From ArchWiki

dmenu is a fast and lightweight dynamic menu for X. It reads arbitrary text from stdin, and creates a menu with one item for each line. The user can then select an item, through the arrow keys or typing a part of the name, and the line is printed to stdout. dmenu_run is a wrapper that ships with the dmenu distribution that allows its use as an application launcher.


Install the dmenu package, or dmenu-gitAUR for the development version.

Various patched variants exist which extend dmenu's default functionality.

You may run dmenu with:

$ dmenu_run


Now, you will want to attach the dmenu_run command to a keystroke combination. This can be done either via your window manager or desktop environment configuration, or with a program like xbindkeys. See the Hotkeys article for more information.

Displaying custom items

Custom items will be shown by separating them with a new line (\n) and piping them into dmenu. For example:

$ echo -e "first\nsecond\nthird" | dmenu

Manually adding items

dmenu will look for executables in the directories defined in your $PATH. For information on modifying your $PATH see environment variables.


dmenu can display fonts using XFT. This example will run dmenu using ttf-droid:

$ dmenu_run -fn 'Droid Sans Mono-9'

Support for shell aliases

dmenu does not support shell aliases. To have dmenu recognize your aliases, install the dmenu-recent-aliases-gitAUR package and run dmenu-recent-aliases. Your aliases must be in ~/.bash_aliases to be recognized by dmenu-recent-aliases.

Support for history

To sort commands by recency, download dmenu_run_history to your $PATH and use dmenu_run_history instead of dmenu_run.

Tips and tricks

Taking input using dmenu

Inside a script (e.g. launched from a shortcut), getting user input is sometimes required. We can use dmenu for this, by passing it an EOF: the selection field will be empty and dmenu can take user input.

Since reading /dev/null will return an EOF, this can simply be done by the following command:

$ dmenu < /dev/null

Embedding in current terminal

Dmenu can be embeded inside any window using the -w id option.

To embed it inside the currenctly active window (like for example the terminal it is being run from), use xdo to get its id:

$ echo hello | dmenu -w $(xdo id)


No locale support

Running dmenu_run results in the following error message:

$ dmenu_run
no locale support

Make sure that the environment variable LANG is correctly set. See the following for more information: Locale#Troubleshooting

Missing menu entries

If certain entries are missing from dmenu, the cache may be malformed. Delete it and restart dmenu.

$ rm ~/.dmenu_cache
$ rm ~/.cache/dmenu_run

Note that there will most likely be only one cache file, depending on if $XDG_CACHE_HOME is set. See the contents of /usr/bin/dmenu_run for more information.

Environment variables

Environment variables needed for applications should instead be added to /etc/environment.

See also