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ICEWM(1) User Commands ICEWM(1)


 icewm - lightweight X11 window manager


icewm [OPTIONS]


icewm is a window manager for the X11 window system. It aims to be small, fast and familiar to new users.

icewm is called a re-parenting window manager, because it draws small frames around application windows. By dragging this frame with the mouse, windows are resized or moved.

Because windows may overlap, icewm is also a stacking window manager. Many windows may exist, some hidden behind others.

icewm supports a configurable number of virtual desktops. These are called workspaces. Related windows are grouped on a dedicated workspace. By switching between workspaces, the user can attend to different tasks, while keeping oversight. This is supported by a task bar and a pager.

The installation comes with several themes. Choose a theme via a menu.

icewm is compliant with the ICCCM and EWMH window manager specifications.


The icewm package includes several programs:

The actual window manager. It positions application windows on screen and decorates them with borders. It gives input focus to the current active application. icewm supports different focus modes, which are explained below. It draws a small task bar at the bottom of the screen, which gives easy access to programs, to virtual desktops, to active applications, and to a small set of monitoring applets.
The background setting application. It can assign plain background color or images in different formats to the X background. Each work space can have its own background. It supports semi-transparency. Semitransparent background image and colour can be configured. When the background image has changed then icewmbg(1) can be notified to update the background. Multi-head monitor setups are fully supported. This program should be started before icewm. See the icewmbg(1) man page for details.
icewm-session(1) is the preferred program to start the IceWM system. It first loads additional environment variables from the optional env file. Then it starts icewmbg(1) and icewm. It also runs the startup script and implements basic session management. On termination the shutdown script will be run first, then icewm-session(1) will terminate icewm and icewmbg(1). icewm-session(1) will also start the optional icesound(1) if you give it the --sound option. See icewm-session(1).
A powerful tool to control window properties and to interact with the window manager. It is typically used in shell scripts. See icesh(1).
A small document browser, which is used by icewm to display the 'IceWM manual' and some man pages.
A utility for passing IceWM-specific window options to icewm. The options are used to configure the first application which is started subsequently. See icewmhint(1).
Plays audio files on GUI events which are raised by icewm. It supports ALSA, AO and OSS. See the icesound(1) man page.
Generate an icewm menu with executable desktop applications according to XDG specifications. See the icewm-menu-fdo(1) man page.
Configures GNOME to start IceWM instead of its own WM.



Each of the IceWM executables supports the following options:

Use FILE as the source of configuration options. By default icewm looks for a file named preferences. Typically this file is stored as one of $ICEWM_PRIVCFG/preferences, $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/icewm/preferences, or $HOME/.icewm/preferences, or in one of the configuration directories explained below. It contains a long list of options which allow the user to tweak the behaviour of icewm to ones taste. A default preferences file contains comments about the purpose of each option, the range of useful values and the current or default value. A preferences file is a readable text file which can be modified with the help of a text editor. If this option is given to icewm-session(1) then it is passed on to icewm. If icewm is started independently then this option can be given to icewm directly. However, usually one will want to use a preferences file from a default location.
Use NAME as the name of the icewm theme to use. A theme defines the look and feel of icewm, like colours, fonts, buttons and button behaviour. Originally a theme defined options to emulate the appearance of other desktop environments, like Motif, OS/2 Warp, or Windows. Over the years many new original themes have been designed with beautiful icons and backgrounds, which advance the state of the art in desktop look and feel. Many of them can be downloaded from the website <> and stored in one of the directories $ICEWM_PRIVCFG/icewm/themes/, $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/icewm/themes/ or in $HOME/.icewm/themes/. You can then activate such a theme via the menu in the lower left corner of the display. A default theme is specified in one of $ICEWM_PRIVCFG/icewm/theme, $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/icewm/theme, or in $HOME/.icewm/theme. When a new theme is selected then this value is overwritten, so that the next time icewm is started this choice is reused.
DISPLAY specifies the connection to the X11 server. If this option is missing, as is usually the case, then DISPLAY is read from the environment variable "DISPLAY".
This option is sometimes used in software development of icewm. It specifies to use a slower synchronous communication mode with the X11 server. This is irrelevant for normal use of icewm.
Gives a complete list of all the available command-line options with some very brief explanation.
Shows the software release version for this program.


