Graphical app launcher for X with few dependencies

Welcome! This is xlunch, the coolest graphical app launcher for Xorg/X11. It requires only pure Xlib and Imlib2. It allows you to run programs, commands, or simply select something out of a list using your mouse, keyboard, or both! UTF8 is fully supported meaning you can have text of all kinds. The prompt allows you to run arbitrary commands, and it works to filter your entries as well. xlunch is also highly configurable, both in functionality and style, it can even be used as a desktop! See below for more



Available Modes

  • One time launcher mode - this is default mode. There is no need to specify any commandline parameter for this mode. In this mode, xlunch opens as a fullscreen application, and offers a screen with icons to select applications to run, plus commandline which serves as a filter for the icons at the same time. Running any app or command ends the launcher. You can also cancel the launcher (by default) with the Esc key, or click with right mouse button.
  • Desktop mode - this mode is activated with -d. In this mode, xlunch sends itself to the lowest position in the window stack, so all other windows are above it. Your window manager will not have any control over it, so xlunch does not receive any input or focus and it cannot be raised to front. This emulates desktop with icons. In Desktop mode, applications start using fork (as another process) and don't terminate the launcher. xlunch in this mode cannot be terminated (except by killing it with SIGTERM).

Keep in mind that if you use desktop mode while you are running some other desktop already, you may end up with launcher running under your other desktop, thus it may be inaccessible. The desktop mode is intended only for users without another desktop (such as WM-only systems like i3). There are also some other flags that could be of interest in this mode, see below.



Commandline options:

Functional options (these changes what xlunch does, or how it does it):
 -d, --desktop                      Desktop mode, always keep the launcher at
                                   background(behind other windows), and ignore ESC
                                   and right mouse click. Combined with --dontquit
                                   xlunch never exits (behaviour of --desktop from
                                   previous versions).
--config [file]                    Reads configuration options from a file. The
                                   options are the same as the long options
                                   specified here. Options that take a value must
                                   have a colon (':') before it's option. It is
                                   also possible to pass the entries along with the
                                   configuration file by using "entries:"
                                   followed by a newline and the regular contents
                                   of an input file
-v, --version                      Returns the version of xlunch
-H, --help                         Shows this help message
--name                             POSIX-esque way to specify the first part of
                                   WM_CLASS (default: environment variable 
                                   RESOURCE_NAME or argv[0])
-n, --noprompt                     Hides the prompt, only allowing selection
                                   by icon
-o, --outputonly                   Do not run the selected entry, only output it
                                   to stdout
-S, --selectonly                   Only allow an actual entry and not free-typed
                                   commands. Nice for scripting.
-i, --input [file]                 File to read entries from, defaults to stdin
                                   if data is available otherwise it reads from
                                   $HOME/.config/xlunch/entries.dsv or
-m, --multiple                     Allow multiple instances running
-t, --voidclickterminate           Clicking anywhere that's not an entry terminates
                                   xlunch, practical for touch screens.
--focuslostterminate               When the window loses focus xlunch will quit,
                                   practical for menus
-q, --dontquit                     When an option is selected, don't close xlunch.
                                   Combined with --desktop xlunch
                                   never exits (behaviour of --desktop from
                                   previous versions).
-R, --reverse                      All entries in xlunch as reversly ordered.
-W, --windowed                     Start in windowed mode
-M, --clearmemory                  Set the memory of each entry to null before
                                   exiting. Used for passing sensitive information
                                   through xlunch.
-U, --shortcuts [shortcuts]        Sets shortcuts for the entries, 'shortcuts' is a
                                   string of UTF-8 characters to use sequentially
                                   for the entries provided.
-A, --button [button]              Adds a button to the window. The argument
                                    "button" is a semicolon-separated list on the
                                   form ";;,;"
                                   . If x or y is negative positioning is relative
                                   to the other side of the screen.
--scroll                           Enable to make xlunch scroll when reaching end of
                                   entries or when using scrollwheel or pgup pgdn
Style options (these changes how xlunch looks):
-p, --prompt [text]                The prompt asking for input (default: "Run: ")
-f, --font [name]                  Font name including size after slash (default:
                                   "OpenSans-Regular/10" and  "DejaVuSans/10")
-F, --promptfont [name]            Font to use for the prompt
                                   (default: same as --font)
-G, --rootwindowbackground         Use root windows background image
-g, --background [file]            Image to set as background (jpg/png)
--bgfill                           Makes the background keep aspect ratio
                                   while stretching
-L, --highlight [file]             Image set as highlighting under selected icon
-I, --iconpadding [i]              Padding around icons (default: 10)
-T, --textpadding [i]              Padding around entry titles (default: 10)
-c, --columns [i]                  Number of columns to show (without this the max
                                   amount possible is used)
-r, --rows [i]                     Numbers of rows to show (without this the max
                                   amount possible is used)
-b, --border [i]                   Size of the border around the icons and prompt
                                   (default: 1/10th of screen width)
                                   This can also be set to 'auto' in order to
                                   automatically calculate a border taking into
                                   account the margin settings and the
                                   configured columns and rows
-B, --sideborder [i]               Size of the border on the sides, if this is used
                                   --border will be only top and bottom. Similarily
                                   this can be set to 'auto' but then only side
                                   borders are calculated
--borderratio [i]                  The ratio of the border to apply above the
                                   content. 0 is no top border, only bottom. 100 is
                                   only top border, no bottom
--sideborderratio [i]              The ratio of the side border to apply to the
                                   left of the content. 0 is no left border, only
                                   right. 100 is only left border, no right
-C, --center                       Center entries when there are fewer entries on a
                                   row than the maximum
-P, --promptspacing [i]            Distance between the prompt and the icons
                                   (default: 48)
-s, --iconsize [i]                 Size of the iconsĀ (default: 48)
-a, --textafter                    Draw the title to the right of the icon instead
                                   of below, this option automatically sets
                                   --columns to 1 but this can be overridden.
-O, --textotherside                Draw the text on the other side of the icon from
                                   where it is normally drawn.
-u, --upsidedown                   Draw the prompt on the bottom and have icons
                                   sort from bottom to top.
-X, --paddingswap                  Icon padding and text padding swaps order
                                   around text.
-l, --leastmargin [i]              Adds a margin to the calculation of
                                   application sizes.
-V, --leastvmargin [i]             Adds a vertical margin to the calculation of
                                   application sizes.
-e, --hidemissing                  Hide entries with missing or broken icon images
--tc, --textcolor [color]          Color to use for the text on the format rrggbbaa
                                   (default: ffffffff)
--pc, --promptcolor [color]        Color to use for the prompt text
                                   (default: ffffffff)
--bc, --backgroundcolor [color]    Color to use for the background
                                   (default: 2e3440ff) NOTE: transparent background
                                   color requires a compositor
--hc, --highlightcolor [color]     Color to use for the highlight box
                                   (default: ffffff32)

