Installing Window Maker

Mr. Hammel gives us the basics for installing and configuring Window Maker.
The First Time

Now that you have Window Maker installed, it's time to see what you're getting. Before starting the window manager for the first time, you need to run wmaker.inst, a script that should be in the bin directory of the installation (/usr/local/WindowMaker/bin in my case) to set up your user ID to use WindowMaker. This script will check for the presence of “wmaker” in your .xinitrc, .Xsession and .Xclients files using a simple grep command. If the script finds such an entry, it assumes WindowMaker is your default window manager. This isn't necessarily the case (my .Xclients, for example, includes a reference to wmaker that won't actually launch the window manager), so you may need to configure it manually in order to use wmaker.

There are many ways to configure your login to use a particular window manager or X application at startup. In the previous article in this series, I discussed the use of the .Xclients file. Let's review this process very briefly (if you need a more detailed description, see the previous article on Enlightenment).

All Linux distributions use some script interface to a program called xinit to start your X session. These scripts will, if they are the standard scripts that have been used for years, eventually run your .Xclients file to launch applications and your window manager. Therefore, the simplest method of getting Window Maker to be your default window manager is to create a file called .Xclients in your $HOME directory. Chances are this file doesn't exist yet (unless you created it once before). Add a single line to it:


Note that you do not want to place this command in the background. For example, wmaker& would be incorrect; this would cause your X session to start up and then immediately exit. You also do not need to specify which shell to use when this script is run. Many scripts begin with something like

but .Xclients does not need to have such a line.

Once you've created (or modified) your .Xclients file, you're ready to start up Window Maker for the first time. How you do this depends on your distribution, but I log in using an ordinary text console, then type startx to get things running. If you use a graphical login, you may need to log out and then log back in.

The first time you start Window Maker, it will create a set of directories for you under $HOME/GNUstep. These directories are where you manage menus and themes. The sidebar describes what you'll find in these directories. Unless otherwise specified, you shouldn't edit these files by hand. Most have graphical interfaces, such as using an application's “Title Bar Attributes” menu option or the “Settings” menu option for a docked applications icon.

GNUstep Directories

If you are running Window Maker using a language other than English, you can switch to language-specific menu files. The INSTALL file in the source distribution describes how to set it up for using alternate languages.

Now you are ready to run. More about Window Maker can be found in my article “Artist's Guide to the Desktop, Part 3” in this month's print magazine.


Michael J. Hammel ( is a graphic artist wanna-be, a writer and a software developer. He wanders the planet aimlessly in search of adventure, quiet beaches and an escape from the computers that dominate his life.



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Re: Installing Window Maker

Anonymous's picture

Window Maker, swindow saker. Windows are for wussies.

Re: Installing Window Maker

Anonymous's picture

Window maker, Widow taker

Re: Installing Window Maker

Anonymous's picture

>> Building is a breeze if all the prerequisites are installed.

Ok then, how do I install Window Maker If I don't have the "prerequisites" installed? What are the freakin "prerequisites"?