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v2.0, 12 January 1998
v2.0, 12 January 1998
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<TITLE>AfterStep FAQ: General information</TITLE>
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<H2><A NAME="s1">1. General information</A></H2>
<H2><A NAME="ss1.1">1.1 What is X, and what is a window manager?</A>
<P> "X" is common shorthand for The X Window System. It is the basis for
building some graphical user interfaces (GUIs). These are most often found
on UNIX-type systems, although there are implementations for other
platforms. Notice that X <EM>is not</EM> the interface itself. For more
information, please see
<A HREF="">The X Window System</A>.
<P>A window manager (briefly) is a program which controls the way various
windows interact during an X session. AfterStep is one such window manager.
<H2><A NAME="ss1.2">1.2 What is AfterStep?</A>
<P>AfterStep is a Window Manager for X which started by emulating the NEXTSTEP
look and feel, but which has been significantly altered according to the
requests of various users. Many adepts will tell you that NEXTSTEP is not only
the most visually pleasant interface, but also one of the most functional and
intuitive out there. AfterStep aims to incorporate the advantages of the
NEXTSTEP interface, and add additional useful features.
<P>The developers of AfterStep have also worked very hard to ensure stability
and a small program footprint. Without giving up too many features,
AfterStep still works nicely in environments where memory is at a premium.
<H2><A NAME="ss1.3">1.3 What is its history?</A>
<P>What follows is drawn from the AfterStep man page:
<P>AfterStep originated as a continuation of the BowMan window manager,
originally developed by Bo Yang. BowMan was based on fvwm, which was
written by Robert Nation. In turn, fvwm was based on twm. And so on. Open
Source / Free (please pick your preferred term, without prejudice) software
works exactly because of these sorts of traditions. Yay!
<P>The changes which led to AfterStep were originally part of BowMan development.
As the desire for simple emulation was superseded by a desire to improve,
the designers decided to change the name, and the AfterStep project was
<P>Many of the earlier developers of AfterStep subsequently decided to move to
the Window Maker (originally WindowMaker) project, under the leadership of
Alfredo Kojima (<CODE></CODE>). Window Maker (which, as of
this writing, may yet receive another name change: gswm for "GNUstep Window
Manager") is committed to emulating closely the NEXTSTEP(tm) look and feel.
<P>As a result of all that, Guylhem Aznar
(<CODE></CODE>) took over
development of AfterStep. Though he had help from several able developers
(check the "TEAM" file for a list of the wonderful programmers responsible
for AfterStep), and obviously built on the previous efforts of other
excellent programmers, new and current users of AfterStep owe a special debt
to Mr Aznar. Without his work, AfterStep would never have approached its
current stability, flexibility, or functionality.
<H2><A NAME="ss1.4">1.4 What are AfterStep's main features?</A>
<LI> NEXTSTEP-similar title bar, title buttons, borders and corners.</LI>
<LI> The AfterStep Wharf, which is a much worked-out version of GoodStuff. To
avoid copyright complications it is not called a `dock'.</LI>
<LI> NEXTSTEP style menus. The menus are not, however, controlled by
applications; they are more like pop-up service lists on the root
<LI> NEXTSTEP style icons. The default icons are consistent with those
in the NEXTSTEP interface, but they are configurable.</LI>
<LI> Pixmapped Pager with desktop pixmapping.</LI>
<LI> Easy-to-use look files, which allow you to share you desktop appearance with your friends.</LI>
<LI> Start menu entries in a hierarchy of directories.</LI>
<LI> WinList, a tasklist which can be horizontal or vertical.</LI>
<LI> Many modules &amp; as-apps to make your X window station look great.</LI>
<P>The flexibility of fvwm has not been traded off. Initiation files recognize
most of the fvwm 1.24r commands. Virtual screens and the pager are still
intact. Modules for fvwm-1.x should work just fine.
<H2><A NAME="ss1.5">1.5 Is it compatible with fvwm-2?</A>
<P> Compatibility with fvwm-2 &amp; Enlightenment <EM>modules</EM> is planned
for an upcoming version, but support is not yet available. Some
Enlightenment-based items will work well with AfterStep, however. In
particular, support for Eterm is now available.
