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729 Stars 81 Forks MIT License 576 Commits 63 Opened issues


dvtm brings the concept of tiling window management, popularized by X11-window managers like dwm to the console. As a console window manager it tries to make it easy to work with multiple console based programs.

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dvtm - dynamic virtual terminal manager

dvtm brings the concept of tiling window management, popularized by X11-window managers like dwm to the console. As a console window manager it tries to make it easy to work with multiple console based programs.

abduco+dvtm demo



Either Download the latest source tarball, compile (you will need curses headers) and install it

$EDITOR && $EDITOR config.def.h && make && sudo make install

or use one of the distribution provided binary packages.

Why dvtm? The philosophy behind

dvtm strives to adhere to the Unix philosophy. It tries to do one thing, dynamic window management on the console, and to do it well.

As such dvtm does not implement session management but instead delegates this task to a separate tool called abduco.

Similarly dvtm's copy mode is implemented by piping the scroll back buffer content to an external editor and only storing whatever the editor writes to

. Hence the selection process is delegated to the editor where powerful features such as regular expression search are available.

As a result dvtm's source code is relatively small (~4000 lines of C), simple and therefore easy to hack on.


All of dvtm keybindings start with a common modifier which from now on is refered to as

. By default
is set to
however this can be changed at runttime with the
command line option. For example setting
is accomplished by starting
dvtm -m ^b


New windows are created with

and closed with
. To switch among the windows use
where the digit corresponds to the window number which is displayed in the title bar. Windows can be minimized and restored with
. Input can be directed to all visible window by pressing
, issuing the same key combination again restores normal behaviour i.e. only the currently focused window will receive input.


Visible Windows are arranged by a layout. Each layout consists of a master and a tile area. Typically the master area occupies the largest part of the screen and is intended for the currently most important window. The size of the master area can be shrunk with

and enlarged with
respectively. Windows can be zoomed into the master area with
. The number of windows in the master area can be increased and decreased with

By default dvtm comes with 4 different layouts which can be cycled through via

  • vertical stack: master area on the left half, other clients stacked on the right
  • bottom stack: master area on the top half, other clients stacked below
  • grid: every window gets an equally sized portion of the screen
  • fullscreen: only the selected window is shown and occupies the whole available display area

Further layouts are included in the source tarball but disabled by default.


Each window has a non empty set of tags [1..n] associated with it. A view consists of a number of tags. The current view includes all windows which are tagged with the currently active tags. The following key bindings are used to manipulate the tagsets.

  • MOD-0
    view all windows with any tag
  • Mod-v-Tab
    toggles to the previously selected tags
  • MOD-v-[1..n]
    view all windows with nth tag
  • Mod-V-[1..n]
    add/remove all windows with nth tag to/from the view
  • Mod-t-[1..n]
    apply nth tag to focused window
  • Mod-T-[1..n]
    add/remove nth tag to/from focused window


dvtm can be instructed to read and display status messages from a named pipe. As an example the

script is provided which shows the current time.


pipes the whole scroll buffer content to an external editor. What ever the editor writes to
is remembered by dvtm and can later be pasted with

In order for this to work the editor needs to be usable as a filter and should use

for its user interface. Examples where this is the case include
and vis.
$ echo Hello World | vis - | cat


There exist a number of out of tree patches which customize dvtm's behaviour:


Detach / reattach functionality

dvtm doesn't have session support built in. Use abduco instead.

$ abduco -c dvtm-session

Detach using

and later reattach with
$ abduco -a dvtm-session

Copy / Paste does not work under X

If you have mouse support enabled, which is the case with the default settings, you need to hold down shift while selecting and inserting text. In case you don't like this behaviour either run dvtm with the

command line argument, disable it at run time with
or modify
to disable it completely at compile time. You will however no longer be able to perform other mouse actions like selecting windows etc.

How to change the key bindings?

The configuration of dvtm is done by creating a custom

and (re)compiling the source code. See the default
as an example, adapting it to your preference should be straightforward. You basically define a set of layouts and keys which dvtm will use. There are some pre defined macros to ease configuration.

WARNING: terminal is not fully functional

This means you haven't installed the
terminfo description which can be done with
tic -s
. If for some reason you can't install new terminfo descriptions set the
environment variable to a known terminal when starting
as in
$ DVTM_TERM=rxvt dvtm

This will instruct dvtm to use rxvt as

value within its windows.

How to set the window title?

The window title can be changed by means of a xterm extension terminal escape sequence

$ echo -ne "\033]0;Your title here\007"

So for example in

if you want to display the current working directory in the window title this can be accomplished by means of the following section in your startup files.
# If this is an xterm set the title to [email protected]:dir
case "$TERM" in
    PROMPT_COMMAND='echo -ne "\033]0;${USER}@${HOSTNAME}: ${PWD/$HOME/~}\007"'

Other shells provide similar functionality, zsh as an example has a precmd function which can be used to achieve the same effect.

Something is wrong with the displayed colors

Make sure you have set

correctly for example if you want to use 256 color profiles you probably have to append
to your regular terminal name. Also due to limitations of ncurses by default you can only use 255 color pairs simultaneously. If you need more than 255 different color pairs at the same time, then you have to rebuild ncurses with
$ ./configure ... --enable-ext-colors

Note that this changes the ABI and therefore sets SONAME of the library to 6 (i.e. you have to link against

Some characters are displayed like garbage

Make sure you compiled dvtm against a unicode aware curses library (in case of ncurses this would be

). Also make sure that your locale settings contain UTF-8.

The numeric keypad does not work with Putty

Disable application keypad mode in the Putty configuration under

Terminal => Features => Disable application keypad mode

Unicode characters do not work within Putty

You have to tell Putty in which character encoding the received data is. Set the dropdown box under

Window => Translation
to UTF-8. In order to get proper line drawing characters you proabably also want to set the TERM environment variable to
. If that still doesn't do the trick then try running dvtm with the following ncurses related environment variable set


You can always fetch the current code base from the git repository located at Github or Sourcehut.

If you have comments, suggestions, ideas, a bug report, a patch or something else related to dvtm then write to the suckless developer mailing list or contact me directly.


dvtm reuses some code of dwm and is released under the same MIT/X11 license. The terminal emulation part is licensed under the ISC license.

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