wmii - Window Manager Improved²
wmii [-a <address>] [-r <wmiirc>]
wmii is a dynamic window manager for X11. In contrast to static window
management the user rarely has to think about how to organize windows,
no matter what he is doing or how many applications are used at the
same time. The window manager adapts to the current environment and
fits to the needs of the user, rather than forcing him to use a preset,
fixed layout and trying to shoehorn all windows and applications into
wmii supports classic and tiled window management with extended
keyboard and mouse control. Classic window management arranges windows
in a floating layer in which tyen can be moved and resized freely.
Tiled window management arranges windows in vertical columns. Each
column holds an arbitrary number arbitrary windows and arranges them
vertically in a non-overlapping manner. They can then be moved and
resized, among and within columns, at will.
wmii provides a virtual filesystem which represents the internal state
similar to the procfs of Unix operating systems. Modifying this
virtual filesystem results in changing the state of the window manager.
The virtual filesystem service can be accessed through 9P-capable
client programs, like wmiir(1). This allows simple and powerful remote
control of the core window manager.
Command Line Arguments
Specifies the address on which wmii should listen for
connections. The address takes the form <protocol>!<address>.
The default is of the form:
which opens a unix socket per Plan 9 Port conventions. To open a
TCP socket, listening at port 4332 on the loopback interface,
$WMII_NAMESPACE is automatically set to this value.
Specifies which rc script to run. If <wmiirc> consists of a
single argument, $WMII_CONFPATH is searched before $PATH.
Otherwise, it is passed to the shell for evaluation. The
environment variables $WMII_ADDRESS and $WMII_CONFPATH are
preset for the script.
A running X server instance consisting of input devices and
Screen A physical or virtual (Xinerama or Xnest(1)) screen of an X
Window A (rectangular) drawable X object which is displayed on a
screen, usually an application window.
Client An application window surrounded by a frame window containing a
border and a titlebar.
A screen layer of wmii on top of all other layers, where clients
are arranged in a classic (floating) manner. They can be
resized or moved freely.
A screen layer of wmii underneath the floating layer, where
clients are arranged in a non-overlapping (managed) manner.
Here, the window manager dynamically assigns each client a size
and position. The managed layer consists of columns.
Tag Alphanumeric strings which can be assigned to a client. This
provides a mechanism to group clients with similar properties.
Clients can have one tag, e.g. work, or several tags, e.g.
work+mail. Tags are separated with the + character.
View A set of clients containing a specific tag, quite similar to a
workspace in other window managers. It consists of the floating
and managed layers.
Column A column is a screen area which arranges clients vertically in a
non-overlapping way. Clients can be moved and resized between
and within columns freely.
Bar The bar at the bottom of the screen displays a label for each
view and allows the creation of arbitrary user-defined labels.
Event An event is a message which can be read from a special file in
the filesystem of wmii, such as a mouse button press, a key
press, or a message written by a different 9P-client.
Basic window management
Running a raw wmii process without a wmiirc(1) script provides basic
window management capabilities. However, to use it effectively, remote
control through its filesystem interface is necessary. Without such a
script, it is only possible to move and resize clients with the mouse,
but not to change their tags or to switch views. Other interactions,
such as customizing the style, killing or retagging clients, and
grabbing keys, cannot be achieved without accessing the filesystem.
The filesystem can be accessed by connecting to the address of wmii
with any 9P-capable client, such as wmiir(1)
The default configuration provides for a special menu of actions. These
consist of either shell scripts in $WMII_CONFPATH or action definitions
included in wmiirc.
Here is a list of the default actions:
exec Replace the window manager with another program
quit Leave the window manager nicely
rehash Refresh the program list
showkeys Display a list of key bindings recognized by wmii
status Periodically print date and load average to the bar
welcome Display a welcome message that contains the wmii tutorial
Default Key Bindings
All of the provided wmiirc scripts accept at least the following key
bindings. They should also provide a showkeys action to open a key
Mod-h Move to a window to the left of the one currently focused
Mod-l Move to a window to the right of the one currently focused
Mod-j Move to the window below the one currently focused
Mod-k Move to a window above the one currently focused
Mod-space Toggle between the managed and floating layers
Mod-t <tag> Move to the view of the given <tag>
Mod-n Move to the next view
Mod-b Move to the previous view
Mod-[0-9] Move to the view with the given number
Moving Things Around
Mod-Shift-h Move the current window window to a column on the left
Mod-Shift-l Move the current window to a column on the right
Mod-Shift-j Move the current window below the window beneath it.
