Default Config

Starting with FVWM 2.6.7 a default configuration file was introduced. When FVWM starts it loads some internal defaults, then looks for a Configuration file (see the INITIALIZATION section of the manual page for details). If it is unable to find any configuration file it loads the default configuration.

The default configuration file is a fully commented configuration file that both gives users new to FVWM a default set of options to start with and a commented configuration file, which describes the config options used that they can edit to start creating their own config.

Here is a copy of the fvwm2 default-config and the fvwm3 default-confg.

Anatomy of the Default Config

Most aspects of FVWM are configurable, as such the default configuration file is quite long. It configures everything from key bindings, window decoration, what buttons do, how windows behave, and even additional modules. For new users the default configuration can be confusion, so here is a brief overview of the defaults.


All key bindings and mouse bindings (what happens when you click on a button, window, etc) are configurable. The default config file sets up the following bindings.

Key Bindings

New in fvwm3

Mouse Bindings

The mouse buttons are Mouse 1 = left button, Mouse 2 = middle button, Mouse 3 = right button, Mouse 4 = scroll wheel up, Mouse 4 = scroll wheel down.

All Menus are fully configurable. You can create as many menus as you want, configure how to open them, and even what they look like. The default config includes the following menus:

Virtual Desktops

FVWM does virtual desktops differently, it virtualises desktops using both Desks and Pages. First it has the standard virtual desktop support found in other window managers (called Desks), where you can have collection of windows visible on independent desks that you can switch between.

Second, FVWM divides each desktop into a grid Pages. You can think of Pages as an extension of the current desktop, where each page is the size of your current viewport. You can then move left/right/up/down through these pages. You can access other pages by dragging your mouse to the edge of your screen, then EdgeScroll will scroll you to the next page. You can move windows between pages by dragging them over the edge of your screen moving them to the next page (note there is a delay, before the page switch to avoid accidentally switching pages).

The default configuration configures 4 Desks and each of the Desktops are divided in to a 2x2 grid of 4 Pages.


Window Styles are a versatile set of options for how windows look, behave, and much more. FVWM has hundreds of styles that can be applied to all windows, or a group of windows, or specific windows. These styles can configure most aspects of windows. Some of the styles used in the default config are:


FVWM uses Colorsets to configure the colors of window decors, menus, and modules. The default config defines the first fifteen colorsets (0-14) for use:

# Colorset Convention
#   0 - Default
#   1 - Inactive Windows
#   2 - Active Window
#   3 - Inactive Windows Borders
#   4 - Active Windows Borders
#   5 - Menu - Inactive Item
#   6 - Menu - Active Item
#   7 - Menu - Grayed Item
#   8 - Menu - Title
#   9 - Reserved
#  10+ Modules
#      10 - Module Default
#      11 - Module Hilight
#      12 - Module ActiveButton (Mouse Hover)
#      13 - FvwmPager Active Page
#      14 - FvwmIconMan Iconified Button

The colors used by the default config are based off the colors used on the website years ago (2000ish).


FVWM provides the ability to write custom Functions which can be used to link various FVWM configuration tools together to provide even more control over how to interact with windows using FVWM. The default config uses Functions to help assist in many of its aspects.

No need to go into detail about the functions here, just pointing out how extensive the FVWM config file is and all of the options that can be used to configure (program) your own setup.


FVWM also includes a collection of Modules which can add to FVWM. These modules include tools that can extend the features of FVWM and even make it more desktop like. Some modules the default config uses are:

Making Changes to the Default Config

Most likely you want (and should) make changes to the default config, as the power of FVWM is to configure it to do what you want, and no default config file can ever satisfy everyone.

The default config is meant to be a starting point and something usable for new users. To edit the default config you need to first copy it to $FVWM_USERDIR/.config ($HOME/.fvwm/config by default), then edit your copy. You can use the Copy Config option in the FvwmRoot Menu to do this for you.

Use the comments in the configuration file, the Fvwm Wiki, and the manual pages to look up options and to customize until you make FVWM your window manager.

Local Configuration File

Starting in Fvwm3 1.0.4, there is now a local configuration file that (if it exists) is read after the default config file. If you don’t want to have a copy of the fully default config, you can create the file $FVWM_USERDIR/local.config ($HOME/.fvwm/local.config by default). Any commands you enter into that file are read after the default config and can be used to change, override, or add to the default configuration.