The icewm program supports some additional options:

Use a 32-bit visual for translucency. This can also be set in the preferences file as "Alpha=1".
Instructs icewm to replace an existing window manager. Provided that the window manager being replaced is ICCCM 2.0 compliant, once it notices that it is to be replaced it will cease operations and typically stop execution. This allows icewm to establish itself as the only active window manager.
Tell icewm to restart itself. This reloads the configuration from file.
Briefly show IMAGE on startup in the center of the screen. This can also be set in the preferences file as Splash="image.jpg".
Shows a list of configuration options which were enabled when icewm was compiled from source code. This can be helpful if one suspects some functionality may be missing.
Gives a list of directories where icewm will look for configuration data. This list is printed in the actual order in which icewm uses it to search for configuration files.
icewm will search all the configuration directories for theme files and print a list of all found themes.
This gives a long list of all the internal icewm options with their actual values after icewm has processed all of the configuration and theme files. In some advanced scenarios this can be helpful to inspect which configuration was chosen or whether option formatting was correct.
Give a list of the current X extensions, their versions and status.
Enable tracing of the paths which are used to load configuration, and/or icons, and/or executed programs, and/or system tray applets.



On startup icewm launches the task bar at the bottom of the screen. The task bar consists from left to right of the following components:

The Menu button in the lower left corner gives access to the icewm root menu. This menu has sub-menus to start applications, to control icewm settings, and the icewm Logout menu.

The Show Desktop button unmaps all application windows to fully uncover the desktop.

The Window List Menu button gives access to a menu with a list of active windows for the current work space and a list of work spaces with sub-menus for their active application windows.

The Toolbar is a list of icons for applications which are defined in the toolbar configuration file.

The Workspace List shows one button for each work space. The current work space is indicated by a pressed button. Pressing another work space button switches to that work space. The work spaces are defined in the preferences file. When "PagerShowPreview" is turned on a small graphical summary for each workspace is shown.

The Task Pane consists of a list of wide buttons for each application which is running on the current work space, or all workspaces if "TaskBarShowAllWindows=1". Each task button shows the application icon and the application title. The active application is indicated by a pressed button. This is the application which has input focus. Pressing another button activates that application: it is brought to the foreground and receives input focus. Other mouse controlled activities on the window buttons are: dragging window buttons with the left mouse button to rearrange the order, closing the application window with "Alt" + middle button, lowering the application window with "Ctrl" + middle button, or bringing the application window to the current workspace with "Shift" + middle button if "TaskBarShowAllWindows=1".

If there are not many application buttons then a stretch of plain task bar is visible. Clicking on it with the right mouse button gives the task bar menu. Even with a full task pane, this menu can be usually accessed by right-clicking the bottom right corner of the taskbar.

The Tray Applet shows system tray objects.

The APM Applet shows battery power status.

The Net Applet shows network activity. Network devices to monitor are given by the "NetworkStatusDevice" option.

The Memory Applet monitors memory usage.

The CPU Applet monitors processor utilization.

The Mailbox Applet monitors mailbox status changes. See the section MAILBOX MONITORING below.

The Clock Applet shows the current time and date. It is configured by the "TimeFormat" option.

The Task Bar Collapse button collapses the task bar and hides it.

Not all icewm applets may show up on the task bar. They must have been enabled during configuration of the icewm software. Their appearance is also controlled by options in the preferences file.


Of all visible windows only one can be the active window. This is the window which has input focus. It is the primary receiver of keyboard and mouse events and hence one can interact with the application which created that window. A primary task of a window manager is to allow the user to switch input focus between different windows. The primary means to do this is the mouse pointer. By moving the mouse pointer over the screen to another window, and perhaps also by clicking on a window, input focus can be directed.

The "FocusMode" option controls the way icewm gives input focus to applications. It is initialized by the focus_mode configuration file. The focus mode is set via the Focus menu. icewm supports six focus models:

1. Click-to-focus
The default focus mode. In this mode changing input focus requires to click a window with the left mouse button. The window is raised if needed. When an application requests focus its task pane button flashes. This gives the option to honor this request or to ignore it. When a new application window appears it automatically receives focus. Also when a hidden application raises to the front it receives focus.
2. Sloppy-mouse-focus
Sets input focus merely by moving the mouse pointer over a window. It is called sloppy, because if the mouse then leaves the window and moves to the desktop background the input focus remains with the last active window. When a window receives focus it is raised. When an application requests focus its task pane button flashes. A new application or an application which raises to the front automatically receives focus.
3. Explicit-focus
Focus is even more user-controlled than Click-to-focus. When a window receives focus it is not raised by default, unless the frame border is clicked. No flashing occurs when an application requests focus. When a new application window appears it does not receive focus. Only by explicit clicking on a window is focus directed.
4. Strict-mouse-focus
Like Sloppy but focus remains with the last window. New applications don't receive focus and are mapped behind other windows. When an application raises to the front it still does not get focus.
5. Quiet-sloppy-focus
Like Sloppy but no disturbing flashing occurs on the task bar when an application requests focus.
6. Custom-mode
A focus mode which is defined in detail by ten options in the preferences file. These are: "ClickToFocus", "FocusOnAppRaise", "RequestFocusOnAppRaise", "RaiseOnFocus", "RaiseOnClickClient", "FocusChangesWorkspace", "FocusOnMap", "FocusOnMapTransient", "FocusOnMapTransientActive", "MapInactiveOnTop".

All non-Custom focus modes override these ten options.

Apart from the mouse, icewm supports changing input focus in two other ways. Both involve the keyboard. The first uses the "QuickSwitch" window. It is activated by pressing "Alt+Tab" or "Alt+Shift+Tab". A window pops up in the centre of the screen with a narrow band over the next or previous window which will receive input focus when the "Alt" key is released. By repeatedly pressing "Alt+Tab" or "Alt+Shift+Tab" one can cycle through all windows.

The second keyboard method involves pressing "Alt+Esc" or "Alt+Shift+Esc". Input focus is immediately changed to the next or previous window, which will be raised to make it fully visible.

And finally, there is another way which is a hybrid of keyboard and mouse control. It involves the "QuickSwitch" popup explained before, after pressing "Alt+Tab" and while still holding "Alt" a left click on one of the list items causes the activation of the related window.


A second important task of a window manager is to place new windows on the screen. By default icewm chooses a placement with minimal overlap, but this is determined by the "SmartPlacement" option in the preferences file. If "SmartPlacement" is turned off then windows are placed in sequence from left to right and top to bottom. One can also turn on "ManualPlacement". Then new windows appear initially in the top left corner and the mouse cursor changes into a fist. By moving the fist cursor to a suitable location and clicking the new window will appear at the mouse click location.


Windows can overlap. Which window appears on top is determined by three features. Newer windows appear over older windows. By clicking on a window it is raised to the top. But both are overruled by the window layer. Windows can be placed in different layers via the Layers menu. Click with the right mouse button on the window frame and select Layer. From there choose one of seven window layers. These are ordered from higher to lower. Windows in higher layers appear over windows in lower layers.


icewm supports multiple virtual desktops called work spaces. A work space is like a screen where a subset of all application windows are mapped. Thanks to multiple work spaces we can more easily manage a large number of applications. The number of work spaces and their names are configurable in the preferences file through the "WorkspaceNames" option. By default four workspaces are created with the names 1, 2, 3 and 4 thus:

 WorkspaceNames=" 1 ", " 2 ", " 3 ", " 4 "

This syntax is typical for icewm options which receive multiple values. It is a list of comma-separated values each of which can be quoted.

The work spaces are visible on the toolbar. One can switch to a different work space by pressing the work space button in the toolbar, but after becoming familiar with the 'keyboard shortcuts' below one will want to use a hotkey to choose a work space. If the "EdgeSwitch" options is enabled in the preferences file (with sub-options "HorizontalEdgeSwitch" and "VerticalEdgeSwitch") then one can move to the next or previous workspace by moving the mouse to the edge of the screen. The "ContinuousEdgeSwitch" option enables continuous movement to subsequent workspaces. The "EdgeSwitchDelay" option says how long to wait before a change of workspace occurs.

To move an application window to a different work space one can use a keyboard shortcut. Another option is to select the Move To submenu in the window menu of the window frame.


If EnableAddressBar=1 then KeySysAddressBar="Alt+Ctrl+Space" activates the address bar in the task bar. If ShowAddressBar=1 it is always shown. This is a command-line in the task bar where a shell command can be typed. Pressing "Enter" will execute the command. AddressBarCommand="/bin/sh" will be used to execute the command. On "Control+Enter" the command is executed in a terminal as given by TerminalCommand. The address bar maintains a history which is navigable by the Up and Down keys. It supports command completion using "Tab" or "Ctrl+I". A rich set of editing operations is supported, including cut-/copy-/paste-operations.