This list of options might seem a bit daunting at first. But you don't have to pass them all on the command-line. If you specify a configuration file with --config xlunch will read these options from a configuration file instead. The options have the same name as their long versions do, but when passed through a configuration file options with an argument must be split by a colon. If you only have a few entries to pass to xlunch (in case of a menu for example) they can be passed through the configuration file as well. An example showing configuration file usage with entries can be seen here:

columns: 3
rows: 5
iconsize: 64
In this example there are three entries passed to xlunch, note that the whitespace following each entry is not required, nor is the space between the colon and the arguments above. Anything after "entries:" will be parsed as an entry, so you can't have more options below the entries option. Note also that this can be used in conjuction with regular options. If the options precede the --config option the ones in the file will override them, and conversely any option following the --config option will override those in the file. Where the above file to be used like so xlunch --rows 10 --config file.cfg --columns 2 it would lead to xlunch using 5 rows and 2 columns. Since all the options are the same you can also use the config option in a configuration file. This means that you can have one config file with your system style of colors and fonts, and multiple other files loading that file before setting other options like buttons and entries. Just make sure not to load the same configuration file within that file as it would lead to an infinite loop.

If you want to completely hide icons (to eg. use xlunch to only select between text entries like dmenu) you should set --iconsize to 0 and turn on --textafter mode. This will cause xlunch to remove the extra margin that would normally be around an icon and instead show only the text. Since the entries in xlunch are normally based on icon size and their padding this would make each entry super small, but the --textafter mode makes the size of each entry dependent on the size of the text instead. Note however that this by default sets --columns to 1, so override it with how many columns of text you would like. When --textafter mode is enabled --iconpadding is used on all sides of the entry box except the right.

There are two different border settings. If you set only --border it will be applied to all four sides. By setting --sideborder you override the border setting and this new border size will be used for the right and left border, while the regular border is used for top and bottom.

For transparent background colors you need to have a compositor installed. This will make the background of xlunch transparent. Note that the transparency is not additive, meaning that if you set background to 50% transparency and highlight to 70% transparency the highlighted areas will be 70% total transparency and not 70% of the 50%, ie. 35%. When a background image is supplied, or the --rootwindowbackground switch is used xlunch will apply a slight black tint to the image to make text more readable. By setting the background color manually this color will be used instead, including transparency, so to disable the tint simply pass a fully transparent color (this does not require a compositor).

