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awesome is a highly configurable, next generation, dynamic window manager for X. It is primarily targeted at power users, developers and any people dealing with every day computing tasks and who want to have fine-grained control on their graphical environment. It is extended using the Lua programming language.


USE flags

USE flags for x11-wm/awesome A dynamic floating and tiling window manager

dbus Enable dbus support for anything that needs it (gpsd, gnomemeeting, etc) global
doc Add extra documentation (API, Javadoc, etc). It is recommended to enable per package instead of globally global
gnome Add GNOME support global
luajit Use dev-lang/luajit instead of dev-lang/lua local


Install x11-wm/awesome:

root #emerge --ask x11-wm/awesome



To start awesome use a display manager or startx.

To use startx with ConsoleKit support, setup ConsoleKit and create the following file:

FILE ~/.xinitrc
exec ck-launch-session dbus-launch --sh-syntax --exit-with-session awesome

Configuration file

The default configuration file of awesome is located in ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua. If such a directory or file does not exist then it needs to be created. A default, out of the box, configuration is distributed with awesome and can be found at /etc/xdg/awesome/rc.lua. Copy that configuration file to the user's home directory.

First create the awesome/ directory:

user $mkdir -p ~/.config/awesome/

Next copy the rc.lua configuration file:

user $cp /etc/xdg/awesome/rc.lua ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua

If x11-terms/xterm is not installed, either install it or change the default terminal emulator to the terminal emulator available on the system. Below, the default terminal emulator is set to konsole, part of kde-apps/konsole.

FILE ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua
-- This is used later as the default terminal and editor to run.
terminal = "konsole"

After making changes it is useful to check the configuration file for errors:

user $awesome -k
✔ Configuration file syntax OK

Add wallpaper support through the media-gfx/feh package:

root #emerge --ask media-gfx/feh

For instance, to use awsetbg to set the wallpaper, edit ~/.config/awesome/theme/theme.lua:

FILE ~/.config/awesome/theme/theme.luaSetting a specific background using awsetbg
theme.wallpaper_cmd = { "awsetbg -f .config/awesome/themes/awesome-wallpaper.png" }


In awesome, tags are the name given to virtual desktops under which one or more applications are running. It is possible to assign custom symbols to these tags:

FILE ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua
-- {{{ Tags
tags = {}
for s = 1, screen.count() do
    tags[s] = awful.tag({ "➊", "➋", "➌", "➍" }, s, layouts[1])
-- }}}


Below is an example of a custom awesome menu:

FILE ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua
-- {{{ Menu
myawesomemenu = {
   { "manual", terminal .. " -e man awesome" },
   { "edit config", editor_cmd .. " " .. awesome.conffile },
   { "reload", awesome.restart },
   { "quit", awesome.quit },
   { "reboot", "reboot" },
   { "shutdown", "shutdown" }
appsmenu = {
   { "urxvt", "urxvt" },
   { "sakura", "sakura" },
   { "ncmpcpp", terminal .. " -e ncmpcpp" },
   { "luakit", "luakit" },
   { "uzbl", "uzbl-browser" },
   { "firefox", "firefox" },
   { "chromium", "chromium" },
   { "thunar", "thunar" },
   { "ranger", terminal .. " -e ranger" },
   { "gvim", "gvim" },
   { "leafpad", "leafpad" },
   { "htop", terminal .. " -e htop" },
   { "sysmonitor", "gnome-system-monitor" }
gamesmenu = {
   { "warsow", "warsow" },
   { "nexuiz", "nexuiz" },
   { "xonotic", "xonotic" },
   { "openarena", "openarena" },
   { "alienarena", "alienarena" },
   { "teeworlds", "teeworlds" },
   { "frozen-bubble", "frozen-bubble" },
   { "warzone2100", "warzone2100" },
   { "wesnoth", "wesnoth" },
   { "supertuxkart", "supertuxkart" },
   { "xmoto" , "xmoto" },
   { "flightgear", "flightgear" },
   { "snes9x" , "snes9x" }
mymainmenu ={ items = { { "awesome", myawesomemenu },
                                    { "apps", appsmenu },
				    { "games", gamesmenu },
                                    { "terminal", terminal },
				    { "web browser", browser },
				    { "text editor", geditor }
mylauncher = awful.widget.launcher({ image = image(beautiful.awesome_icon),
                                     menu = mymainmenu })
-- }}}


