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spectrwm is a small, dynamic tiling and reparenting window manager for X11. It tries to stay out of the way so that valuable screen real estate can be used for much more important stuff. It has sane defaults, and it does not require one to learn a language to do any configuration. spectrwm is written by hackers for hackers, and it strives to be small, compact, and fast.

spectrwm was largely inspired by xmonad and dwm. Both are fine products, but they suffer from things like: crazy-unportable-language syndrome, silly defaults, asymmetrical window layout, the 'how hard can it be?' (to code efficiently) problem, and good old NIH. Nevertheless, dwm was a phenomenal resource, and good ideas and code were borrowed from it. On the other hand, xmonad has great defaults and key bindings, plus xinerama support, but it is crippled by not being written in C.

spectrwm is a beautiful pearl! For it, too, was created by grinding irritation. Nothing is a bigger waste of time either than moving windows around until they are the right size-ish or having just about any relevant key combination be eaten by some task one never performs. The path of agony is too long to quote, and, in classic OpenBSD fashion (put up, or hack up), a brand new window manager was whooped up to serve no other purpose than to obey its masters.

spectrwm is released under the ISC license. Patches can be accepted, provided that they are also licensed with ISC.

Building and installation

Click here for current installation guide

Feedback and questions

You can and come chat with us on IRC. We use the OFTC channel #spectrwm.

Major features

  • Dynamic RandR support (multi-head)
  • Navigation anywhere on all screens with either the keyboard or mouse
  • Customizable status bar
  • Human readable configuration file
  • Restartable without losing state
  • Quick launch menu
  • Many screen layouts possible with a few simple key strokes
  • Windows can be added or removed from master area
  • Windows can be moved to any workspace or within a region
  • Resizable master area
  • Move/resize floating windows
  • Drag-to-float
  • Extended Window Manager Hints (EWMH) Support
  • Configureable tiling
  • Adjustable tile gap allows for a true one pixel border.
  • Customizable colors and border width.
  • User definable regions
  • User definable modkey & key bindings
  • User definable quirk bindings
  • User definable key bindings to launch applications
  • Multi OS support (*BSD, Linux, OSX, Windows/cygwin)
  • Reparenting window manager


Click here for current man page


spectrwm is ISC licensed unless otherwise specified in individual files.


Vertical stack

Horizontal stack

Horizontal stack

Vertical stack with floater and extra window in master area

mplayer, resized and moved