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.


Demo showing abduco+dvtm

abduco+dvtm demo


Download the latest source tarball with sha1sum

205a2165e70455309f7ed6a6f11b3072fb9b13c3  dvtm-0.14.tar.gz

dvtm is packaged by various distributions

dvtm also has a freshmeat.net project page and is listed on ohloh.

Why dvtm?

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. For example dvtm does not implement session management but instead delegates this task to a separate tool called abduco. As a result dvtm's source code is relatively small (~4000 lines of ANSI C), simple and therefore easy to hack on.


You can always fetch the current codebase from the git repository.

A mirror can also be found on github.

git clone git://repo.or.cz/dvtm.git

If you have comments, suggestions, ideas, a bug report, a patch or something else related to dvtm then write to the suckless.org development maling list (the list members don't mind) or contact me directly mat[at]brain-dump.org.


In order to use dvtm you will need a curses library, for example libncurses.

Download the latest version of dvtm and extract it. Edit config.mk to match your local setup (dvtm is installed into the /usr/local namespace by default). Customize config.h as you see fit, see the configuration section for further information.

If you are on a system with UTF-8 locales (if unsure check $LANG and the output of locale) you probably want dvtm to be linked against libncursesw (the default) otherwise change config.mk to link against plain libncurses.

$EDITOR config.mk
$EDITOR config.h
make install

You should now be able to start dvtm, redirect stderr to a file or /dev/null (just in case something goes wrong you will see it there).

./dvtm 2> log

First steps / Introduction tutorial

All of dvtm keybindings start with a common modifier which from now on is refered to as MOD. By default MOD is set to CTRL+g however this can be changed at runttime with the -m command line flag or at compile time by changing config.h.

After starting dvtm create a few windows by pressing MOD+c. Now open the dvtm manual page with MOD+? and read through it. Start switching between the different windows with MOD+j and MOD+k or directly with MOD+1 to MOD+9 where the digit corresponds to the window number which is displayed in the titlebar. Bring a different window to the master area with MOD+Enter. Try experimenting with different layouts by cycling through them with MOD+Space. Minimize unimportant windows with MOD+. issuing the command a second time restores the window. To forcably close a window use MOD+x. dvtm will automatically terminate once the last window is closed. If you want to quit earlier use MOD+q.


The configuration of dvtm is done by creating a custom config.h and (re)compiling the source code. See the default config.def.h 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.

Command line options

dvtm only contains a few simple command line options, the most important ones are briefly described below. Consult the manual page for the complete documentation.



[ -e "$FIFO" ] || mkfifo "$FIFO"
chmod 600 $FIFO

while true; do
	date +%H:%M
	sleep 60
done > $FIFO &

./dvtm -s $FIFO 2> /dev/null
rm $FIFO


Below are some explanations to topics which were asked quite frequently.

Detach / reattach functionality

dvtm in combination with abduco serves as an alternative to tmux or screen.

abduco -c dvtm-session

Similar to abduco you can also use use dtach.

dtach -c /tmp/dvtm-session -r winch dvtm

WARNING: terminal is not fully functional

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

DVTM_TERM=rxvt dvtm

The window title remains empty

Why does the current directory not show up in the window title as seen on the screenshots below? First of all the dynamic title is a xterm extension and works via the following escape sequence:

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

The effect of the screenshot can be achieved by means of a shell feature which executes a given command every time the prompt is redrawn. In bash this can be accomplished by an environment variable called PROMPT_COMMAND. You should therefore check your shell startup files for a section like this and add dvtm to the corresponding conditional expression.

# If this is an xterm set the title to user@host: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 $TERM correctly for example if you want to use 256 color profiles you probably have to append -256color 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 libncursesw.so.6).

Some characters are displayed like garbage

Make sure you compiled dvtm against a unicode aware curses library (in case of ncurses this would be libncursesw). Also make sure that your locale settings contain UTF-8.

Copy / Paste doesn't 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 -M command line argument, disable it a run time with MOD+M or remove CONFIG_MOUSE from the CFLAGS in config.mk you will however no longer be able to perform other mouse actions like selecting windows etc.

The numeric keypad doesn't work with Putty

Disable application keypad mode in the Putty configuration under Terminal => Features => Disable application keypad mode.

Unicode characters don't 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 putty or putty-256color. If that still doesn't do the trick then try running dvtm with the following ncurses related environment variable set NCURSES_NO_UTF8_ACS=1.


dvtm currently uses 4 layouts in its default configuration.

Included in the tarball but not used in the default configuration are also


Below are a few screenshots which show dvtm in action.

dvtm screenshot in tile layout dvtm screenshot in grid layout

Below are some links which are in one way or another related to dvtm.


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.