The Fvwm2rc file

Fvwm is configured through an extensive config file. At the release of Fvwm 2, the config file was located at ~/.fvwm2rc to not conflict with ~/.fvwmrc for Fvwm 1. It then moved to ~/.fvwm/.fvwm2rc and finally to ~/.fvwm2rc/config (although some old locations are still supported).

Why use a config file?

This is best explained by In the beginning was ….

In short Fvwm has hundreds of options available. The most efficient way to configure them and build a custom setup is to use a configuration file. Fvwm now comes with a default config file you can use as a base and edit to build your own. With that and the examples in this Wiki you, and a little bit of time invested, you can be on your way to building your own configuration.

Starting Fvwm

When Fvwm starts it will look for a config file in one of the following locations. As soon as it finds one of them in that order, it stops looking:



If it doesn’t find any configuration file in any of those locations, it will load the default configuration located at


If you have installed from source without any prefix option [INSTALL_PREFIX] will be /usr/local. Distrubutions may use other prefixes. You can, of course, find out the absolute path by running:

fvwm-config -d

If you want to start from a blank config (and have a very minimal setup) just use a blank $HOME/.fvwm/config file:

touch $HOME/.fvwm/config

If you want to use the default config and start editing it you can either use the CopyConfig script in the menu if currently running the default configuration file or copy it to your $HOME as

cp [INSTALL_PREFIX]/share/fvwm/default-config/config $HOME/.fvwm/config

Once you have a config file in place you can start to edit it with the text editor of your choice. For a more detailed explination of what happens after Fvwm finds a config file and Reads it see /Tips/FvwmStartup.

Syntax history

FVWM’s configuration file has evolved since FVWM was conceived. Back in the 1.24.X days of FVWM, the order of its config file was important. FVWM1 expected certain features to be in place. The syntax was radically different as well. For example, Style lines had to have the name of the window/class/resource quoted as in:

Style "myApplication" Icon /some/icon/name.xpm

In the same way, the declaration of Functions was quite specific:

Function "Some-Function"
    Exec "I" some_program &
    Exec "I" some_other_program &

Thankfully though things have moved on since then, in that such stringent quoting and ordering rules have been resolved. See /Config/Syntax for the basics on the current syntax.

FVWM 2.X.Y and beyond

The Single-file approach

Since FVWM2, the way the config file for FVWM is structured, is completely down to the user. One approach is to lump everything in one file. This approach tends to be the most common – perhaps a hangover effect from the old FVWM 1.X days (happy days!). The main approach here though is that it makes distribution slightly easier from one machine to another, or to others’.

A typical structure for this sort of file is:

But that is just one possibility, you can shove FVWM commands wherever you like, and although the order doesn’t matter as to where each compoent goes, the sub-ordering of them does. So for instance:

  1. Any variables via the use of ‘‘InfoStoreAdd’’ ‘'’must be declared at the top of your file, since the order the commands are listed within the .fvwm2rc file is the order they’re processed in. So anything depending on these environment variables present, must appear after them.
  2. The same principle applies for ‘‘ImagePath’’ from 1., above.
  3. The sub-ordering of Styles is important: /Config/StyleTips.

Multi-file approach

Conversely to the single-file approach, the multi-file approach advocates the use of modualarity to the way one’s FVWM setup is produced. The advantage of this is that each file will only ever house a limited set of commands, and will hold a logical grouping of commands.

As explained above, FVWM looks for its files in ~/.fvwm – so in that way one can separate out into different files what functionality is needed and then just call them from ~/.fvwm/config. As with the structure above you might decide to do (with file names in brackets):

In that way, the only thing you would need to add to ~/.fvwm/config is lines which make read calls those files, hence:

# Example ~/.fvwm/config file.

# InfoStore Vars here.
InfoStoreAdd RXVT "rxvt +sb -ls -fg white -bg black"

# Add StartFunction here to ensure it gets read before anything else.
DestroyFunc StartFunction
AddToFunc   StartFunction
+ I Module FvwmEvent foo
+ I Exec exec bar
# Now look at everything we have in the separate files.
Read $./options.fvwm2rc
Read $./bindings.fvwm2rc
# Etc ...

Is there a “better” approach?

No, not really. It depends what is meant by better in this context though. There isn’t really any real advantage over each of the methods. The single-file approach is good in that there’s only ever one file to edit. The multi-file approach is good for those people with tidier minds, and who like to switch different components of their configuration over, perhaps via a symlink (essentially reinventing the wheel a la fvwm-themes).