Mod-Shift-k Move the current window above the window above it.
Mod-Shift-space Toggle the current window between the managed and floating layer
Mod-Shift-t <tag> Move the current window to the view of the given <tag>
Mod-Shift-[0-9] Move the current window to the view with the given number
Mod-m Switch the current column to max mode
Mod-s Switch the current column to stack mode
Mod-d Switch the current column to default mode
Mod-Shift-c Kill the selected client
Mod-p <program> Execute <program>
Mod-a <action> Execute the named <action
Mod-Enter Execute an x-terminal-emulator
If you feel the need to change the default configuration, then
customize (as described above) the wmiirc action. This action is
executed at the end of the wmii script and does all the work of setting
up the window manager, the key bindings, the bar labels, etc.
Most aspects of wmii are controlled via the filesystem. It is usually
accessed via the wmiir(1) command, but it can be accessed by any 9P,
including plan9port's 9P, and can be mounted natively on Linux via
v9fs, and on Inferno (which man run on top of Linux). All data in
the filesystem, including filenames, is UTF-8 encoded. However, when
accessed via wmiir(1), text is automatically translated to and from
your locale encoding.
The filesystem is, as are many other 9P filesystems, entirely
synthetic. The files exist only in memory, and are not written to disk.
They are generally initiated on wmii startup via a script such as
wmiirc. Several files are used to issue commands, others simply act as
if they were ordinary files (their contents are updated and returned
exactly as written), though writing them has side-effects (such as
changing key bindings). A description of the filesystem layout and
control commands follows.
/ Global control files
Client control files
View control files
Files representing the contents of the bottom bar
The / Hierarchy
The colrules file contains a list of rules which affect the
width of newly created columns. Rules have the form:
/<regex>/ -> <width>[+<width>]*
<width> := <percent of screen> | <pixels>px
When a new column, <n>, is created on a view whose name matches
<regex>, it is given the <n>th supplied <width>. If there is no
<n>th width, it is given 1/<ncol>th of the screen.
The rules file contains a list of rules that may be used to
automatically set properties of new clients. Rules are specified
/<regex>/ <key>=<value> ...
where each <key> represents a command in the clients ctl file,
and each <value> represents the value to assign to it. The
rules are applied when the client is first started and the
contents of the props file match the regular expression <regex>.
Additionally, the following keys are accepted and have special
Normally, when a matching rule is encountered, rule
matching stops. When the continue key is provided (with
any value), matching continues at the next rule.
Like tags, but overrides any settings obtained obtained
from the client's group or from the _WMII_TAGS window
keys The keys file contains a list of keys which wmii will grab.
Whenever these key combinations are pressed, the string which
represents them are written to '/event' as: Key <string>
event The event file never returns EOF while wmii is running. It stays
open and reports events as they occur. Included among them are:
[Not]Urgent <client> [Manager|Client]
<client>'s urgent hint has been set or unset. The second
arg is [Client] if it's been set by the client, and
[Manager] if it's been set by wmii via a control
[Not]UrgentTag <tag> [Manager|Client]
A client on <tag> has had its urgent hint set, or the
last urgent client has had its urgent hint unset.
Client<Click|MouseDown> <client> <button>
A client's titlebar has either been clicked or has a
button pressed over it.
[Left|Right]Bar[Click|MouseDown] <button> <bar>
A left or right bar has been clicked or has a button
pressed over it.
For a more comprehensive list of available events, see wmii.pdf
ctl The ctl file takes a number of messages to change global
settings such as color and font, which can be viewed by reading
it. It also takes the following commands:
quit Quit wmii
Replace wmii with <prog>
Spawn a new program, as if by the -r flag.
The /client/ Hierarchy
Each directory under '/client/' represents an X11 client. Each
directory is named for the X window id of the window the client
represents, in the form that most X utilities recognize. The one
exception is the special 'sel' directory, which represents the
currently selected client.
ctl When read, the 'ctl' file returns the X window id of the client.