The window list window shows a list of all workspaces. For each workspace it shows the window titles of the windows which are mapped on it. The bottom entry reads "All Workspaces". It holds the sticky windows. These windows are mapped in all workspaces.

The window list window is normally hidden. Choose one of the following four methods to make it visible:

  • Select the bottom window list menu entry.
  • Press the "KeySysWindowList=Ctrl+Alt+Esc" key.
  • Press the right Windows key if "Win95Keys=1"
  • Press the "DesktopWinListButton=2" mouse button in the root window.
  • Press the middle mouse button in a workspace button on the task bar.

A single-click on a window entry selects it. A group of windows can be selected by "Shift+Pointer_Button1" or by dragging with the left mouse button. Use "Ctrl+Pointer_Button1" to individually select windows in a multi-selection. A right mouse click over a selection will popup the system menu for this selection. To close the selected windows, press "Delete". Press "Shift+Delete" to forcefully kill them. Right mouse click below the sticky windows for a menu with window arranging actions.

Double-click on a workspace to switch to it. Double-click on a window to activate it. Or navigate by arrow keys and press Enter. The space bar toggles a selection of a window. "Ctrl+a" and "Ctrl+/" will select the entire list of windows. "Ctrl+\\" deselects everything. Press the first letter of a window title to navigate to it and select it. If titles of multiple windows start with the same letter then repeatedly pressing the first letter cycles over those windows. "Home" selects the first entry and "End" the last. "PageUp" and "PageDown" move up or down by ten entries. Combine this with the "Shift" key to extend a selection over the range of motion.


The task bar can show one or more icons to reflect the status of a mailbox. The mailbox can be a local file or a remote POP or IMAP account. For this a couple of options must be set. First, TaskBarShowMailboxStatus must be enabled, which it is by default. Then the location of the mailbox must be set. Icewm first looks for MailBoxPath in preferences. If this is unset, it looks at the environment variables "MAILPATH" and "MAIL". MailBoxPath may contain a space-separated list of mailboxes, while "MAILPATH" may contain a colon-separated list of mailboxes. If a mailbox starts with a slash "/", then it is a local file, otherwise a URL. These are six examples of possible mailboxes:


The POP3S and IMAPS schemes use "openssl" for TLS/SSL encryption. Note that for IceWM to access Gmail you must first configure your Gmail account to enable POP3 or IMAP access. Make sure you have secure file permissions on your IceWM preferences file and the directory which contains it.

Reserved characters in the password, like slash, at and colon can be specified using escape sequences with a hexadecimal encoding like %2f for the slash or %40 for the at sign. For example, to hex-encode "!p@a%s&s~" use this Perl snippet:

    perl -e 'foreach(split("", $ARGV[0])) { printf "%%%02x", ord($_); };
    print "\n";' '!p@a%s&s~'

Which will print:


This is the hex-encoded password. However, it is unwise to store a password in your preferences. Consider a wallet extension for IceWM.

IceWM will check a mailbox periodically. The period in seconds can be set by the MailCheckDelay option, which is 30 seconds by default.

Whenever new mail arrives, the mailbox icon will be highlighted. The color will indicate if the mail has been read or not. Hovering the mouse over the mailbox icon will show a tooltip with more details. A command can be also be run on new mail. Set the NewMailCommand option. Its environment will have these variables set by IceWM:

The mailbox index number of MailBoxPath starting from 1.
The total number of messages in this mailbox.
The number of unread messages in this mailbox.


To control keyboard layouts on the task bar, define in preferences the option KeyboardLayouts to a comma-separated list of your preferred keyboard layouts. For example:


A keyboard layout can simply be a name. Usually this is a two-letter country code. See the directory /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols for a list of available keyboard layouts for your system. If it is enclosed in double quotes, it can also be a space-separated list of command-line arguments to an invocation of the "setxkbmap" program.

The first layout is the default. It will be installed when icewm starts. The task bar will show the current keyboard layout. If an icon can be found for the first two letters of the layout, then that icon will be shown. Otherwise the first two letters of the name of the layout will be shown.

Click on the current keyboard layout to cycle through all the available keyboard layouts. Click with the right mouse button to open a menu of all available keyboard layouts.