<H2><A NAME="ss1.6">1.6 Is it available for Microsoft Windows-based machines?</A>
<P> Not really, unless the Windows machine has an X server installed. If
you want to take that approach, look at
<A HREF="">Running AfterStep under Win32!</A>. But there is an AfterStep-alike program called LiteSTEP, which
gives Windows machines an AfterStep-ish appearance. As of this writing,
LiteSTEP development versions are available at
<A HREF=""></A>, while some screen shots are available at
<A HREF=""></A>. Keep in mind, however,
that these programs <EM>are not</EM> versions of AfterStep. Please do not
send questions about LiteSTEP to the AfterStep mail list.
<P>If you want to make AfterStep work under any version of Windows, you are
welcome to try following the instructions at the Web sites listed above, and
every last bit of associated documentation. Please do not contact Andrew
Sullivan for help, however, as he cannot help you: he does not use AfterStep
with Windows.
<H2><A NAME="ss1.7">1.7 Where can I get this FAQ?</A>
<P> The latest version is always available at
<A HREF=""></A>. That is the official home page of the
AfterStep FAQ, and offers links to several mirror sites as well.
<P>The latest version is also usually available from
<A HREF=""></A>. The AfterStep FTP site has found a new
home courtesy of Red Hat; please see the section on the FTP site for
details. One can also always find the latest version of the FAQ through the
AfterStep web site. What's more, there are sites whose sysadmins have been
generous in offering mirrors of the FAQ. Here are the mirrors:
<A HREF=""></A>, hosted by
David Mihm.
<A HREF=""></A>, hosted by David Vondrasek.
<A HREF=""></A>, hosted by Nathan Widmyer.
<A HREF=""></A>, hosted by
Peter Booth.
<P>Ce document est aussi disponible en fran&ccedil;ais, &agrave;
<A HREF=""></A>.
<P>Please note that the version numbering system of the FAQ has changed. The
FAQ version number used to follow roughly the same protocol as the version
numbering of AfterStep. This led to confusion, because the number of the
FAQ and the number of AfterStep tended to get out of synch. The FAQ version
number is now the date of its release, according to the ISO data format:
{Arabic numeral of year}-{Arabic numeral of month number}-{Arabic numeral of
day of month}. For example, a FAQ released on 31 October 1998 would be
called "as-faq.1998-10-31", with the appropriate extension for the file
<H2><A NAME="ss1.8">1.8 Who contributes to this FAQ?</A>
<P> The initial version of the FAQ was written by Frank Fejes
(<CODE></CODE>) and Jonathan B. Leffert (<CODE></CODE>).
Major additions were made by Kragen Sittler (<CODE></CODE>). Diego
Zamboni (<CODE></CODE>) maintained the file until Guylhem Aznar
(<CODE></CODE>) took over with the release of AS
1.4. The file is now maintained by Andrew Sullivan
(<CODE></CODE>), with contributions from Tomas Duewiger
(<CODE></CODE>). Naturally, the FAQ is prepared in
co-operation with the program developers; but any errors or omissions are
now Andrew Sullivan's responsibility, so you should contact him to complain.
Most of the questions and answers have been provided by the people
participating in the AfterStep mailing lists. If you have a suggestion
about this file or, better yet, an answer to an unanswered question in this
file, please send an e-mail to Mr Sullivan, or to the main AfterStep list;
see the next question for more information on the list.
<H2><A NAME="ss1.9">1.9 What is the AfterStep-related mailing list?</A>
<P>This question used to read, "What <EM>are</EM> the AfterStep-related mailing
lists?" Due to some changes in hosting, things have changed:
<DT><B>AfterStep-Announce</B><DD><P>This list is no longer functioning.
<DT><B>AfterStep</B><DD><P>The purpose of this list is to provide a forum in which users of
the AfterStep X11 window manager can discuss issues related to
to using AfterStep. Appropriate topics include, but are not
limited to, the installation and configuration of AfterStep and
related modules and applications. Developers should also subscribe
to, and work through, this list, as no other list is active as of
this writing.
