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Ly - a TUI display manager

Ly screenshot

Ly is a lightweight TUI (ncurses-like) display manager for Linux and BSD.


  • a C99 compiler (tested with tcc and gcc)
  • a C standard library
  • GNU make
  • pam
  • xcb
  • xorg
  • xorg-xauth
  • mcookie
  • tput
  • shutdown

On Debian-based distros running apt install build-essential libpam0g-dev libxcb-xkb-dev as root should install all the dependencies for you.


The following desktop environments were tested with success

  • awesome
  • bspwm
  • budgie
  • cinnamon
  • deepin
  • dwm
  • enlightenment
  • gnome
  • i3
  • kde
  • lxde
  • lxqt
  • mate
  • maxx
  • pantheon
  • qtile
  • spectrwm
  • sway
  • windowmaker
  • xfce
  • xmonad

Ly should work with any X desktop environment, and provides basic wayland support (sway works very well, for example).


Unlike what you may have heard, Ly does not require systemd, and was even specifically designed not to depend on logind. You should be able to make it work easily with a better init, changing the source code won't be necessary :)

Cloning and Compiling

Clone the repository

$ git clone --recurse-submodules

Change the directory to ly

$ cd ly


$ make

Test in the configured tty (tty2 by default) or a terminal emulator (but desktop environments won't start)

# make run

Install Ly and the provided systemd service file

# make install

Enable the service

# systemctl enable ly.service

If you need to switch between ttys after Ly's start you also have to disable getty on Ly's tty to prevent "login" from spawning on top of it

# systemctl disable getty@tty2.service

Arch Linux Installation

From AUR:

# yay -S ly


You can find all the configuration in /etc/ly/config.ini. The file is commented, and includes the default values.


Use the up and down arrow keys to change the current field, and the left and right arrow keys to change the target desktop environment while on the desktop field (above the login field).


If your .xinitrc doesn't work make sure it is executable and includes a shebang. This file is supposed to be a shell script! Quoting from xinit's man page:

If no specific client program is given on the command line, xinit will look for a file in the user's home directory called .xinitrc to run as a shell script to start up client programs.

On Arch Linux, the example .xinitrc (/etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc) starts like this:



The numlock and capslock state is printed in the top-right corner. Use the F1 and F2 keys to respectively shutdown and reboot. Take a look at your .xsession if X doesn't start, as it can interfere (this file is launched with X to configure the display properly).

PSX DOOM fire animation

To enable the famous PSX DOOM fire described by Fabien Sanglard, just uncomment animate = true in /etc/ly/config.ini. You may also disable the main box borders with hide_borders = true.

Additional Information

The name "Ly" is a tribute to the fairy from the game Rayman. Ly was tested by oxodao, who is some seriously awesome dude.