It is also possible to configure a default keyboard layout for each program individually in the icewm-winoptions(5) file. Whenever such a program receives input focus, icewm will install this configured keyboard layout automatically. The keyboard status on the task bar will be updated to reflect this.

Please note that for keyboard layout switching to work, the "setxkbmap" program must be installed. To see your current keyboard layout settings, do "setxkbmap -query".


icewm supports a large number of hotkeys to activate some behaviour with a single key combination. These are all configurable in the preferences file. Here we give their preferences name, followed by their default value in double quotes, and a short descriptions of their effect:

Raises the window which currently has input focus.
Makes the active window occupy all work spaces.
Lowers the window which currently has input focus.
Closes the active window.
Restores the active window to its visible state.
Switches focus to the next window.
Switches focus to the previous window.
Starts movement of the active window.
Starts resizing of the active window.
Iconifies the active window.
Maximizes the active window with borders.
Maximizes the active window vertically.
Maximizes the active window horizontally.
Maximizes the active window without borders.
Rolls up the active window.
Hides the active window.
Posts the window menu.
Moves the active window to the top left corner of the screen.
Moves the active window to the top middle of the screen.
Moves the active window to the top right of the screen.
Moves the active window to the middle right of the screen.
Moves the active window to the bottom right of the screen.
Moves the active window to the bottom middle of the screen.
Moves the active window to the bottom left of the screen.
Moves the active window to the middle left of the screen.
Moves the active window to the center of the screen.
Smart place the active window.
Posts the system window menu.
Give focus to the next window and raise it.
Give focus to the previous window and raise it.
Opens the IceWM system dialog in the center of the screen.
Activates the IceWM root menu in the lower left corner.
Opens the IceWM system window list in the center of the screen.
Opens the address bar in the task bar where a command can be typed.
Goes one workspace to the left.
Goes one workspace to the right.
Goes to the previous workspace.
Takes the active window one workspace to the left.
Takes the active window one workspace to the right.
Takes the active window to the previous workspace.
Goes to workspace 1.
Goes to workspace 2.
Goes to workspace 3.
Goes to workspace 4.
Goes to workspace 5.
Goes to workspace 6.
Goes to workspace 7.
Goes to workspace 8.
Goes to workspace 9.
Goes to workspace 10.
Goes to workspace 11.
Goes to workspace 12.
Takes the active window to workspace 1.
Takes the active window to workspace 2.
Takes the active window to workspace 3.
Takes the active window to workspace 4.
Takes the active window to workspace 5.
Takes the active window to workspace 6.
Takes the active window to workspace 7.
Takes the active window to workspace 8.
Takes the active window to workspace 9.
Takes the active window to workspace 10.
Takes the active window to workspace 11.
Takes the active window to workspace 12.
Tiles all windows from left to right maximized vertically.
Tiles all windows from top to bottom maximized horizontally.
Makes a horizontal cascade of all windows which are maximized vertically.
Rearranges the windows.
Undoes arrangement.
Rearranges icons.
Minimizes all windows.
Hides all windows.
Unmaps all windows to show the desktop.
Hides the task bar.
Switches to the next window in the task bar.
Switches to the previous window in the task bar.
Moves the task bar button of the current window right.
Moves the task bar button of the current window left.
Shows the window list menu.
Opens the "QuickSwitch" popup (see "INPUT FOCUS") and/or moves the selector in the "QuickSwitch" popup.
Works like "KeySysSwitchNext" but moving in the opposite direction.
Is like "KeySysSwitchNext" but only for windows with the same WM_CLASS property as the currently focused window.


You can control windows by a modified mouse button press:

Moves the window under the mouse over the screen.
Resizes the window. Keep the key and button pressed. To enlarge the window move the mouse button away from the center. To shrink it move towards the centre.
Raises the window under the mouse.
Lowers the window under the mouse. If this is equal to "MouseWinRaise" and the window can be raised then "MouseWinRaise" takes preference over "MouseWinLower".

The title frame of a window also listens for mouse clicks. Left double clicking maximizes the window ("TitleBarMaximizeButton=1"). Middle double clicking rolls up the window ("TitleBarRollupButton=2"). Pressing a mouse button and moving it will move the window. "Alt+Pointer_Button1" lowers the window.

When the mouse is on the window frame then a left click raises the window. Dragging with the left button down resizes the window. Clicking the right button pops up the context menu. Dragging with the right button moves the window.