Below is an example use of a custom date format. The format syntax used is %d.%m %H:%M. The second option, 60, is the update interval in seconds.

FILE ~/.config/awesome/rc.luaCreating a text-clock widget
-- {{{ Wibox
-- Create a text-clock widget
mytextclock = awful.widget.textclock({ align = "right" }," %d.%m %H:%M ", 60)
-- }}}
For more information about the format options run date --help

Volume control

media-sound/volumeicon can be used to handle volume keys automatically, and to show the volume level through a tray icon.

root #emerge --ask media-sound/volumeicon

Autostart volumeicon from within ~/.xinitrc:

FILE ~/.xinitrcLaunching volumeicon in the background when starting X
volumeicon &
exec ck-launch-session dbus-launch awesome

Alternatively, a lightweight method is to add volume keys straight into the awesome configuration:

FILE ~/.config/awesome/rc.luaVolume keys
awful.key({ }, "XF86AudioLowerVolume", function () awful.util.spawn("amixer -q sset Master 2dB-") end)
awful.key({ }, "XF86AudioRaiseVolume", function () awful.util.spawn("amixer -q sset Master 2dB+") end)

MPD multimedia keys

Install media-sound/mpc to add multimedia key bindings for MPD:

root #emerge --ask media-sound/mpc

Next update the awesome configuration to assign the multimedia keys to the proper command:

FILE ~/.config/awesome/rc.luaVolume key bindings
awful.key({ }, "XF86AudioNext",function () awful.util.spawn( "mpc next" ) end),
awful.key({ }, "XF86AudioPrev",function () awful.util.spawn( "mpc prev" ) end),
awful.key({ }, "XF86AudioPlay",function () awful.util.spawn( "mpc play" ) end),
awful.key({ }, "XF86AudioStop",function () awful.util.spawn( "mpc pause" ) end),

Debugging the configuration with Xephyr

Xephyr is a useful tool for debugging new configuration files as it creates an instance of an X server within a client window.

user $Xephyr -ac -nolisten tcp -br -noreset -screen 800x600 :1

This will open an 800x600 window. To run awesome within it open a new terminal and run the following:

user $DISPLAY=:1.0 awesome

This will run awesome within a window.

Keyboard shortcuts

These are the most useful default shortcuts:

  • mod4+mouse1 = move client with mouse
  • mod4+mouse2 = resize client with mouse
  • mod4+enter = open terminal
  • mod4+r = run command
  • mod4+shift+c = kill
  • mod4+m = maximize
  • mod4+n = minimize
  • mod4+ctrl+n = restore minimized clients
  • mod4+f = full screen
  • mod4+tab = switch to previous client
  • mod4+ctrl+space = float
  • mod4+j = highlight left client
  • mod4+k = highlight right client
  • mod4+shift+j = move client right
  • mod4+shift+k = move client left
  • mod4+l = resize tiled client
  • mod4+h = resize tiled client
  • mod4+left / right = change tag
  • mod4+1-9 = change tag
  • mod4+shift+1-9 = send client to tag

Custom key bindings, like Alt+Tab, can be mapped to make the awesome experience even better. For instance, to use Alt+Tab to switch to the previous window:

FILE ~/.config/awesome/rc.luaAlt-TAB key binding
-- {{{ Key bindings
globalkeys = awful.util.table.join(
    -- alt + tab
    awful.key({ "Mod1", }, "Tab",
        function ()
            if client.focus then
-- }}}

External resources