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A window manager for adventurers

build status wiki discord Documentation

Screenshot of LeftWM in action

Table of contents

Why go left

LeftWM is a tiling window manager written in Rust that aims to be stable and performant. LeftWM is designed to do one thing and to do that one thing well: be a window manager. LeftWM follows the following mantra:

LeftWM is not a compositor.
LeftWM is not a lock screen.
LeftWM is not a bar. But, there are lots of good bars out there. With themes, picking one is as simple as setting a symlink.

Because you probably want more than just a black screen, LeftWM is built around the concept of themes. With themes, you can choose between different bars, compositors, backgrounds, colors, docks, and whatever else makes you happy.

LeftWM was built from the very beginning to support multiple screens and ultrawide monitors. The default keybindings support ultrawide monitors and multiple screens.

One of the core concepts/features of LeftWM is theming

With LeftWM, there are two types of configuration files:

  • LeftWM Configuration files: LeftWM configurations are specific to you and don’t change for different themes. These are settings like keybindings, workspace locations, and names of desktops/tags. These settings can be found in ~/.config/leftwm/config.toml.

  • Theme Configuration files: The appearance of your desktop is different. It’s fun to try new looks and feels. It’s fun to tweak and customize the appearance (AKA: ricing). It’s fun to share so others can experience your awesome desktop! LeftWM is built around this concept. By pulling all these settings out into themes, you can now easily tweak, switch, and share your experiences. This configuration is spread between theme.toml and related files contained within a theme's folder.


While LeftWM has very few dependencies, this isn't always the case for themes. Themes typically require the following to be installed. However, this is up to the author of the theme and could be different.

List of LeftWM dependencies:

  • xorg (runtime, build): specifically libx11, xrandr, xorg-server, libxinerama
  • sh (runtime): any posix-compliant shell for starting up and down files
  • rust (build): >= 1.52.0
  • bash (optional): Most of the themes available use bash, though the scrips maybe converted to any posix-compliant shell

List of common dependencies for themes:

Ubuntu 20.4.1
sudo apt install {}
sudo pacman -S {}
Fedora 33
sudo dnf install {}
feh feh feh feh feh
compton compton paru -S picom* compton compton
picom manual ** picom picom picom
polybar manual ** paru -S polybar* polybar polybar
xmobar xmobar xmobar xmobar xmobar
lemonbar lemonbar paru -S lemonbar* manual ** lemonbar
conky conky conky conky conky
dmenu dmenu dmenu dmenu dmenu

* You can use whichever AUR wrapper you like. See paru and yay.
** See the git page (link in first column) for how to install these manually

Installation (with package manager)

Gentoo (GURU)

sudo layman -a guru && sudo emerge --sync 
sudo emerge --ask --verbose x11-wm/leftwm

Archlinux (AUR)

paru -S leftwm

paru is an AUR helper like yay, but written in Rust.

Fedora (copr)

sudo dnf copr enable atim/leftwm -y && sudo dnf install leftwm

NetBSD (Official repositories)

pkgin install leftwm

Void (XBPS)

sudo xbps-install -S leftwm

or, if you prefer to build it from source

cd /usr/pkgsrc/wm/leftwm
make install

Cargo (

cargo install leftwm

If you install LeftWM with, you will need to link to the xsession desktop file if you want to be able to login to LeftWM from a display manager (GDM, SSDM, LightDM, etc.):

sudo cp PATH_TO_LEFTWM/leftwm.desktop /usr/share/xsessions

Manual Installation (no package manager)

Using a graphical login such as LightDM, GDM, LXDM, and others

  1. Dependencies: Rust, Cargo
  2. Clone the repository and cd into the directory
git clone
cd leftwm
  1. Build leftwm
cargo build --release
  1. Copy leftwm executables to the /usr/bin folder
sudo install -s -Dm755 ./target/release/leftwm ./target/release/leftwm-worker ./target/release/leftwm-state ./target/release/leftwm-check ./target/release/leftwm-command -t /usr/bin
  1. Copy leftwm.desktop to xsessions folder
sudo cp leftwm.desktop /usr/share/xsessions/

You should now see LeftWM in your list of available window managers. At this point, expect only a simple black screen on login. For a more customized look, install a theme.

Optional Development Installation

If your goal is to continuously build leftwm and keep up to date with the latest releases, you may prefer to symlink the leftwm executables instead of copying them. If you choose to install this way, make sure you do not move the build directory as it will break your installation.

  1. Dependencies: Rust, Cargo
  2. Clone the repository and cd into the directory
git clone
cd leftwm
  1. Build leftwm
# Without systemd logging
cargo build --release

# OR with systemd logging (view with 'journalctl -f -t leftwm-worker')
cargo build --release --features=journald
  1. Create the symlinks
sudo ln -s "$(pwd)"/target/release/leftwm /usr/bin/leftwm
sudo ln -s "$(pwd)"/target/release/leftwm-worker /usr/bin/leftwm-worker
sudo ln -s "$(pwd)"/target/release/leftwm-state /usr/bin/leftwm-state
sudo ln -s "$(pwd)"/target/release/leftwm-check /usr/bin/leftwm-check
sudo ln -s "$(pwd)"/target/release/leftwm-command /usr/bin/leftwm-command
  1. Copy leftwm.desktop to xsessions folder
sudo cp leftwm.desktop /usr/share/xsessions/

You should now see LeftWM in your list of available window managers. At this point, expect only a simple black screen on login. For a more customized look, install a theme.