Clicking on the desktop activates a menu. The middle button shows the window list ("DesktopWinListButton=2"). The right button shows the root menu ("DesktopMenuButton=3"). If you press "Ctrl+Alt" then the mouse wheel will focus all applications in turn.


icewm supports the following signals:

icewm will restart itself. It is a way to reload the configuration.
icewm will cease to manage application windows and terminate.
icewm will initiate the logout procedure. If a "LogoutCommand" preferences option was configured it will be executed.
Toggle the logging of X11 events, if "logevents" was configured.


The directory for user private configuration files. When this environment variable is not specified, the default directory is $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/icewm when that directory exists, otherwise the default value is $HOME/.icewm.
The name of the X11 server. See Xorg(1) or Xserver(1). This value can be overridden by the --display option.
Gives the location of your mailbox. If the schema is omitted the local "file" schema is assumed. This is used by the mailbox applet in the task bar to show the status of your mailbox. If the "MailBoxPath" option in the preferences file is set, then that one takes precedence.


icewm looks for configuration files in the following directories, in the given order, until it finds one:

Contains user-specific configurations. When ICEWM_PRIVCFG is specified, this directory takes precedence over $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/icewm and $HOME/.icewm.
Contains user-specific configurations. When this directory exists it take precedence over $HOME/.icewm.
Contains user-specific configurations. This is the historical default directory.
Contains system-wide customized defaults. Please note that your local installation may have been configured to use a different system location. The output of "icewm --directories" will show this location.
Default local installation settings.


icewm-session(1) loads additional environment variables from the file env. Each line is subjected to POSIX shell expansion by wordexp(3). Comment lines starting by a hash-sign ("#") are ignored. icewm-session(1) will load those expanded lines which contain a name, followed by an equals sign, followed by the value (which may be empty).

See icewm-env(5).

Defines the initial value for "FocusMode". Its default value is "FocusMode=1" (Click-to-focus). This can be changed via the menu. icewm will save the Focus menu choice in this file.

See icewm-focus_mode(5).

Global keybindings to launch applications, which need not be window manager related. Each non-empty line starts with the word "key". After one or more spaces follows a double-quoted string of the bound X11 key combination like "Alt+Ctrl+Shift+X". Then after at least one space follows a shell command-line which will be executed by icewm whenever this key combination is pressed. For example, the following line creates a hotkey to reload the icewm configuration:

 key "Ctrl+Shift+r"      icesh restart

See icewm-keys(5).

A menu of applications; usually customized by the user. icewm provides the icewm-menu-fdo(1) program to generate a default menu. Similar programs are xdg_menu(1), mmaker(1) (MenuMaker), xde-menu(1), xdgmenumaker(1).

See icewm-menu(5).

Contains general settings like paths, colors and fonts, but also options to control the icewm focus behaviour and the applets which are started in the task bar. The icewm installation will provide a default preferences file, which can be copied to the icewm user configuration directory and modified.

See icewm-preferences(5).

Settings which override the settings from a theme. Some of the icewm configuration options from the preferences file which control the look-and-feel may be overridden by the theme, if the theme designer thinks this is desirable. However, this prefoverride file will again override this for a few specific options of your choosing. It is safe to leave this file empty initially.

See icewm-prefoverride(5).

An automatically generated menu of applications. This could be used by wmconfig(1), menu or similar programs to give easy access to all the desktop applications which are installed on the system.

See icewm-programs(5).

This file contains the name of the default theme. On startup icewm reads this file to obtain the theme name, unless icewm was started with the --theme option. Whenever a different theme is selected from the icewm Menu then the theme file is overwritten with the name of the selected theme. This theme file contains the keyword "Theme", followed by an equals sign, followed by a double-quoted string with the theme name. The theme name is the name of the theme directory, followed by a slash, followed by the theme file. Usually the theme file is just default.theme, but a theme may have alternatives. Alternatives are small tweaks of a theme. These are specified in their own .theme file, which replaces default.theme. If no theme file exists then icewm will use the default setting of "Theme="default/default.theme"".

See icewm-theme(5).

Contains names of quick to launch applications with icons for the task bar. Each non-empty non-comment line starts with the keyword prog. After one or more spaces follows a name, which is displayed in a tool tip whenever the mouse cursor hovers over the toolbar icon. This name may be a double quoted string. Then follows the bare name of the icon to use without extensions. This icon will be shown in the toolbar. The last component is a shell command-line which will be executed whenever the user presses the icon in the toolbar. For example, the following line in toolbar will create a button with tool tip "Mozilla Firefox" with the firefox icon which launches firefox(1) when clicked:

 prog  "Mozilla Firefox"  firefox  /usr/bin/firefox --private-window

See icewm-toolbar(5).

