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ctwm is an extension to twm, originally written by Claude Lecommandeur that support multiple virtual screens, and a lot of other goodies.

You can use and manage up to 32 virtual screens called workspaces. You swap from one workspace to another by clicking on a button in an optionnal panel of buttons (the workspace manager) or by invoking a function.

You can customize each workspace by choosing different colors, names and pixmaps for the buttons and background root windows.

Major features include:

  • Optional 3D window titles and border (ala Motif).
  • Shaped, colored icons.
  • Multiple icons for clients based on the icon name.
  • Windows can belong to several workspaces.
  • A map of your workspaces to move quickly windows between different workspaces.
  • Animations: icons, root backgrounds and buttons can be animated.
  • Pinnable and sticky menus.
  • etc...

The sources files were once the twm ones only workmgr.[ch] added (written from scratch by Claude Lecommandeur) and minor modifications to some twm files. Since then much more extensive changes and reorganization have been done, so the codebase is now significantly different from plain twm.

If you find bugs in ctwm, or just want to tell us how much you like it, please send a report to the mailing list.

There is a manual page, which always needs more work (any volunteers?). Many useful information bits are only in the file, so please read it.


ctwm is build using CMake, which does its best to root around in your system to find the pieces the build needs. Occasionally though you might have to give it some help, or change the defaults of what features are expected.

In the common case, the included Makefile will do the necessary invocations, and you won't need to worry about it; just run a normal make ; make install invocation. If you need to make alterations though, you may have to invoke cmake manually and set various params on the command line (cmake also has various GUI configurators, not covered here).

The following parameters control configuration/installation locations:

CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX : Where paths are based. This is a standard cmake var. Referred to as $PREFIX below.

ETCDIR : Where ctwm will look for a system.ctwmrc to fall back to if it doesn't find a per-user config. Nothing is installed here by default. (default: $PREFIX/etc)

BINDIR : Where the ctwm binary is installed. (default: $PREFIX/bin)

DATADIR : Where run-time data like image pixmaps are installed. (default: $PREFIX/share/ctwm)

MANDIR : Base directory under which manpage dirs like man1 and man2 live. (default: $PREFIX/share/man or $PREFIX/man, whichever is found first)

DOCDIR : Where non-manpage docs are installed. (default: $PREFIX/share/doc/ctwm)

EXAMPLEDIR : Where various example files get installed. These include the system.ctwmrc that is compiled into ctwm as a fallback. (default: $PREFIX/share/examples/ctwm)

The following parameters control the features/external libs that are available. The defaults can be changed by passing parameters like -DUSE_XYZ=OFF to the cmake command line.

USE_M4 : Enables use of m4(1) for preprocessing config files at runtime. If your m4 is called something other than m4 or gm4, you may need to also set M4_CMD to point at it. (ON by default)

USE_XPM : Enables the use of XPM images. Disable if libxpm isn't present, which is just barely possible on very old systems. (ON by default)

USE_JPEG : Enables the use of jpeg images via libjpeg. Disable if libjpeg isn't present. (ON by default)

USE_EWMH : Enables EWMH support. (ON by default)

USE_RPLAY : Build with sound support via librplay. USE_SOUND is a still valid but deprecated alias for this, and will give a warning. (OFF by default)

USE_XRANDR : Enables the use of multi-monitors of different sizes via libXrandr. Disable if libXrandr isn't present or is older than 1.5. (ON by default)

Additional vars you might need to set:

M4_CMD : Name of m4 program, if it's not m4 or gm4, or full path to it if it's not in your $PATH.


In the simple case, the defaults should work. Most modern or semi-modern systems should fall into this.

funny prompt> make

If you need to add special config, you'll have to pass extra bits to cmake via an invocation like

funny prompt> make CMAKE_EXTRAS="-DUSE_XPM=OFF -DM4_CMD=superm4"

Though in more complicated cases it may be simpler to just invoke cmake directly:

funny prompt> ( cd build ; cmake -DUSE_XPM=OFF -DM4_CMD=superm4 .. )
funny prompt> make

Required Libs

ctwm requires various X11 libraries to be present. That list will generally include libX11, libXext, libXmu, libXt, libSM, and libICE. Depending on your configuration, you may require extra libs as discussed above (libXpm, libjpeg, and libXrandr are included in the default config). If you're on a system that separates header files etc. from the shared lib itself (many Linux dists do), you'll probably need -devel or similarly named packages installed for each of them as well.


funny prompt> make install


The CMake build system includes sufficient info for CPack to be used to build RPM (and presumably, though not tested, DEB) packages. As a quick example of usage:

funny prompt> make
funny prompt> (cd build && cpack -G RPM)

Dev and Support

Mailing list

There is a mailing list for discussions: Subscribe by sending a mail with the subject "subscribe ctwm" to


ctwm development uses breezy (see for version control. The code is available on launchpad as lp:ctwm. See for more details.

Further information

Additional information can be found from the project webpage, at

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