The following commands may be written to it:
The set of unusual actions the client is allowed to
perform, in the same format as the tag set.
The client is allowed to activate itself – that
is, focus its window and, as the case may
require, uncollapse it and select a tag it
resides on. This flag must be set on a client if
you wish it able to activate itself from the
floating <on | off | always | never>
Defines whether this client is likely to float when
attached to a new view. Ordinarilly, the value changes
automatically whenever the window is moved between the
floating and managed layers. However, setting a value
of always or never overrides this behavior.
Additionally, dialogs, menus, docks, and splash screens
will always float unless this value is set to never.
fullscreen <on | off | toggle>
Sets the client's fullscreen state.
group <group id>
The client's group ID, or 0 if not part of a group.
Clients tend to open with the same tags and in the same
columns as the last active member of their group.
Setting this property is only useful when done via the
kill Close the client's window.
pid Read-only value of the PID of the program that owns the
window, if the value is available and the process is on
the same machine as wmii.
slay Forcibly kill the client's connection to the X server,
closing all of its windows. Kill the parent process if
the client's PID is available.
The client's tags. The same as the tags file.
urgent <on | off | toggle>
Set or unset the client's urgent hint.
label Set or read a client's label (title).
props Returns a clients class and label as:
tags Set or read a client's tags. Tags are separated by +, -, or ^.
Tags beginning with + are added, while those beginning with -
are removed and those beginning with ^ are toggled. If the tag
string written begins with +, ^, or -, the written tags are
added to or removed from the client's set, otherwise the set is
The /tag/ Hierarchy
Each directory under '/tag/' represents a view, containing all of the
clients with the given tag applied. The special 'sel' directory
represents the currently selected tag.
ctl The 'ctl' file can be read to retrieve the name of the tag the
directory represents, or written with the following commands:
select Select a client: select [left|right|up|down]
select [<row number>|sel] [<frame number>]
select client <client>
send Send a client somewhere:
send [<client>|sel] [up|down|left|right]
send [<client>|sel] <area>
Send <client> to the nth <area>
send [<client>|sel] toggle
Toggle <client> between the floating and managed
swap Swap a client with another. Same syntax as send.
grow Grow or shrink a client.
grow <frame> <direction> [<amount>]
nudge Nudge a client in a given direction.
grow <frame> <direction> [<amount>]
Where the arguments are defined as follows:
area Selects a column or the floating area.
area ::= <area_spec> | <screen_spec>:<area_spec>
When <screen_spec> is omitted and <area_spec> is not
"sel", 0 is assumed. "sel" by itself represents the
selected client no matter which screen it is on.
area_spec ::= "~" | <number> | "sel"
Where "~" represents the floating area and <number>
represents a column index, starting at one.
screen_spec ::= <number>
Where <number> representes the 0-based Xinerama screen
frame Selects a client window.
frame ::= <area> <index> | <area> sel | client <window-id>
Where <index> represents the nth frame of <area> or
<window-id> is the X11 window id of the given client.
amount The amount to grow or nudge something.
amount ::= <number> | <number>px
If "px" is given, <number> is interperated as an exact
pixel count. Otherwise, it's interperated as a
"reasonable" amount, which is usually either the height
of a window's title bar, or its sizing increment (as
defined by X11) in a given direction.
index Read for a description of the contents of a tag.
The /rbar/, /lbar/ Hierarchy
The files under '/rbar/' and '/lbar/' represent the items of the bar at
the bottom of the screen. Files under '/lbar/' appear on the left side
of the bar, while those under '/rbar/' appear on the right, with the
leftmost item occupying all extra available space. The items are sorted
The files may be read or written to obtain or alter the colors and text
of the bars. The format is similar to the various ctl files and should
be self explanitory.
The wmii socket file which provides a 9P service.
Global action directory.
User-specific action directory. Actions are first searched here.
See the section FILES above.
The following variables are set and exported within wmii and thus can
be used in actions:
The address on which wmii is listening.
The path that wmii searches for its configuration scripts and
The namespace directory to use if no address is provided.
wimenu(1), wmii9menu(1), witray(1), wmiir(1), wihack(1)