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An overview of pekwm

pekwm is a fast, functional, and flexible window manager which aims to be usable, even without a mouse.

Table of Contents

  1. An Introduction to pekwm
  2. Getting pekwm
  3. Compiling pekwm

An Introduction to pekwm

pekwm, a window manager written by Claes Nästén, was once based on the aewm++ window manager, but has since evolved enough that it no longer resembles aewm++ at all. pekwm also has an expanded feature-set, including window grouping (similar to ion, pwm, or fluxbox), auto properties, Xinerama support and keygrabber that supports keychains, and much more.

Why pekwm?

"Why make another window manager?", some ask. I say,"Why not?". Some of you may argue that it's better to have a single standard desktop environment, so that our mothers can find their way around, but in all honesty, if most of us wanted the same environment as our mothers, we probably wouldn't be reading this anyway. The same can also be applied to your sister, your roommate, your wife, even your cat...

"Why should I use pekwm?", others may ask. Well, you don't have to! However, we use it, and you're welcome to try it out as well. As always,you should use the environment most suited to you. For a more comprehensive answer to this question, check out the pekwm Features section below.

pekwm Features

Here's a short list of some of the features included in pekwm:

Getting pekwm

Now that you've decided to try it out, you need to know how to get it, for which there are two options. The first is to download and compile the source, and the second is finding a pre-compiled package.

Getting the pekwm source

The source code is available from Github at https://github.com/pekdon/pekwm.

Release tabralls are named pekwm-0.2.0.tar.gz and pekwm-0.2.0.tar.bz2. Although it doesn't matter which you get, keep in mind that the .bz2 is smaller in comparison.

Generally speaking, pekwm from GIT is stable enough for everyday use and should, in most cases, be a safe bet to get all the latest functionality.

Getting prebuilt pekwm packages

pekwm is available as a package on many Linux and BSD distributions, for further details, refer to your distribution.

Compiling pekwm

This chapter will help you compile pekwm.

Unpacking the Archive

The first step to compiling pekwm is to unpack the archive. Unpacking depends on which version you downloaded:

tar -zxvf pekwm-0.2.0.tar.gz
tar -zjvf pekwm-0.2.0.tar.bz2

The '-j' option works normally on most linux systems, and as of the current GNU tar development version, is part of GNU tar. If your system does not support the -j option, you can use two things: bzip2 -dc pekwm-0.2.0.tar.bz2 | tar -xvf - or bzip2 -d pekwm-0.2.0.tar.bz2 followed by tar -xvf pekwm-0.2.0.tar. This also works for the .tar.gz version using gzip -dc or gzip -d.

The 'v' options are elective, they show you the filenames as they're being extracted. At this point, you should have a pekwm-0.2.0 directory. Use cd pekwm-0.2.0 to get there.

Installing build dependencies

Before building pekwm a C++ compiler with support for C++11 needs to be available on the system, the CMake build system and a set of X11 and image libraries.

The sections below describe how to install the required packages for different OSes and Linux distributions.


Development tools using the GCC C++ compiler:

# apk add cmake g++ make

Build dependencies:

# apk add fontconfig-dev jpeg-dev libxext-dev libpng-dev libxft-dev libxpm-dev libxrandr-dev libxinerama-dev


Development tools using the GCC C++ compiler:

# apt install cmake g++ make

Build dependencies:

# apt install libfontconfig1-dev libjpeg-dev libxext-dev libpng-dev libxft-dev libxpm-dev libxrandr-dev libxinerama-dev


Development tools using the GCC C++ compiler:

# xbps-install cmake make gcc

Build dependencies:

# xbps-install fontconfig-devel libjpeg-turbo-devel libXext-devel libpng-devel libXft-devel libXpm-devel libXrandr-devel libXinerama-devel


OpenBSD comes with X11 and a compatible C++ compiler. To add the required packages run:

# pkg_add cmake jpeg png

OS X (homebrew)

OS X does not come with a X11 installation by default, so XQuartz needs to be installed first.

The development tools are not installed by default but can be installed using the following command:

xcode-select --install

Assuming homebrew is installed, the only package required to build pekwm after install XQuartz and the development tools is CMake:

$ brew install cmake

Setting up a build directory

The first thing to do is to setup a build directory and configure pekwm using CMake:

mkdir build && cd build
cmake ..

Pekwm support a few configuration options, each option is specified on the cmake command line as:


Common options

Option Default Description
CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX /usr/local It may be useful to use a custom prefix to install the files.
CMAKE_INSTALL_SYSCONFDIR /usr/etc/pekwm It may be useful to use a custom prefix to install the config files.
CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE Set to Debug to enable debug outputs and code
PEDANTIC OFF Turn on extra compiler warnings
TESTS OFF Enable compilation of unit test programs

Options to reduce the size

Option Default Description
ENABLE_SHAPE ON Enables the use of the Xshape extension for non-rectangular windows.
ENABLE_XINERAMA ON Enables Xinerama multi screen support
ENABLE_PANGO ON Enable Pango font support in pekwm (themes).
ENABLE_RANDR ON Enables RandR multi screen support
ENABLE_XFT ON Enables Xft font support in pekwm (themes).
ENABLE_IMAGE_XPM ON XPM image support using libXpm.
ENABLE_IMAGE_JPEG ON JPEG image support using libjpeg.
ENABLE_IMAGE_PNG ON PNG image support using libpng.

Building and installing

After running cmake with any configuration options you need, run make. This should only take a few minutes. After that, become root (unless you used a prefix in your home directory, such as -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/home/you/pkg) and type make install

Adding exec pekwm to ~/.xinitrc if you start X running startx or ~/.xsession if you use a display manager should usually be enough to get pekwm running.

That's it! pekwm is installed on your computer now. Next you should read the Getting Started chapter.

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