From ArchWiki

StumpWM is a tiling, keyboard driven X11 window manager written entirely in Common Lisp.

The successor to the cult classic Ratpoison, StumpWM adds all the flexibility and hackability of Common Lisp, allowing the user to make modifications to the source of the window manager even while it is running. It is also known as "the emacs of WMs."

From StumpWM's homepage:

"StumpWM attempts to be customizable yet visually minimal. There are no window decorations, no icons, and no buttons. It does have various hooks to attach your personal customizations, and variables to tweak.
  • Hack the good hack
  • Debug your good hack
  • Customize your window manager
While it's running That's right. With a 100% Common Lisp window manager there is no stopping the hacks. Just re-eval and GO!"

Want to see it in action? A StumpWM user created a video.


A runnable StumpWM installation consists of 3 parts:

  • Common Lisp REPL
  • StumpWM Lisp package and its dependencies
  • Executable file as entry point

Install via Package Manager

Install stumpwm or stumpwm-gitAUR.

If you are installing without an AUR helper, you should install these packages in the following order:

After installing put exec stumpwm in your ~/.xinitrc and run startx. To quit, with the default configuration press C-t ; then type quit and press enter.

Both packages will install an xsession entry in /usr/share/xsessions so if you use a display manager that checks that directory, you should be good to go.

For a list of commonly used key-bindings, press C-t ?.

Install via Roswell

It is highly recommended to use roswell to manage your Lisp REPL.

This method makes it easy to upgrade StumpWM together with other Lisp packages using ql:update-all-dists.

to start REPL in roswell run ros run in terminal, to install stumpwm run (ql:quickload :stumpwm) inside REPL

in order to launch it through login manager or ~/.xinitrc, an executable file must be created. create new project using roswell :

ros init stumpwm

Create stumpwm.ros:

#|-*- mode:lisp -*-|#
exec ros -Q -- $0 "$@"

  #+quicklisp (ql:quickload '(stumpwm) :silent t))

(defpackage :ros.script.stumpwm.3749863733
  (:use :cl))
(in-package :ros.script.stumpwm.3749863733)

(defun main (&rest argv)
  (declare (ignorable argv))

Then place stumpwm.ros file to wherever you like and make it the entry point of this awesome WM.

To add stumpwm to the Login Manager, create stumpwm.desktop in /usr/share/xsessions/:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment=Login using StumpWM

or you can just start using ~/.xinitrc

exec /path/to/stumpwm.ros

Documentation and support

There is a TeXInfo manual included in the AUR packages, the source, and online.

There is also a wiki, an IRC channel #stumpwm on Libera Chat, and a mailing list. For more information, see the project's website.


StumpWM stores its configuration in ~/.stumpwmrc or you can use ~/.config/stumpwm/config

Change cursor from default X shape

By default StumpWM leaves the cursor as XOrg's standard X shape with the hotspot in the centre. You can have the more usual left-facing pointer by running

$ xsetroot -cursor_name left_ptr

You can also put this in your configuration file

(run-shell-command "xsetroot -cursor_name left_ptr")

Change window focus on mouse click

Clicking on another window will send the click event to that window, but it will not get focus meaning any keyboard input will go to whichever window has focus. The following line makes focus change to any window that is clicked on.

(setf *mouse-focus-policy* :click)

Enable modeline

This sets up a basic modeline with the group name followed by window names on the left and the date and time on the right.

First set the window name format and overall modeline format

(setf *window-format* "%m%n%s%c")
(setf *screen-mode-line-format* (list "[^B%n^b] %W^>%d"))

The date format is constructed using the same format specifiers as strftime(3) e.g.

(setf *time-modeline-string* "%a %b %e %k:%M")

Optionally change how often the modeline updates on its own, in seconds (it also updates whenever you do something with StumpWM like switch window).

(setf *mode-line-timeout* 2)

Finally enable the modeline (this must come after you have set the options you wanted)

(enable-mode-line (current-screen) (current-head) t)

Set font for messages and modeline

StumpWM uses the default XOrg font which is probably small and pixelated. You can set font by calling, for example,

(set-font "-xos4-terminus-medium-r-normal-*-20-*-*-*-*-*-*-*")

where the string is generated by xorg-xfontsel.

Another way is to use the ttf-fonts module to set a custom font. Note that the performance in the result is not as great, and that it requires another lisp module clx-truetype, which is not in the quicklisp distribution any more. Get a copy of it from a backed up repository, put it under your ~/quicklisp/local-projects/, and run

(ql:quickload "clx-truetype")
(load-module "ttf-fonts")
(xft:cache-fonts) ;; Tell clx-truetype about the fonts you have installed. You really only need to do this once, but putting it here means you will not forget in the future.
(set-font (make-instance 'xft:font :family "DejaVu Sans Mono" :subfamily "Book" :size 11))
Note: Currently, the clx-truetype package needed by this module has been removed from newest versions of quicklisp. If you want to use this module, make sure to rollback to older versions or manually add them to quicklisp. See the discussion and the issue.


See the wiki for a variety of useful tweaks for your .stumpwmrc.

Additionally, the stumpwm-contrib repository contains many useful utilities, and can be installed via stumpwm-contrib-gitAUR. For example, if you are an emacs user, you will find an emacs minor mode for editing StumpWM files (and interfacing with the program stumpish, but more on that below).

stumpish is the STUMP window manager Interactive SHell. It is a program that allows the user to interact with StumpWM while it is running, from the comfort of a terminal (or using the emacs mode). It is installed with StumpWM in /usr/bin/.


  • If you have problems configuring multiple monitors, maybe you need to install 'xorg-xdpyinfo' package.
  • If you cannot start stumpwm and get
           debugger invoked on a SB-INT:SIMPLE-PARSE-ERROR in thread
       no non-whitespace characters in string "".
       Type HELP for debugger help, or (SB-EXT:QUIT) to exit from SBCL.
       (no restarts: If you did not do this on purpose, please report it as a bug.)

in the REPL, it can be solved by deleting ~/.Xauthority. See this issue on github

  • If you have an issue with the SBCL_HOME being set to NIL, you may need to set it manually
Tip: You can find the path using

find / | grep sbcl.core

$ export SBCL_HOME=/usr/lib/sbcl/

Then you may reinstall stumpwm

  • If you cannot use the mousewheel to scroll in some programs, try adding
(setf (getenv "GDK_CORE_DEVICE_EVENTS") "1")

to your .stumpwmrc (source: [1])

  • Quicklisp will not work in StumpWM if you installed it after installing StumpWM - in that case uninstall and reinstall StumpWM

See also