Gentoo Wiki


Desktop environments

Lightweight desktop environments

Window managers

Compositing window managers




What is FVWM

The F virtual window manager (FVWM) is an extremely powerful ICCCM-compliant multiple virtual desktop window manager for the X Window system. Development is active, and support is excellent. Check it out at

FVWM Screenshot
FVWM Screenshot

One of FVWM strong points is its configurability as virtually anything is possible. People have made clones of Windows and Mac themes, and created some very creative original ones. Take a look at some screenshots.


Before emerging FVWM start off looking at the USE flags of FVWM you want to enable. One of the less obvious (but cooler) options is stroke, which lets you configure mouse gestures later on.

Then, as usual just emerge fvwm and wait a while, it should take about 15-30 minutes (or even less) on fairly recent hardware.

After it's emerged you'll probably want to start playing with it, tweaking it to your liking. This is done editing your ~/.fvwm/config file (before fvwm 2.5.10, the config file was ~/.fvwm/.fvwm2rc, and it is still recognized by fvwm). This file handles all the settings for the WM, such as window decorations, menus and items.

Initially config should be empty, giving you the ugly default when you start. To get around this you can either try out fvwm-themes (see next section) or start with someone else's config. This last option is what I'd reccommend, since you'll have a nice desktop and a complete config to learn from and tweak. Alternatively, you can follow the FVWM/Advanced and build step by step your desktop.

If you want to have a command executed at startup, like xmodmap, you can have it in "config", like:

AddToFunc InitFunction
+ I Exec exec xmodmap -e "pointer = 3 2 1 4 5"

Note that anything with fvwm-themes will only work if you have emerged the fvwm-themes package.

Fvwm as your default WM

Crack open /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc and replace whatever you had there with the following:

File: /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc



Then run startx, with this a *very* ugly default FVWM will start, don't despair, changing everything is possible.

The other way that you can select fvwm from gdm's session before you login: Switching to /usr/share/xsessions and create a file with the following text:

File: /usr/share/xsessions/fvwm.desktop
[Desktop Entry]
Comment=This session starts the fvwm window manager

Then you can select fvwm from gdm's session before you login.

FVWM as default for XDM

This is if you've already activated a Graphical Login (GDM, KDM, or XDM)

1) Create /etc/X11/Sessions/fvwm2-themes

File: fvwm2-themes
exec /usr/bin/fvwm-themes-start

2) Update /etc/rc.conf

File: /etc/rc.conf


Two packages I like very much are fvwm-themes and fvwm-themes-extra. These enable you to switch between numerous themes.

Another very interesting package is fvwm-crystal. It is a very complete theme for fvwm that is easily editable.

If you would like to learn how to create your own theme, read FVWM/Advanced

In the Gentoo Forum threads The F? Virtual Window Manager, The F? Virtual Window Manager (part 2) and The F? Virtual Window Manager (part 3), you can find a ton of tricks, tweaks and solutions to any problems or desires you may run into.

See also

Retrieved from ""

Last modified: Sat, 30 Aug 2008 07:46:00 +0000 Hits: 15,364