Contains settings to control window appearance and behaviour which are specific to applications or groups of applications. Options can control the border, whether it appears on the task bar, the window list, the system tray and the work spaces. Also its layer, geometry, whether it can be moved, resized and closed.

See icewm-winoptions(5).

Contains commands to be executed on icewm startup. This is an executable script with commands to tweak X11 settings and launch some applications which need to be active whenever icewm is started. It is run by icewm-session(1) when icewm starts.

See icewm-startup(5).

Contains commands to be executed on icewm shutdown. This is an executable script with commands to be executed in the last stage of icewm termination. Typically they may undo some of the effects of the startup script. It is run by icewm-session(1) when icewm terminates.

See icewm-shutdown(5).


Contains icons which are used to identify applications. Usually these files are in the XPM format, but the PNG and SVG image formats are also supported. The names of icon files may follow a specific naming pattern, like app_32x32.xpm. They start with a base name, usually this is just a single word. Then follows an underscore, followed by a size specification in the format "SIZExSIZE". This is followed by a dot and the file extension, where the extension denotes the icon image format. Common sizes are 16, 32 and 48 for small, large and huge icons. This depends on the respective "IconSize" preferences options.
Pictures of digits for the LED clock which is displayed in the bottom-right corner of the task bar. These can be seen when the "TaskBarShowClock" and "TaskBarClockLeds" options are both set to 1.
Icons which are used to display different states of the mailbox applet in the task bar. There are five states and each has its own icon: mail.xpm, newmail.xpm, unreadmail.xpm, nomail.xpm, errmail.xpm.
Audio files which are played by icesound(1) on GUI events. These are: startup.wav, shutdown.wav, restart.wav, launchApp.wav, workspaceChange.wav, windowOpen.wav, windowClose.wav, dialogOpen.wav, dialogClose.wav, windowMax.wav, windowRestore.wav, windowMin.wav, windowHide.wav, windowRollup.wav, windowMoved.wav, windowSized.wav, windowLower.wav.
Pictures to customize the look of the task bar. These include: taskbarbg.xpm, taskbuttonactive.xpm, taskbuttonbg.xpm, taskbuttonminimized.xpm, toolbuttonbg.xpm, workspacebuttonactive.xpm, workspacebuttonbg.xpm.
A directory to store themes. Each theme is stored in its own sub-directory in the themes directory. A theme contains at least a default.theme file, and optionally theme alternatives which are additional files which have a .theme file name extension and which contain tweaks of the default.theme file. How to create a theme is explained in the IceWM Theme Creation Howto.


IceWM supports window opacity and transparency in connection with an external compositor like compton(1) or picom(1). If a client window sets the "_NET_WM_WINDOW_OPACITY" property on its window, then icewm will copy this to the outer frame window, where the compositor will read it and adjust the opacity accordingly.

The opacity can also be set in the icewm-winoptions(5) file. icesh(1) can control the opacity level of running applications.

The _NET_WM_WINDOW_TYPE properties which icewm sets on its windows are DIALOG, NOTIFICATION, POPUP_MENU and TOOLTIP. The output of "icesh windows" shows their WM_CLASS values. These can be helpful to configure compton.


Examples of the above configuration files can be found in the default installation path or in the system-wide defaults. See the output of "icewm --directories" for their locations.


ICCCM 2.0: partial. NetWM/EWMH: extensive. See the file COMPLIANCE in the distribution for full details.


icehelp(1), icesh(1), icesound(1), icewm-env(5), icewm-focus_mode(5), icewm-keys(5), icewm-menu(5), icewm-menu-fdo(1), icewm-menu-xrandr(1), icewm-preferences(5), icewm-prefoverride(5), icewm-programs(5), icewm-session(1), icewm-set-gnomewm(1), icewm-shutdown(5), icewm-startup(5), icewm-theme(5), icewm-toolbar(5), icewm-winoptions(5), icewmbg(1), icewmhint(1), setxkbmap(1), Xorg(1), Xserver(1), xinit(1), xprop(1), xwininfo(1), wmctrl(1).


icewm 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