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A simple flexible popup dialog to run on X.


In the demo a hotkey is mapped to lighthouse | sh with lighthouserc using, which is included in config/lighthouse/ and installed by lighthouse-install.


Available in the AUR as lighthouse-git.

Manual build

Build the binary.


Install the binary.

sudo make install

Create config files. (This is important!)


You may also need to make all the cmd scripts executable. (If you write your own script, be sure to make that exectuable as well.)

chmod +x ~/.config/lighthouse/cmd*








How to use

Typically you'll want to map a hotkey to run

lighthouse | sh

Lighthouse is a simple dialog that pipes whatever input you type into the standard input of the executable specified by cmd=[file] in your lighthouserc. The standard output of that executable is then used to generate the results. A selected result (move with arrow keys to highlight and then hit enter to select) will then have its action printed to standard out (and in the case above, into the shell).

Passing arguments to cmd

Lighthouse will pass any unrecognized arguments it gets on to the cmd handler. The preferred way to pass arguments for your cmd handler to lighthouse is like this:

lighthouse -- some-cmd-argument --some-cmd-option | sh

Using the GNU standard '--' to tell Lighthouse not to attempt to parse arguments beyond that point. This is important, as it prevents Lighthouse from seeing --some-cmd-option, attempting to recognize it as a lighthouse option, and failing. It also means you can reuse option characters used by lighthouse for your cmd handler (eg. '-c'), if you need to.


The syntax of a result is simple. { title | action }or { title | action | description } The title is displayed in the results and the action is written to standard out when that result is selected. A common use case would therefore be lighthouse | sh and action would be some shell command. Run lighthouse-install and then lighthouse | sh to see this in action. The title will be look! [input] and the action will be [input], so you've effectively created a small one time shell prompt. The description is a text displayed according to the highlighted selection. To create multiple results simply chain them together: { title1 | action1 }{ title2 | action2 }

  • There is also image support in the form { %Ifile.png% <- an image! | feh file.png }. To use % as a character, escape it with \%. Currently only PNG images are supported if the program is compiled without GDK support.

  • To go to the next line (in description window) use %N

  • To draw a line in the description window (to separate it) %L

  • To format your text in bold use %B text... %

  • To center text/image %C ... %

Other ways to use lighthouse

Because everything is handled through standard in and out, you can use pretty much any executable. If you want to use a python file ~/.config/lighthouse/, simply point to it in ~/.config/lighthouse/lighthouserc by making the line cmd=~/.config/lighthouse/ (Be sure to include #!/usr/bin/python at the top of your script!) If you'd like some inspiration, check out the script in config/lighthouse/

Debugging your script

Run lighthouse in your terminal and look at the output. If the script crahes you'll see its standard error, and if it succeeds you'll see what lighthouse is outputting. Check out config/lighthouse/cmd for an example of a basic script and config/lighthouse/ for a more complex script.

Note that any files being used by lighthouse, including images in the results, the command file and optional configuration files must escape certain characters: |, &, ;, <, >, (, ), {, }.


The -c command line flag will allow you to set a custom location for the configurations file. An example would be lighthouse -c ~/lighthouserc2.

If passing additional arguments to the cmd handler (see 'Passing arguments to cmd' above), all options to lighthouse should come before the --. For example lighthouse -c ~/lighthouserc2 -- some arguments for cmd handler

Configuration file

Check out the sample lighthouserc in config/lighthouse. Copy it to your directory by running lighthouse-install.

List of settings you can set in the configuration file:

  • font_name
  • font_size
  • desc_font_size
  • horiz_padding
  • cursor_padding
  • height
  • width
  • x
  • y
  • max_height
  • screen
  • desktop
  • backspace_exit
  • cmd
  • query_fg, query_bg, result_fg, result_bg, hightlight_fg, highlight_bg
  • dock_mode (i3 users must set it to 0)
  • desc_size (size in pixel of the description window)
  • auto_center (if set to 1, it center the window when the description is not expanded)
  • line_gap (gap in the description window drawed with %N)


Add alignment, colors and other formatting features to the results syntax.


The cursor doesn't actually move the text backwards, making it hard to edit longer strings


A simple scriptable popup dialog to run on X.




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