In previous version desktop mode would by default fork of processes instead of terminating. This is now a separate option (--dontquit) so you can keep xlunch running no matter the mode.

When using xlunch to create menus of a set of options it might be practical to have shortcuts for the options. With the --shortcuts option this is achievable. Since this captures keypresses it might not be very useful without --noprompt but it is all the same possible (perhaps using the number keys to hotkey the first 10 entries while being able to search for the rest). As an example usage passing --shortcuts "atf" will apply 'a' as a shortcut to the first entry, 't' as a shortcut to the second, and 'f' as a shortcut to the third.

To extend the possibilities of xlunch you can also add buttons anywhere in the window with the --button option. It takes an argument that's a semicolon-separated list on the form: icon;highlight icon (optional);x,y;command. Note that the highlight icon is optional and will be used instead of the main icon when you hover over it. If no highlight icon is specified it will just show the regular icon on hover. So for example the command --button "./extra/firefox.png;;100,100;firefox" would put the Firefox icon from the extras folder at the position 100,100 without a highlight icon and run "firefox" when it's pressed (note that these buttons also adheres to switches like --outputonly). If you use a negative x or y value the icon will be placed relative to the other side of the screen. So the command --button "./extra/firefox.png;;-100,-100;firefox" will put the same icon in the bottom right corner.

If you want to use xlunch to for example choose a password you can use the --clearmemory mode. This will set all the data for the entries to NULL when they are destroyed (ie. xlunch closes or a new set of data is passed over stdin, see below). This is not bulletproof, all the data will still be stored in plaintext in memory while xlunch is running, but it's better than nothing.

When loading fonts xlunch will look for them in the folders: ~/.local/share/fonts, ~/.fonts, /usr/local/share/fonts, /usr/local/share/truetype, and /usr/local/share/TTF. Imlib however does not search recursively, so to load a font in for example ~/.local/share/fonts/FontFamily/FontName.ttf in size 10 we would have to pass -f "FontFamily/FontName/10".

Multi monitor setup

xlunch does not know how to detect your output monitors, it sees your monitors as a big single screen. If you run it, your window manager positions the window and makes it fullscreen, so it is up to your window manager to decide what monitor xlunch runs on. If you, however configure your WM to make xlunch floating, start xlunch in Desktop mode (which bypasses your window manager) or if you do not have any WM at all, you can customize the size and position of the window manually by providing the top/left coordinates and width/height of your monitor screen, which effectively positions xlunch on the desired place/monitor. Use the following options:

-x, --xposition [i]               The x coordinate of the launcher window
-y, --yposition [i]               The y coordinate of the launcher window
-w, --width [i]                   The width of the launcher window
-h, --height [i]                  The height of the launcher window

For example, if you have two 800x600 monitors side by side, xlunch sees it as 1600x800. You can put it to first monitor by: -x 0 -y 0 -w 800 -h 600, or to second monitor by using -x 800 -y 0 -w 800 -h 600. Remember that all these settings might be overridden by your window manager unless you start xlunch in Desktop mode. Another thing that is helpful is that xlunch sets three distinct WM_CLASS values, "xlunch-fullscreen" for it's default mode, "xlunch-desktop" for the desktop mode, and "xlunch-windowed" for it's windowed mode. This makes it easy to tell your window manager to treat each of the different kinds properly. Alternatively you can use the --name option or the environment variable RESOURCE_NAME to set the first part of WM_CLASS, note however that this value is also the program called by :recur.


make test
make install
Uninstall with make remove

Entries file:

xlunch can accept entries to show either over stdin or through a file. The format used in both cases are:


title is the name of the program which will be shown, icon_path is a path to an icon to show for the entry (png or jpg), and cmd is the command to be run or returned when this entry is selected. To allow complex bash commands using semi-colons xlunch simply parses the cmd field until a new-line is encountered. By default xlunch will show a ghost icon if the icon you specified couldn't be found, if you want to not have an icon you can simply leave the icon field empty (ie. title;;cmd). If you want to run xlunch from within xlunch, for example to create a menu hierarchy, you should use a special syntax. This syntax allows xlunch to replace its old process with the new one so you only have a single instance of xlunch running and don't get any overhead from running it through bash. In order to do this simply use the internal recur command by putting :recur [options] as the cmd field. This will reuse the program name you originally used to call xlunch with but replace the options with anything you add after recur. If you want to run a program by the name recur, simply add a space in front of it. NOTE: recur relies on splitting the list of arguments, this is currently only done on spaces, even those inside quotes, so it's not possible to pass arguments with spaces in them when using recur (this is how previous versions of xlunch did all launching).

