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j4-dmenu-desktop is a replacement for i3-dmenu-desktop. It's purpose is to find .desktop files and offer you a menu to start an application using dmenu. Since r2.7 j4-dmenu-desktop doesn't require i3wm anymore and should work just fine on about any desktop environment.

You can also execute shell commands using it.

Project status

I consider j4-dmenu-desktop pretty much feature complete since a few years: larger new features need a compelling reason and a good patch. Preferably discuss it before putting more work into it.

Build requirements

  • Compiler with basic C++11 support (GCC 4.77 or later required, Clang works, too)
  • CMake

Building is the usual cmake/make thingy:

cmake .
sudo make install

Distribution packages

Archlinux Packaging status

The package is provided by the AUR. You can install it with an AUR helper of your choice: j4-dmenu-desktop-git or j4-dmenu-desktop. Else, you may install it manually by invoking the following commands as a regular user. (to build packages from the AUR, the base-devel package group is assumed to be installed)

git clone    
cd j4-dmenu-desktop
makepkg -si

or for the latest:

git clone
cd j4-dmenu-desktop-git
makepkg -si


j4-dmenu-desktop is now available in the FreeBSD Ports Collection. A prebuilt package can be installed via

pkg install j4-dmenu-desktop


j4-dmenu-desktop is available in Portage for the amd64 and x86 architectures. You can install it via

echo "x11-misc/j4-dmenu-desktop ~amd64 ~x86" >> /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords
emerge --ask x11-misc/j4-dmenu-desktop

The package is also provided by the gentoo-el overlay. You can install it with the following commands as root. (you need to have layman installed and configured)

layman -a gentoo-el
echo "=x11-misc/j4-dmenu-desktop-9999 **" >> /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords
emerge x11-misc/j4-dmenu-desktop


The package is now in the apt repository. You can install it via

sudo apt-get install j4-dmenu-desktop


j4-dmenu-desktop is in Debian stable:

sudo apt install j4-dmenu-desktop

Nix / NixOS

j4-dmenu-desktop is in nixpkgs:

nix-env --install j4-dmenu-desktop
# Or use pkgs attribute of the same name in NixOS configuration 



j4-dmenu-desktop [--dmenu="dmenu -i"] [--term="i3-sensible-terminal"]
j4-dmenu-desktop --help


    Determines the command used to invoke dmenu
    Executed with your shell ($SHELL) or /bin/sh
    Enables reading $XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP to determine the desktop environment
    Display binary name after each entry (off by default)
    Do not include the generic name of desktop entries
	A wrapper binary. Useful in case you want to wrap into 'i3 exec'
    Sets the terminal emulator used to start terminal apps
    Must point to a read-writeable file (will create if not exists).
    In this mode entries are sorted by usage frequency.
    Must point to a path where a file can be created.
    In this mode no menu will be shown. Instead the program waits for <path>
    to be written to (use echo > path). Every time this happens a menu will be shown.
    Desktop files are parsed ahead of time.
    Perfoming 'echo -n q > path' will exit the program.
    Do not execute selected command, send to stdout instead
    Display this help message

Environment variables

  • $SHELL is respected, and if absent /bin/sh is used
  • XDG-spec variables (XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP, XDG_DATA_HOME, HOME) are respected


Case insensitivity?

Add the -i option to the dmenu command

I want it to display normal binaries, too, yes?

You can put this in a script file and use it instead of calling j4dd directly:

j4-dmenu-desktop --dmenu="(cat ; (stest -flx $(echo $PATH | tr : ' ') | sort -u)) | dmenu"

Exchanging the cat and (stest ... sort -u) parts will swap the two parts (j4dd's output and the list of binaries).

Get the output into a pipe / launching a program by arbitrary user input


How much faster is it?

% time i3-dmenu-desktop --dmenu="cat"
i3-dmenu-desktop --dmenu="cat"  0.37s user 0.02s system 96% cpu 0.404 total
% time ./j4-dmenu-desktop --dmenu=cat
./j4-dmenu-desktop --dmenu=cat  0.01s user 0.01s system 107% cpu 0.015 total

More than 25 times faster :)