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SCWM: The Scheme Contstraints Window Manager

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SCWM is a highly dynamic and extensible window manager for the X Window system. It embeds Guile Scheme for complete programmability and includes a sophisticated constraint solver for controlling the layout of all of your windows. This article provides an overview of SCWM and gives examples of how to use it effectively.


SCWM is the Scheme Constraints Window Manager, a fully programmable advanced window manager for the X Window system. SCWM was developed mostly under GNU/Linux on x86 class machines, but it runs on numerous varieties of Unix-like operating systems, including Solaris, HP-UX, and others. SCWM is freely available under the GNU General Public License.

SCWM is designed to be a highly customizable, completely programmable, and fully extensible window manager for power users. It achieves these goals by combining three following components:

  • FVWM2—A stable, popular, customizable X/11 window manager

  • Guile—A powerful scripting language based on Scheme

  • Cassowary—A constraint-based layout engine for supporting declarative relationships among window configurations

Due to its programmability and its use of the Scheme dialect of Lisp, SCWM is quite similar in philosophy to the Emacs text editor, which was originally written by Richard M. Stallman. SCWM is often called the Emacs of window managers.

SCWM is available as RPMs for Red Hat 6.x systems, as DEBs for Debian systems, and as .tar.gz source code for building yourself or contributing patches. In addition, the current source code is available via anonymous CVS if you wish to track development closely (see the HACKING file in the distribution for details).

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