Introduction to IceWM

IceWM is a window manager with the goals of speed, simplicity, and not getting in the user's way.

This package is known to build and work properly using an LFS 12.1 platform.

Package Information

IceWM Dependencies


CMake-3.28.3, imlib2-1.12.2, and a graphical environment


asciidoc-10.2.0 (for regenerating the HTML documentation), FriBidi-1.0.13 (for languages written right to left), librsvg-2.57.1, libao-1.2.0, libsndfile-1.2.2, alsa-lib-1.2.11 (for the experimental icesound program), and gdk-pixbuf-xlib

Installation of IceWM

Install IceWM by running the following commands:

mkdir build &&
cd    build &&

      -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release  \
      -DCFGDIR=/etc               \
      -DENABLE_LTO=ON             \
      -DDOCDIR=/usr/share/doc/icewm-3.4.5  \
      .. &&

This package does not have a working test suite.

Now, as the root user:

make install

This package creates two .desktop files in the /usr/share/xsessions/ directory. Both are not needed in a BLFS system, so prevent the extra file showing up as an option in a display manager. As the root user:

rm -v /usr/share/xsessions/icewm.desktop

Command Explanations

-DENABLE_LTO=ON: This option enables Link Time Optimization and is required for this package.

Configuring IceWM

Config Files

~/.icewm/keys, ~/.icewm/menu, and ~/.icewm/preferences, and ~/.icewm/toolbar, and ~/.icewm/winoptions. The default versions are installed in /usr/share/icewm/ and will be used if you have not copied them to ~/.icewm.

Configuration Information

If IceWM is the only Window Manager you want to use, you can start it with an .xinitrc file in your home folder. Be sure to backup your current .xinitrc before proceeding.

echo icewm-session > ~/.xinitrc

Now create the IceWM configuration files:

mkdir -pv ~/.icewm                                      &&
cp -v /usr/share/icewm/keys ~/.icewm/keys               &&
cp -v /usr/share/icewm/menu ~/.icewm/menu               &&
cp -v /usr/share/icewm/preferences ~/.icewm/preferences &&
cp -v /usr/share/icewm/toolbar ~/.icewm/toolbar         &&
cp -v /usr/share/icewm/winoptions ~/.icewm/winoptions

You can now edit these files to meet your requirements. In particular, review the preferences file. You can use Logout -> Restart-IceWM on the main menu to load your changed preferences, but changes to the background only take effect when IceWM is started.

At this point you can either modify the traditional menu files to suit your requirements, or use the newer icewm-menu-fdo described later.

The syntax of the menus is explained in the help files, which you can access by running help from the menu, but some of the detail is out of date and the default selections in the menus (a few old applications on the main menu, everything else on the Programs menu) will benefit from being updated to meet your needs. The following examples are provided to encourage you to think about how you wish to organise your menus. Please note the following:

  • If a program listed in the menu has not been installed, it will not appear when the menu is displayed. Similarly, if the program exists but the specified icon does not, no icon will be displayed in the menu.

  • The icons can be either .xpm or .png files, and there is no need to specify the extension. If the icon is located in the "library" (/usr/share/icewm/icons) there is no need to specify the path.

  • Most programs are in sub-menus, and the main menu will always append entries for windows, help, settings, logout at the bottom.

  • An icon for firefox was copied to the library directory and given a meaningful name. The icon for xine is xine.xpm which was installed to a pixmap directory.

  • The default toolbar is not altered.

If you wish to use this traditional method, there are more examples in previous releases of this book (e.g. BLFS-7.8).

Alternatively, you can create a menu which conforms to the FDO Desktop Menu Specifications, where programs can be found because they have a .desktop file in the XDG_DATA_HOME or XDG_DATA_DIR directories. Unlike most windowmanagers, icewm does not search for programs when the menu is invoked, so if you take this route you will need to rerun the following command after installing or removing programs:

icewm-menu-fdo >~/.icewm/menu

If you wish to put icons on your desktop, you will need to install a program such as Rox-Filer-2.11 which provides a pinboard. If you do that you will no longer be able to access the menu by right-clicking on the desktop, you will have to use the IceWM button. To ensure that the rox pinboard is running, the following commands will put it in the startup file:

cat > ~/.icewm/startup << "EOF"
rox -p Default &
EOF &&
chmod +x ~/.icewm/startup


There are a number of keyboard shortcuts in IceWM:

  • Ctrl + Alt + FN : go to ttyN.

  • Ctrl + Alt + N : go to desktop number N

  • Ctrl + Alt + Space : open a box on the taskbar where you can key in the name of an application and run it.


Installed Programs: icehelp, icesh, icesound, icewm, icewm-menu-fdo, icewm-menu-xrandr, icewm-session, icewm-set-gnomewm, icewmbg, and icewmhint
Installed Libraries: None
Installed Directories: /usr/share/doc/icewm-3.4.5, /usr/share/icewm and ~/.icewm

Short Descriptions


is used to display the html manual


is a command-line window manager which can be used in ~/.icewm/startup


plays audio files on GUI events raised by IceWM


is the window manager


can create a file in a format suitable for an IceWM menu, which lists those programs currently installed in a layout conforming to the FDO Desktop Menu Specifications


is a helper program used to manage multi-screen configurations


runs icewmbg, icewm, icewmtray, startup, shutdown (i.e. startup and shutdown scripts are run if installed)


is a script to set the GNOME window manager to icewm using gconftool


is used to set the background, according to the various DesktopBackground settings in the preferences


is used internally to provide hints to the user