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FLWM Window Manager

Stuff to notice: the aterm in the upper left has an entirely transparent titlebar making it pretty much unreadable unless the background is light-coloured (no other app I've noticed has this problem). The menu left center shows what's on the "Net" (current) desktop, including indicating the position on screen - the "giles" terminal icon that's an unshaded box has been minimized. And the GIMP Layers/Brushes window has been "window-shaded" so only the titlebar shows.

Release date of
this version
Release date of
latest version
20070428 1.02-1 Debian testing 20060630 1.02 20060630 GPL
Miscellaneous Details
Memory usage
key bindings
424  3352   6112

Requires the FLTK (pronounced "fulltick," the "Fast Light Tool Kit") by Bill Spitzak, the author of the window manager. Written in C++. Minimizing a window hides it and puts it on the window list. Mouse clicks (all of them) on the desktop bring up the desktop menu. Applications are generally launched from this menu. "Understands Motif, KDE, and Gnome window manager hints, and works with SGI programs that assumme 4DWM."

The man page is quite good, explaining all key and mouse functionality. The web page provides some other information about the origins and design of the WM.
Window Decorations
This WM uses a highly unusual vertical titlebar on the left side of the window. Otherwise fairly traditional in appearance.


FLWM was heavily inspired by the wm2 window manager - in particular the vertical titlebars. The appearance is quite pedestrian other than the titlebars (I don't consider this a bad thing).

The desktop menu is accessed by clicking any mouse button on the desktop, or by right-clicking on a window titlebar. It includes a list of desktops, each with a submenu of the windows on that desktop, some other window functions, and the applications listed in your ~/.wmx/ directory. This is the same application menu system used by the wm2 and wmx window managers.

You start out with one desktop. Other virtual desktops can be created in two ways: from the desktop menu item "New desktop" or by pressing Ctrl-F<N>. The former method offers the opportunity to name the new desktop, the latter automatically names the new desktop "Desktop <N>". Ctrl-F<N> is also used to change to other desktops, or you can use the desktop menu.

The focus style is sloppy, although closing a focused window always leads to focus rolling to the next-to-last-used window. Many WMs don't actually manage this, leaving you without focus. This behaviour is appreciated.

Key bindings include Ctrl-F<N> as mentioned above to change desktops, Alt-Tab to bring up the desktop menu and/or change to another window (try it - it's hard to describe but it works). The man page says that Ctrl-Tab changes to the next desktop and Ctrl-Shift-Tab changes to the previous desktop: this didn't work for me, probably an artifact of using a precompiled Debian binary. Unfortunately the only way to change the key bindings is to edit the source code and recompile. Too bad he chose to carry over this part of the wmx heritage - changing key bindings without recompiling would be a major plus. There are no keybindings for resizing or moving windows, although there are bindings for raise (Alt-Up), lower (Alt-Down), close (Alt-Delete), and minimize (Alt-Enter).

The titlebar buttons bear some discussion. The "X" at the bottom does what you'd expect: kills the window. At the top of the titlebar, working our way up, we have a horizontal maximize, a vertical maximize, a window shade, and a minimize. A nice feature of the two maximize buttons is that when you click on them the mouse pointer stays on them even if the window resize moves the button. This makes it easy to undo the resize or to maximize in the other direction as well. "Window shade" means that the window is reduced to only the titlebar - and it's indicated by just a bar, which most of us will probably initially take as a minimize button. But that's the next one up, and it's a blank button.

Miscellaneous nice features include sticky windows, edge resistance when trying to push windows off screen, and a simple system for moving windows between desktops.

In 2003 I wrote a review of this WM for a paper, and I found that it had issues with my terminal of choice, aterm. I admit that I didn't file a bug report and perhaps should have because that problem persists: aterm with transparency turned on will have a completely transparent titlebar, even if you've set the term itself to only partial transparency. Since the titlebar text is black, it can become pretty much unreadable on dark backgrounds. I haven't seen this problem with any other application.

by giles