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ICEWMBG(1) User Commands ICEWMBG(1)


 icewmbg - a background settings manager for the IceWM window manager


icewmbg [OPTIONS]


icewmbg can assign a colour or image to the X11 desktop background. Many image formats are supported. Each icewm(1) work space can have its own background.

When the background image has changed then icewmbg can be notified to update the background. When switching work spaces it checks the image file modification time. If the file has changed then it reloads the background image from file.

icewmbg supports semi-transparency. Semitransparent background images and colours can be configured. If these are not specified then the default background is used.

It uses XINERAMA and RANDR to support backgrounds on all connected monitors. When monitors appear/disappear or change their resolution icewmbg will adjust. It supports an option for one large background over all monitors.

It will update the "_ICEWMBG_IMAGE" property of the root window to the path of the background image whenever it changes the desktop background.

It should be started before icewm(1), preferably by the icewm-session(1) program.



Where multiple values can be given for images or colours they are separated by commas. Each such value may be enclosed in double quotes. When FILE is a directory then all images from that directory are used in sorted order. If the value starts with an exclamation mark, as in !FILE, then the images from the directory FILE are permuted randomly. Image file names or directory names may have wildcards, which will be expanded according to glob(7).

Replace an existing icewmbg. If there is a running icewmbg it is instructed to quit. The new icewmbg will take over.
Tell the running icewmbg to quit. This option is used by icewm-session(1) when icewm(1) exits.
Tell the running icewmbg to restart itself. This is useful when a background file or directory has changed or when settings in preferences files have changed.
Shuffle the list of background images randomly. This option may be given again whenever the running icewmbg should reshuffle its list of background images.
Load preferences from FILE.
Load the theme named THEME.
Load background images from each FILE. This overrules the "DesktopBackgroundImage" preference.
Use background colours from each COLOR. This overrules the "DesktopBackgroundColor" preference.
Load transparency images from each FILE. This overrules the "DesktopTransparencyImage" preference.
Use transparency colours for each NAME. This overrules the "DesktopTransparencyColor" preference.
Disable/Enable centring background. This overrules the "DesktopBackgroundCenter" preference.
Disable/Enable scaling background. This overrules the "DesktopBackgroundScaled" preference.
Disable/Enable multi-head background. This overrules the "DesktopBackgroundMultihead" preference.
Cycle over the list of background images every SECONDS. This overrules the "CycleBackgroundsPeriod" preference.
Use DISPLAY to connect to the X server. If this option is missing then DISPLAY is read from the environment variable "DISPLAY".
Use a slower synchronous mode communication with X11 server.


Print a brief usage statement to stdout and exit.
Print the program version to stdout and exit.
Print copying permissions to stdout for the program and exit.



By default icewmbg will load the background settings from the icewm(1) preferences files (see icewm-preferences(5)). The settings read are:

  DesktopBackgroundCenter    - Display desktop background centered
  DesktopBackgroundScaled    - Display desktop background scaled
  DesktopBackgroundColor     - Desktop background color(s)
  DesktopBackgroundImage     - Desktop background image(s)
  ShuffleBackgroundImages    - Shuffle the list of background images
  SupportSemitransparency    - Support for semitransparent terminals
  DesktopTransparencyColor   - Semitransparency background color(s)
  DesktopTransparencyImage   - Semitransparency background image(s)
  DesktopBackgroundMultihead - One background over all monitors
  CycleBackgroundsPeriod     - Seconds between cycling over backgrounds

First these settings are read from the preferences file. Then the theme file from the current theme is read, which may overrule the preferences settings. Lastly the prefoverride file is read, which overrides again. Therefore, if you want to allow the theme to set the background use preferences for your settings, otherwise use prefoverride. See icewm-prefoverride(5).


Often a background image has a different width or height than the screen. The settings can specify to centre ("DesktopBackgroundCenter") or scale ("DesktopBackgroundScaled") an image. Either option is either 0 (disabled) or 1 (enabled). What happens for their combination is given by the following table:

  center:0 scaled:0 = the background is replicated in both directions
  center:1 scaled:0 = the background is centered, but not scaled
  center:1 scaled:1 = fill one dimension and preserve the aspect ratio
  center:0 scaled:1 = fill both dimensions and preserve the aspect ratio


icewmbg supports the following signals:

icewmbg will restart itself.
icewmbg will terminate.
icewmbg will reshuffle the list of background images and update the backgrounds of all work spaces.


icewm(1), icewm-preferences(5), icewm-prefoverride(5), wmsetbg(1), xsetbg(1), xv(1).


icewmbg had no known bugs at the time of release. Please report bugs for current versions to the source code repository at <>.


Brian Bidulock <>.

See --copying for full copyright notice and copying permissions.


IceWM is licensed under the GNU Library General Public License. See the COPYING file in the distribution or use the --copying flag to display copying permissions.

2021-02-09 icewm 2.1.2