From ArchWiki

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.


Install the icewm package.

Install the icewm-gitAUR package for the development version.


With xinit run icewm, or icewm-session to also run icewmbg and icewmtray.

Note: icewm-session is needed for the startup script to work.


Although IceWM configuration is originally text-based, there are GUI tools available, notably icewm-utilsAUR[broken link: package not found]. However, these tools are relatively old and most users prefer to edit the text configuration files. Configuration changes from the defaults can be made either system wide (in /etc/icewm/) or on a user-specific basis (in ~/.config/icewm/).

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

$ cp -r /usr/share/icewm/ ~/.config/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.


The startup script is not provided by the icewm package so you will need to create it yourself, add the commands for the programs that you wish to start with the IceWM session and make it executable.

Note: Startup commands that install system tray applets must be preceded by sleep 1 &&, otherwise IceWM will create an ugly black window that will prevent it from quitting; in that case, use xkill on the task bar.

Below is an example of an IceWM startup script which starts network-manager-applet and XScreenSaver within the IceWM session:


# start network manager
    sleep 1 &&
    nm-applet &

# enable bluetooth applet
    sleep 1 &&
    blueman-applet &

# enable screensaver
    xscreensaver -nosplash &

# start redshift
    redshift &

# allow notifications
    /usr/lib/notification-daemon-1.0/notification-daemon &
# enable lockscreen
    exec xautolock -detectsleep -time 15 -locker "i3lock -n -i /home/user/lockscreen.png" -killtime 20 -killer "systemctl suspend" #lock after inactivity and then sleep

Generating menu entries

menumaker from the official repositories 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 applications, 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

You can avoid populating your menu with terminal based applications such as alsamixer by running the following switches with the mmaker command: --no-legacy and --no-debian. For example:

$ mmaker -f --no-legacy --no-debian icewm

Alternatively, you can generate a menu using xdg-menu. See the xdg-menu#IceWM section.


A small number of themes are included in the icewm package. These can supplemented by the themes available from the icewm-extra-themesAUR package. Many more themes can be downloaded from

Desktop icons

A file manager such as PCManFM or roxAUR can manage the wallpaper and add desktop icons. Alternatively, you could install Idesk, a small program that can also add icons to the desktop.

Tips and tricks


IceWM is not a compositing window manager. If you need compositing with IceWM, you have the option of using a standalone composite manager such as Xcompmgr or Picom.


No start menu icon (Intel graphics)

If you are using IceWM with Intel graphics you may find that the start menu in your taskbar has no icon. This is due to a recent change in the xf86-video-intel driver which means that the new, but rather unstable, SNA acceleration backend is used by default. To fix the start menu issue (and other possible graphical glitches) you need to switch back to the older UXA backend. See the following article: Intel graphics#AccelMethod.

Unable to logout when PCManFM is managing the desktop

If you use PCManFM to manage the desktop you may find that the IceWM logout button no longer works. As a workaround, you can define a logout command. This should allow you to logout whilst PCManFM is managing the desktop. To do this, uncomment LogoutCommand:

LogoutCommand="pkill -u username"

No shutdown or reboot options in logout menu

  • Logout command has been defined:

Shutdown and reboot commands will be ignored if a logout command has been defined. If you want shutdown and reboot options in the logout menu then you must not define a logout command.

  • Logout command has not been defined:

If you have defined shutdown and reboot commands (such as systemctl poweroff and systemctl reboot) and you have not defined a logout command but you still find that there are no shutdown or reboot options in the logout menu then update to icewm 1.3.8-2. See FS#37884 for more information.

See also