman will not remove configuration files outside of the defaults that were created during package installation. This includes Template:Filename

Additional Resources

Examples of what can be accomplished with a bit of creativity and substitution can be found at: