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


Either download the latest source tarball with sha1sum

205a2165e70455309f7ed6a6f11b3072fb9b13c3  dvtm-0.14.tar.gz

compile (you will need curses headers) and install it

$EDITOR config.mk && make && sudo make install

or use one of the distribution provided packages:

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.

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


New windows are created with MOD+c and closed with MOD+x. To switch among the windows use MOD+j and MOD+k or MOD+[1..9] where the digit corresponds to the window number which is displayed in the title bar. Windows can be minimized and restored with MOD+.. Input can be directed to all visible window by pressing MOD+a, 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 MOD+h and enlarged with MOD-l respectively. Windows can be zoomed into the master area with MOD+Enter. The number of windows in the master area can be increased and decreased with MOD+i and MOD+d. By default dvtm comes with 4 different layouts which can be cycled through via MOD+Space

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.


dvtm can be instructed to read and display status messages from a named pipe. As an example the dvtm-status script is provided which shows the current time.



[ -p "$FIFO" ] || mkfifo -m 600 "$FIFO" || exit 1

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

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


MOD+e pipes the whole scroll buffer content to an external editor. What ever the editor writes to stdout is remembered by dvtm and can later be pasted with MOD+p. In order for this to work the editor needs to be usable as a filter and should use stderr for its user interface. Examples where this is the case include sandy and vis.

echo Hello World | vis - | cat


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

Detach / reattach functionality

dvtm doesn't have session support built in. However in combination with abduco it serves as an alternative to tmux or screen.

abduco -c dvtm-session

Detach with CTRL-\ and later reattach with

abduco -a dvtm-session

Similar to abduco you can also use use dtach.

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

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 modify config.def.h 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 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.

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

This will instruct dvtm to use rxvt as $TERM 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 bash 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 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.

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.


You can always fetch the current codebase from the git repository

git clone https://github.com/martanne/dvtm.git


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 or contact me directly mat[at]brain-dump.org.

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.