The :recur command shown above is a special class of commands called an "internal command". All exec fields, both in entries, buttons, and otherwise that starts with a colon is treated as an internal command (if you wish to avoid this simply add a space in front of the colon). Apart from :recur the internal commands are:

:scroll          Scroll to the given position. pos can be "top", "bottom", the row number,
                      or a number starting with + or - which is parsed as a relative scroll.
:hover         Set the entry as hovered and scroll to it. entry cas be "start", "end",
                      the entry number (1 indexed, 0 for no entry), or +/- like scroll.
:exec        Runs the given command, even when outputonly is enabled
:print        Prints a string to stdout
:quit                 Quits out of xlunch
Internal commands can be chained, so one can do :scroll +3 :print "Scrolled!". For print and exec the argument needs to be enclosed in double-quotes if you want to chain them, otherwise they will exec/print everything that follows. Because of this quit can be put in front of a statement and wont quit until after all commands are run. So :quit :exec myProgram --help will run myProgram with it's help flag, then quit. The same can also be achieved with double quotes :exec "myProgram --help" :quit. NOTE: Scroll is not completely implemented yet, bottom doesn't do anything and you are able to scroll past the top and bottom of the list. This will not be possible in the future.

If a completely empty line is encountered (ie. two sequential newlines), then all entries read up until that point will be removed and only entries after this empty line will appear. This is a feature that is intended for interfacing with xlunch from other scripts. There are many programs that create this kind of output, like for example Conky, which can be piped directly to xlunch. Sometimes you want new output to appear on the top of the list instead of at the bottom, to achieve this you can use the --reverse switch. To add entries yourself you can create a named pipe and keep it open while starting xlunch. xlunch will then read from this pipe and update the entries on the fly. So you can write a script that passes entries to this pipe and they will appear in xlunch, and all entries can be removed by passing two newlines in a row. Example:

mkfifo /tmp/xlunch-input # Create a named pipe
cat > /tmp/xlunch-input & # Ensure that the pipe stays open
cat entries.dsv > /tmp/xlunch-input & # Write some initial data to the pipe
# This is neccesarry to avoid xlunch seeing the pipe as empty
cat /tmp/xlunch-input | xlunch & # Start xlunch in the background, reading from the pipe
echo "Hello;;notify-send 'Hello from xlunch'" > /tmp/xlunch-input
# This last line will add the entry "Hello" to the already running xlunch menu
echo "Xlunch is great;;notify-send 'quite great indeed'" > /tmp/xlunch-input
# This adds yet another entry
echo -e "\nAll alone;;notify-send 'where did the others go?'" > /tmp/xlunch-input
# Because of the first character being a newline xlunch will clear the other
# entries and add this one as the only entry.

During compilation, a sample entries file is created for you. By default, this entries file is installed into /etc/xlunch/entries.dsv. The file is created by reading the freedesktop "Desktop Entry Specification" files (.desktop) found in $HOME/.local/share/applications and /usr/share/applications these files are read in priority so you can override the versions installed by your package manager by putting a file with the same name in the user local directory. The file generated is static, so if you want to add new programs to the list that xlunch sees then you could run the extras/genentries script again. The output of this script is in the format expected from entries.dsv files and can be customized to your needs and to create custom menus. When xlunch starts without the --input flag, it first checks stdin to see if you have piped it any entries. If nothing is found there it tries to load your entries file from ~/.xlunch/entries.dsv. If this fails, system-wide entries is loaded from /etc/xlunch/entries.dsv. By passing --input the file specified is used instead and all other entries (including stdin) are ignored.

Example usage:

# launcher mode:
xlunch --background wp.jpg --font "OpenSans-Regular.ttf/10" --input sample_entries.dsv

# desktop mode:
xlunch --background wp.jpg --font "OpenSans-Regular.ttf/10" --input sample_entries.dsv
    --desktop --multiple --noprompt --dontquit

Tips and tricks:

If you wish to run xlunch as app launcher, best practice is to set up a keyboard shortcut to start xlunch, such as Alt+F2. Or you can put a button in a taskbar to run it.

For example, to start xlunch on Alt+F2 in i3wm, add this line to ~/.i3/config:

bindsym $mod+F2 exec /usr/bin/xlunch

To have xlunch running as a desktop with icons in i3wm, add this to ~/.i3/config:

exec /usr/bin/xlunch --desktop --multiple --noprompt --dontquit

Note that you can also use the position flags from the multi-monitor section to display multiple menus on your desktop.

xlunch is a perfect dmenu replacement, or rofi replacement.

© 2016, 2017, Tomas Matejicek - tomas [at] slax [dot] org & Peter Munch-Ellingsen - peterme [at] peterme [dot] net

Business vector designed by Freepik