A Ratpoison 'taskbar'
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Here's a screenshot. rpbar is the small bar at the bottom.

The 'default' way to switch windows in Ratpoison is to press C-t-w to get the window list, find the number of the window you want to switch to (let's say it's 2), and press C-t-2 to switch. rpbar is a simple taskbar that gives a permanent display of the windows in the current group in order to make the first C-t-w unnecesary. As a concession to The Rat, clicking on a window title will select that window. This is useful for one-handed window selection.

The main inspiration is the simple task bars you get in other minimalistic window managers such as Awesome or wmii. rpbar's appearance is modeled on these task bars.

The other inspiration is ratbar.pl. rpbar does less that ratbar.pl, but does it better. As far as I can tell, ratbar.pl uses polling to update its window list. This makes it unresponsive, which is very annoying. rpbar uses Ratpoison's hook feature to refresh as soon as you select windows, close windows, change groups, etc. It's not as fast as it would be if it were part of Ratpoison, but it's pretty usable.

How it works

rpbar is a pretty simple C++ project. It consists of two executables:

  • rpbar runs in the background. It gets the window list from Ratpoison and displays it using the Xlib library.
  • rpbarsend sends a message to rpbar, telling it to refresh its window list. It should be invoked by Ratpoison hooks.

Compilation and usage

Obviously, you should have a working g++ toolchain. You'll also need Xlib. If you're using Ubuntu or Debian, what you need is in build-essential and libx11-dev. Then you should:

  1. Type make to compile.

  2. Put rpbar and rpbarsend in your path.

  3. Add the following to your .ratpoisonrc:

     # tell ratpoison to ignore rpbar
     unmanage rpbar
     # leave space for bars
     set padding 0 14 0 14
     # start rpbar 
     exec rpbar
     # hooks
     addhook switchwin exec rpbarsend
     addhook switchframe exec rpbarsend
     addhook switchgroup exec rpbarsend
     addhook deletewindow exec rpbarsend
     # RP versions >= 1.4.6 (from the git repo) have these hooks.
     # Recommended!
     # addhook titlechanged exec rpbarsend
     # addhook newwindow exec rpbarsend
  4. Restart Ratpoison or manually execute rpbar (it should run in the background).

Now, what if you don't like the colors? The font size? The bar height? Right now, the only way to change them is changing settings.hh and recompiling, a la dwm. I know, it's unfriendly. I'll eventually add the capability to read a config file at startup and/or take command line arguments.


I consider rpbar to be alpha. Maybe beta. It's "good enough" for my daily use, but it's pretty rough in the edges. Caveat emptor.