Rebuilding the development installation

  1. Now if you want to get the newest version of leftwm run this command from your build directory:
git pull origin main
  1. Build leftwm
# Without systemd logging
cargo build --release

# OR with systemd logging (view with 'journalctl -f -t leftwm-worker')
cargo build --release --features=journald
  1. And press the following keybind to reload leftwm
Mod + Shift + R

Using the Makefile

For conveniece we also have a Makefile with the following rules:

make ... info
all implies build and test
test runs same tests as CI on github
build builds with cargo flag --release
clean clean all buildfiles
install install by copying binaries to /usr/bin, also places leftwm.desktop file to /usr/shar/xsession and cleans build files
install-dev installs by symlinking, copies leftwm.desktop, no clean
uninstall removes leftwm-* files from /usr/bin and leftwm.desktop file

Starting with startx or a login such as slim

Make sure this is at the end of your .xinitrc file:

# .xinitrc
exec dbus-launch leftwm


If you want to see more than a black screen when you login, select a theme:

With LeftWM-Theme

leftwm-theme update
leftwm-theme install NAME_OF_THEME_YOU_LIKE
leftwm-theme apply NAME_OF_THEME_YOU_LIKE

Without LeftWM-Theme

mkdir -p ~/.config/leftwm/themes
cd ~/.config/leftwm/themes

LeftWM comes packaged with a couple of default themes. There is also a community repository for sharing themes.

For more information about themes check out our theme guide or the wiki.


The settings file to change key bindings and the default mod key can be found at


the file is automatically generated when leftwm or leftwm-check is run for the first time.

Default keys

Keybinding Description
Mod + (1-9) Switch to a desktop/tag
Mod + Shift + (1-9) Move the focused window to desktop/tag
Mod + W Switch the desktops for each screen. Desktops [1][2] changes to [2][1]
Mod + Shift + W Move window to the other desktop
Mod + (⬆️⬇️) Focus on the different windows in the current workspace
Mod + Shift + (⬆️⬇️) Move the different windows in the current workspace
Mod + Enter Move selected window to the top of the stack in the current workspace
Mod + Ctrl + (⬆️⬇️) Switch between different layouts
Mod + Shift + () Switch between different workspaces
Mod + Shift + Enter Open a terminal
Mod + Ctrl + L Lock the screen
Mod + Shift + X Exit LeftWM
Mod + Shift + Q Close the current window
Mod + Shift + R Reload LeftWM and its config
Mod + p Use dmenu to start application

Note: Although we encourage you to use Alacritty, LeftWM will set your default terminal to the first terminal it finds in this list (in the order presented):

  1. Alacritty
  2. Termite
  3. Kitty
  4. URXVT
  5. RXVT
  6. ST
  7. ROXTerm
  8. Eterm
  9. XTerm
  10. Terminator
  11. Terminology
  12. Gnome Terminal
  13. XFCE4 Terminal
  14. Konsole
  15. UXTerm
  16. Guake

Floating Windows

You can optionally switch between tiling or floating mode for any window.

Keybinding Description
Mod + MouseDrag Switch a tiled window to floating mode
Mod + RightMouseDrag Resize a window
Drag window onto a tile Switch a floating window to tiling mode
Mod + Shift + (1-9) Switch a floating window to tiling mode


By default, workspaces have a one-to-one relationship with screens, but this is configurable. There are many reasons you might want to change this, but the main reason is for ultrawide monitors. You might want to have two or even three workspaces on a single screen.

Here is an example config changing the way workspaces are defined (~/.config/leftwm/config.toml)

NOTE The line workspaces = [] needs to be removed or commented out if a configuration like the following example is used.

y = 0
x = 0
height = 1440
width = 1720

y = 0
x = 1720
height = 1440
width = 1720

You may optionally specify an ID for your defined workspaces. This is helpful if you want to assign different gutter settings to each workspace in your theme.

y = 0
x = 1720
height = 1440
width = 1720
id = 1

y = 0
x = 0
height = 1440
width = 1720
id = 0

NOTE You do not have to define an ID for each workspace, but if you assign an ID to one workspace all subsequently defined workspaces without an ID will be assigned an ID incrementing from the largest ID currently assigned to any workspace. In the above example if the second workspace was not defined with ID = 0 it would be assigned ID = 2. Keep this in mind when creating or customizing themes.

Tags / Desktops

The default tags are 1-9. They can be renamed in the config file by setting the list of tags.

Here is an example config changing the list of available tags. NOTE: tag navigation (Mod + #) doesn't change based on the name of the tag.

tags = ["Web", "Code", "Shell", "Music", "Connect"]


By default, all layouts are enabled. There are a lot of layouts so you might want to consider only enabling the ones you use. To do this add a layout section to your config.toml file. This enables only the layouts you specify.


layouts = ["MainAndHorizontalStack", "GridHorizontal", "Fibonacci", "EvenVertical", "EvenHorizontal", "CenterMain"]

Layouts may also be specified on individual workspaces, this is useful if you have monitors with different aspect ratios or orientation.


id = 0
x = 0
y = 480
width = 3840
height = 1600
layouts = ["CenterMain", "CenterMainBalanced", "EvenHorizontal"]

id = 1
x = 3840
y = 0
width = 1440
height = 2560
layouts = ["MainAndHorizontalStack", "EvenVertical"]

NOTE When defining layouts per workspace, you will need to define workspace IDs explicitely.

More detailed configuration information can be found in the Wiki.

LeftWM is EWMH compliant

The default layouts are all of the kinds described by the Layout enum.


Issue Description Solution
LeftWM not listed by login manager You likely need to add the xsessions file to the right folder. See installation
No config.toml file exists LeftWM does not always ship with a config.toml. You will need to execute LeftWM at least once for one to be generated. Try the following: leftwm-worker
Config.toml is not being parsed LeftWM ships with a binary called leftwm-check. It might not be installed by the AUR. Try the following: leftwm-check
Keybinding doesn't work It's likely you need to specify a value or have a typo. See Wiki


LeftWM now has a Discord channel for faster help.