Default configuration file documentation

This document explains the default rc.lua file provided by Awesome.

The Awesome API is distributed across many libraries (also called modules).

Here are the modules that we import:

gearsUtilities such as color parsing and objects
wiboxAwesome own generic widget framework
awfulEverything related to window managment
menubarXDG (application) menu implementation
beautifulAwesome theme module

Standard awesome library

local gears = require("gears")
local awful = require("awful")

Widget and layout library

local wibox = require("wibox")

Theme handling library

local beautiful = require("beautiful")

Notification library

local naughty = require("naughty")
local menubar = require("menubar")
local hotkeys_popup = require("awful.hotkeys_popup").widget

Enable hotkeys help widget for VIM and other apps when client with a matching name is opened:


Error handling

Awesome is a window managing framework. It allows its users great (ultimate?) flexibility. However, it also allows the user to write invalid code. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of possible errors:

  • Syntax: There is an awesome -k option available in the command line to check the configuration file. Awesome cannot start with an invalid rc.lua
  • Invalid APIs and type errors: Lua is a dynamic language. It doesn’t have much support for static/compile time checks. There is the luacheck utility to help find some categories of errors. Those errors will cause Awesome to “drop” the current call stack and start over. Note that if it cannot reach the end of the rc.lua without errors, it will fall back to the original file.
  • Invalid logic: It is possible to write fully valid code that will render Awesome unusable (like an infinite loop or blocking commands). In that case, the best way to debug this is either using print() or using gdb. For this, see the Debugging tips Readme section
  • Deprecated APIs: The Awesome API is not frozen for eternity. After a decade of development and recent changes to enforce consistency, it hasn’t changed much. This doesn’t mean it won’t change in the future. Whenever possible, changes won’t cause errors but will instead print a deprecation message in the Awesome logs. These logs are placed in various places depending on the distribution. By default, Awesome will print errors on stderr and stdout.

Check if awesome encountered an error during startup and fell back to another config (This code will only ever execute for the fallback config)

if awesome.startup_errors then
    naughty.notify({ preset = naughty.config.presets.critical,
                     title = "Oops, there were errors during startup!",
                     text = awesome.startup_errors })

Handle runtime errors after startup

    local in_error = false
    awesome.connect_signal("debug::error", function (err)
        -- Make sure we don't go into an endless error loop
        if in_error then return end
        in_error = true

        naughty.notify({ preset = naughty.config.presets.critical,
                         title = "Oops, an error happened!",
                         text = tostring(err) })
        in_error = false

Variable definitions

To create custom themes, the easiest way is to copy the default theme folder from /usr/share/awesome/themes/ into ~/.config/awesome and modify it.

Awesome currently doesn’t behave well without a theme containing all the “basic” variables such as bg_normal. To get a list of all official variables, see the appearance guide. Themes define colours, icons, font and wallpapers.

beautiful.init(gears.filesystem.get_themes_dir() .. "default/theme.lua")

  This is used later as the default terminal and editor to run.

terminal = "xterm"
editor = os.getenv("EDITOR") or "nano"
editor_cmd = terminal .. " -e " .. editor

Default modkey. Usually, Mod4 is the key with a logo between Control and Alt. If you do not like this or do not have such a key, I suggest you to remap Mod4 to another key using xmodmap or other tools. However, you can use another modifier like Mod1, but it may interact with others.

modkey = "Mod4"

  Table of layouts to cover with, order matters.

awful.layout.layouts = {
    -- awful.layout.suit.corner.sw,

Helper functions

local function client_menu_toggle_fn()
    local instance = nil

    return function ()
        if instance and instance.wibox.visible then
            instance = nil
            instance ={ theme = { width = 250 } })


  Create a launcher widget and a main menu

myawesomemenu = {
   { "hotkeys", function() return false, hotkeys_popup.show_help end},
   { "manual", terminal .. " -e man awesome" },
   { "edit config", editor_cmd .. " " .. awesome.conffile },
   { "restart", awesome.restart },
   { "quit", function() awesome.quit() end}

mymainmenu ={ items = { { "awesome", myawesomemenu, beautiful.awesome_icon },
                                    { "open terminal", terminal }

mylauncher = awful.widget.launcher({ image = beautiful.awesome_icon,
                                     menu = mymainmenu })

Menubar configuration

menubar.utils.terminal = terminal -- Set the terminal for applications that require it

Keyboard map indicator and switcher

mykeyboardlayout = awful.widget.keyboardlayout()


Create a textclock widget

mytextclock = wibox.widget.textclock()

Create a wibox for each screen and add it  

local taglist_buttons = gears.table.join(
                    awful.button({ }, 1, function(t) t:view_only() end),
                    awful.button({ modkey }, 1, function(t)
                                              if client.focus then
                    awful.button({ }, 3, awful.tag.viewtoggle),
                    awful.button({ modkey }, 3, function(t)
                                              if client.focus then
                    awful.button({ }, 4, function(t) awful.tag.viewnext(t.screen) end),
                    awful.button({ }, 5, function(t) awful.tag.viewprev(t.screen) end)


local tasklist_buttons = gears.table.join(
                     awful.button({ }, 1, function (c)
                                              if c == client.focus then
                                                  c.minimized = true
                                                  -- Without this, the following
                                                  -- :isvisible() makes no sense
                                                  c.minimized = false
                                                  if not c:isvisible() and c.first_tag then
                                                  -- This will also un-minimize
                                                  -- the client, if needed
                                                  client.focus = c
                     awful.button({ }, 3, client_menu_toggle_fn()),
                     awful.button({ }, 4, function ()
                     awful.button({ }, 5, function ()

local function set_wallpaper(s)
    -- Wallpaper
    if beautiful.wallpaper then
        local wallpaper = beautiful.wallpaper
        -- If wallpaper is a function, call it with the screen
        if type(wallpaper) == "function" then
            wallpaper = wallpaper(s)
        gears.wallpaper.maximized(wallpaper, s, true)

Re-set wallpaper when a screen’s geometry changes (e.g. different resolution)

screen.connect_signal("property::geometry", set_wallpaper)


    -- Wallpaper

    -- Each screen has its own tag table.
    awful.tag({ "1", "2", "3", "4", "5", "6", "7", "8", "9" }, s, awful.layout.layouts[1])

    -- Create a promptbox for each screen
    s.mypromptbox = awful.widget.prompt()
    -- Create an imagebox widget which will contain an icon indicating which layout we're using.
    -- We need one layoutbox per screen.
    s.mylayoutbox = awful.widget.layoutbox(s)
                           awful.button({ }, 1, function () 1) end),
                           awful.button({ }, 3, function () end),
                           awful.button({ }, 4, function () 1) end),
                           awful.button({ }, 5, function () end)))
    -- Create a taglist widget
    s.mytaglist = awful.widget.taglist(s, awful.widget.taglist.filter.all, taglist_buttons)

    -- Create a tasklist widget
    s.mytasklist = awful.widget.tasklist(s, awful.widget.tasklist.filter.currenttags, tasklist_buttons)


-- Create the wibox
s.mywibox = awful.wibar({ position = "top", screen = s })


-- Add widgets to the wibox
s.mywibox:setup {
    layout = wibox.layout.align.horizontal,
    { -- Left widgets
        layout = wibox.layout.fixed.horizontal,
    s.mytasklist, -- Middle widget
    { -- Right widgets
        layout = wibox.layout.fixed.horizontal,

Mouse bindings


    awful.button({ }, 3, function () mymainmenu:toggle() end),
    awful.button({ }, 4, awful.tag.viewnext),
    awful.button({ }, 5, awful.tag.viewprev)

Key bindings

This section stores the global keybindings. A global keybinding is a shortcut that will be executed when the key is pressed. It is different from client keybindings. A client keybinding only works when a client is focused while a global one works all the time.

Each keybinding is stored in an awful.key object. When creating such an object, you need to provide a list of modifiers, a key or keycode, a callback function and extra metadata used for the awful.hotkeys_popup widget.

Common modifiers are:

Name Description
Mod4Also called Super, Windows and Command ⌘
Mod1Usually called Alt on PCs and Option on Macs
ShiftBoth left and right shift keys
ControlAlso called CTRL on some keyboards

Note that both Mod2 and Lock are ignored by default. If you wish to use them, add awful.key.ignore_modifiers = {} to your rc.lua. Mod3, Mod5 are usually not bound in most leyboard layouts. There is an X11 utility called xmodmap to bind them. See the ARCH Linux Wiki for more information.

The key or keycode is usually the same as the keyboard key, for example:

  • “a”
  • “Return”
  • “Shift_R”

Each key also has a code. This code depends on the exact keyboard layout. It can be obtained by reading the terminal output of the xev command. A keycode based keybinding will look like #123 where 123 is the keycode.

The callback has to be a function. Note that a function isn’t the same as a function call. If you use, for example, awful.tag.viewtoggle() as the callback, you store the result of the function. If you wish to use that function as a callback, just use awful.tag.viewtoggle. The same applies to methods. If you have to add parameters to the callback, wrap them in another function. For the toggle example, this would be function() awful.tag.viewtoggle(mouse.screen.tags[1]) end.

Note that global keybinding callbacks have no argument. If you wish to act on the current client, use the client keybindings table.

globalkeys = gears.table.join(
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "s",      hotkeys_popup.show_help,
              {description="show help", group="awesome"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "Left",   awful.tag.viewprev,
              {description = "view previous", group = "tag"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "Right",  awful.tag.viewnext,
              {description = "view next", group = "tag"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "Escape", awful.tag.history.restore,
              {description = "go back", group = "tag"}),

    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "j",
        function ()
            awful.client.focus.byidx( 1)
        {description = "focus next by index", group = "client"}
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "k",
        function ()
        {description = "focus previous by index", group = "client"}
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "w", function () mymainmenu:show() end,
              {description = "show main menu", group = "awesome"}),

    -- Layout manipulation
    awful.key({ modkey, "Shift"   }, "j", function () awful.client.swap.byidx(  1)    end,
              {description = "swap with next client by index", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Shift"   }, "k", function () awful.client.swap.byidx( -1)    end,
              {description = "swap with previous client by index", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, "j", function () awful.screen.focus_relative( 1) end,
              {description = "focus the next screen", group = "screen"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, "k", function () awful.screen.focus_relative(-1) end,
              {description = "focus the previous screen", group = "screen"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "u", awful.client.urgent.jumpto,
              {description = "jump to urgent client", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "Tab",
        function ()
            if client.focus then
        {description = "go back", group = "client"}),

    -- Standard program
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "Return", function () awful.spawn(terminal) end,
              {description = "open a terminal", group = "launcher"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, "r", awesome.restart,
              {description = "reload awesome", group = "awesome"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Shift"   }, "q", awesome.quit,
              {description = "quit awesome", group = "awesome"}),

    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "l",     function () awful.tag.incmwfact( 0.05)          end,
              {description = "increase master width factor", group = "layout"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "h",     function () awful.tag.incmwfact(-0.05)          end,
              {description = "decrease master width factor", group = "layout"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Shift"   }, "h",     function () awful.tag.incnmaster( 1, nil, true) end,
              {description = "increase the number of master clients", group = "layout"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Shift"   }, "l",     function () awful.tag.incnmaster(-1, nil, true) end,
              {description = "decrease the number of master clients", group = "layout"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, "h",     function () awful.tag.incncol( 1, nil, true)    end,
              {description = "increase the number of columns", group = "layout"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, "l",     function () awful.tag.incncol(-1, nil, true)    end,
              {description = "decrease the number of columns", group = "layout"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "space", function () 1)                end,
              {description = "select next", group = "layout"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Shift"   }, "space", function ()                end,
              {description = "select previous", group = "layout"}),

    awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, "n",
              function ()
                  local c = awful.client.restore()
                  -- Focus restored client
                  if c then
                      client.focus = c
              {description = "restore minimized", group = "client"}),

    -- Prompt
    awful.key({ modkey },            "r",     function () awful.screen.focused().mypromptbox:run() end,
              {description = "run prompt", group = "launcher"}),

    awful.key({ modkey }, "x",
              function ()
                    prompt       = "Run Lua code: ",
                    textbox      = awful.screen.focused().mypromptbox.widget,
                    exe_callback = awful.util.eval,
                    history_path = awful.util.get_cache_dir() .. "/history_eval"
              {description = "lua execute prompt", group = "awesome"}),
    -- Menubar
    awful.key({ modkey }, "p", function() end,
              {description = "show the menubar", group = "launcher"})

A client keybinding is a shortcut that will get the currently focused client as its first callback argument. For example, to toggle a property, the callback will look like function© c.sticky = not c.sticky end. For more information about the keybinding syntax, see the global keybindings section.

clientkeys = gears.table.join(
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "f",
        function (c)
            c.fullscreen = not c.fullscreen
        {description = "toggle fullscreen", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Shift"   }, "c",      function (c) c:kill()                         end,
              {description = "close", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, "space",  awful.client.floating.toggle                     ,
              {description = "toggle floating", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, "Return", function (c) c:swap(awful.client.getmaster()) end,
              {description = "move to master", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "o",      function (c) c:move_to_screen()               end,
              {description = "move to screen", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "t",      function (c) c.ontop = not c.ontop            end,
              {description = "toggle keep on top", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "n",
        function (c)
            -- The client currently has the input focus, so it cannot be
            -- minimized, since minimized clients can't have the focus.
            c.minimized = true
        end ,
        {description = "minimize", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey,           }, "m",
        function (c)
            c.maximized = not c.maximized
        end ,
        {description = "(un)maximize", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, "m",
        function (c)
            c.maximized_vertical = not c.maximized_vertical
        end ,
        {description = "(un)maximize vertically", group = "client"}),
    awful.key({ modkey, "Shift"   }, "m",
        function (c)
            c.maximized_horizontal = not c.maximized_horizontal
        end ,
        {description = "(un)maximize horizontally", group = "client"})

  Bind all key numbers to tags. Be careful: we use keycodes to make it work on any keyboard layout. This should map on the top row of your keyboard, usually 1 to 9.

for i = 1, 9 do
    globalkeys = gears.table.join(globalkeys,
        -- View tag only.
        awful.key({ modkey }, "#" .. i + 9,
                  function ()
                        local screen = awful.screen.focused()
                        local tag = screen.tags[i]
                        if tag then
                  {description = "view tag #"..i, group = "tag"}),
        -- Toggle tag display.
        awful.key({ modkey, "Control" }, "#" .. i + 9,
                  function ()
                      local screen = awful.screen.focused()
                      local tag = screen.tags[i]
                      if tag then
                  {description = "toggle tag #" .. i, group = "tag"}),
        -- Move client to tag.
        awful.key({ modkey, "Shift" }, "#" .. i + 9,
                  function ()
                      if client.focus then
                          local tag = client.focus.screen.tags[i]
                          if tag then
                  {description = "move focused client to tag #"..i, group = "tag"}),
        -- Toggle tag on focused client.
        awful.key({ modkey, "Control", "Shift" }, "#" .. i + 9,
                  function ()
                      if client.focus then
                          local tag = client.focus.screen.tags[i]
                          if tag then
                  {description = "toggle focused client on tag #" .. i, group = "tag"})


clientbuttons = gears.table.join(
    awful.button({ }, 1, function (c) client.focus = c; c:raise() end),
    awful.button({ modkey }, 1, awful.mouse.client.move),
    awful.button({ modkey }, 3, awful.mouse.client.resize))

Set keys



Rules to apply to new clients (through the “manage” signal).  

awful.rules.rules = {


-- All clients will match this rule.
{ rule = { },
  properties = { border_width = beautiful.border_width,
                 border_color = beautiful.border_normal,
                 focus = awful.client.focus.filter,
                 raise = true,
                 keys = clientkeys,
                 buttons = clientbuttons,
                 screen = awful.screen.preferred,
                 placement = awful.placement.no_overlap+awful.placement.no_offscreen


-- Floating clients.
{ rule_any = {
    instance = {
      "DTA",  -- Firefox addon DownThemAll.
      "copyq",  -- Includes session name in class.
    class = {
      "MessageWin",  -- kalarm.

    name = {
      "Event Tester",  -- xev.
    role = {
      "AlarmWindow",  -- Thunderbird's calendar.
      "pop-up",       -- e.g. Google Chrome's (detached) Developer Tools.
  }, properties = { floating = true }},


-- Add titlebars to normal clients and dialogs
{ rule_any = {type = { "normal", "dialog" }
  }, properties = { titlebars_enabled = true }

-- Set Firefox to always map on the tag named "2" on screen 1.
-- { rule = { class = "Firefox" },
--   properties = { screen = 1, tag = "2" } },


Signal function to execute when a new client appears.  

client.connect_signal("manage", function (c)
    -- Set the windows at the slave,
    -- i.e. put it at the end of others instead of setting it master.
    -- if not awesome.startup then awful.client.setslave(c) end

    if awesome.startup and
      not c.size_hints.user_position
      and not c.size_hints.program_position then
        -- Prevent clients from being unreachable after screen count changes.

  Add a titlebar if titlebars_enabled is set to true in the rules.

client.connect_signal("request::titlebars", function(c)
    -- buttons for the titlebar
    local buttons = gears.table.join(
        awful.button({ }, 1, function()
            client.focus = c
        awful.button({ }, 3, function()
            client.focus = c

    awful.titlebar(c) : setup {
        { -- Left
            buttons = buttons,
            layout  = wibox.layout.fixed.horizontal
        { -- Middle
            { -- Title
                align  = "center",
                widget = awful.titlebar.widget.titlewidget(c)
            buttons = buttons,
            layout  = wibox.layout.flex.horizontal
        { -- Right
            awful.titlebar.widget.floatingbutton (c),
            awful.titlebar.widget.stickybutton   (c),
            awful.titlebar.widget.ontopbutton    (c),
            awful.titlebar.widget.closebutton    (c),
            layout = wibox.layout.fixed.horizontal()
        layout = wibox.layout.align.horizontal

Enable sloppy focus, so that focus follows mouse.

client.connect_signal("mouse::enter", function(c)
    if awful.layout.get(c.screen) ~= awful.layout.suit.magnifier
        and awful.client.focus.filter(c) then
        client.focus = c


client.connect_signal("focus", function(c) c.border_color = beautiful.border_focus end)
client.connect_signal("unfocus", function(c) c.border_color = beautiful.border_normal end)
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