Installing Window Maker as Your Window Manager

Written by Joshua Go (joshuago at users dot sourceforge dot net)
Created July 18, 1997
Last updated December 20, 1998
Development stage: Beta

A window manager is software that runs along with the X window server to provide titlebars, menus, and other decorations for software. As the name implies, it "manages" the windows of your software applications. Window managers are often also responsible for the "feel" as well as the look of your desktop.

Window Maker is a good-looking, nice-feeling window manager (as you might be able to guess, it's the one I prefer). Despite its simple name, it really looks and operates very well although it hasn't reached 1.0 yet. Other cool window managers are out there, like Enlightenment, but E is still under heavy development and may crash unexpectedly. Others like AfterStep are stable, but might not suit the tastes of some people (like myself).

Installing Window Maker isn't very difficult and not much hassle, if you know what to do. My goal for this page is to answer the questions one probably would have when installing and using Window Maker. The Window Maker homepage is at

If you want to know what Window Maker looks like, take a look at a page of screenshots that I've taken of my X desktop.

Window Maker Installation

The official Window Maker homepage is probably where you want to look for general Window Maker-related issues.

If you want desktop tiles you can go to my tiles page,'s Tile of the Day page, or Scott Goehring's tiles page. If you don't know what tiles are, they're the square things on the side of AfterStep and Window Maker screens where icons are.

Get the Files

You should download the current file, which is 0.19.3 at the time of my last thorough update. The main Window Maker pixmaps are now distributed with the program, so you only need one file. Previous versions required you to get a Window Maker-data package as well as Window Maker itself. However, I would still recommend downloading the Window Maker-data package because I think there are some nice icons that aren't included with the main package. Here are some sites you can get the files:

You can download those anywhere you want; I'll just use /usr/local/src as an example. That means WindowMaker-0.19.3.tar.gz should be in /usr/local/src.

Window Maker

Uncompress WindowMaker-0.19.3.tar.gz by typing in tar -zxvf WindowMaker-0.19.3.tar.gz while in /usr/local/src. That should create a directory called WindowMaker-0.19.3/. Move to that directory by keying in cd WindowMaker-0.19.3.

Don't immediately run ./configure. Untar the file called libPropList.tar.gz using tar -zxvf libPropList.tar.gz. Do a cd libPropList and then run ./configure ; make ; make install. That should compile that and install it on your system for future Window Maker releases, so move back to the previous directory using cd ... I think libProplist has to be downloaded separately these days.

Now is the time to start compiling Window Maker itself. Type in ./configure ; make, which will probably take a little time. Let it finish. If you're not the root user already, type in su, and type in the password. Then do make install and that should do the trick; you've got the base Window Maker system installed.


This window manager won't really look very good if you're missing a few XPM icons, so install them. Move on back to /usr/local/src/ (or wherever you put the WindowMaker-data.tar.gz. Untar it with tar -zxvf WindowMaker-data.tar.gz. That will create a directory for you called WindowMaker-data, which you will move into. All you do is move the pixmaps directory to /usr/local/share. If you don't have a pixmaps directory there, you should do mv pixmaps /usr/local/share, and if you already have one, then you can do mv pixmaps/* /usr/local/share/pixmaps.

User Installation

Choose a user, any user. In my case, I'd choose joshuago because that's the username I mainly use for my X sessions. I'd log in as joshuago and then type wmaker.inst. That will install all the files and create all the directories I need to run Window Maker. In most cases you should just accept the defaults. The same goes if you want to install it for other users.

Other Places of Interest

Comments, questions, suggestions, corrections? They're all welcome, so send them to joshuago at users dot sourceforge dot net. You can also use the guestbook or the help form.

Copyright © 1997-1999 Joshua Go (joshuago at users dot sourceforge dot net). All rights reserved. Permission to use, distribute, and copy this document is hereby granted. You may modify this document as long as credit to me is given.