<DT><B>AfterStep-Digest</B><DD><P>This list contains the same messages as the AfterStep mailing
list. The messages are saved up (not transmitted
individually) and sent out as a bundle. This decreases the
number of separate messages received from the list, but makes it
more difficult to reply to a specific message.
<DT><B>AfterStep-Dev</B><DD><P>This list is no longer functioning.
<DT><B>AfterStep-Dev-Digest</B><DD><P>This list is no longer functioning.
<P>For information on subscribing to any of these lists, or more information,
please see
<A HREF=""></A>. A
re-instated searchable archive of the list is planned by Ed Orcutt; Mr
Orcutt is also the owner of the AfterStep lists. His employer, Caldera,
has been generous in donating server and web space for the mailing
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<TITLE>AfterStep FAQ: Other AfterStep-unrelated applications</TITLE>
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<H2><A NAME="s10">10. Other AfterStep-unrelated applications</A></H2>
<H2><A NAME="ss10.1">10.1 I have a problem with program xyz.</A>
<P>Please, please, don't post questions unrelated to AfterStep to the mailing
lists. If you have a problem with some application not running, and you think
AfterStep is the culprit, first try the following:
<LI> Read the documentation (man pages, etc.) for the program.</LI>
<LI> Find out about its configuration parameters (not only command line, but
also options in .Xdefaults, config files, etc.).</LI>
<LI> Ask other people who know about that specific program. Find a mailing
list about that program and ask there.</LI>
<LI> Try running the program under some other window manager. If it doesn't
work there either, it is not an AfterStep problem.</LI>
<P>If you are very confident that it is an AfterStep problem, then send it to
the mailing list, but try to give as much information as possible. Questions
like `Why doesn't blig-graphics work on my system?' do not contain any
useful information that may help others in diagnosing your problem; you run
the risk of getting a nasty answer if you send such a message to the list.
Some data you may have to include is:
<LI> AfterStep version you are using.</LI>
<LI> Operating system version, machine architecture.</LI>
<LI> System configuration (color depth, memory, anything you think may help).</LI>
<LI> Problematic program.</LI>
<LI> Environment information (other programs running at the same time, etc.)</LI>
<LI> A detailed description of the problem. What happens (error messages,
etc.), how replicable it is, how to replicate it, etc.</LI>
<P>The more information you provide, the easier it will be for others to find a
<P>A good reason to suppose that the problem lies in AfterStep is to test the
same program with an AS-compatible window manager. This means that a
failure of a program which works perfectly on Enlightenment is not a failure
in AS terms; but a failure of an fvwm-1 program is something of concern for
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<TITLE>AfterStep FAQ: Getting and installing AfterStep</TITLE>
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<H2><A NAME="s2">2. Getting and installing AfterStep</A></H2>
<H2><A NAME="ss2.1">2.1 Where do I get AfterStep?</A>
<P>The main AfterStep resources on the net are below.
<LI>WWW Page
<P>The official WWW page is at
<A HREF=""></A><P>The web site has again lost its home, and may not be currently available to
the public. It should be under new administration soon.
<LI>FTP Site
<P> The FTP site,
<A HREF=""></A>, is the
best place to get AfterStep. It also supports uploads:
<A HREF=""></A>. Please read the instructions
about uploads before asking why your upload is not immediately available.
Some links to the FTP site are provided from the Web site.
<P>Please note that the FTP site has moved to a new server under new
administration. Any questions about the current status of the FTP site
should be directed first to the mailing list.
<LI> Developers' sites.
<P>There are several sites which have been generous enough to act as
developers' sites. Note that you can expect development-level support for
development-level programs. That means that if you aren't willing to fix it
yourself, you mustn't complain! (You are, of course, encouraged to make
<EM>detailed</EM> bug reports.) You can find links to the development sites
from the main AfterStep WWW site. That site is accessible through lynx, so
anyone with a UNIX-type networked system should be able to get AfterStep.
<P>Here is the list of developers' sites:
<A HREF="">the-SITE: Linux: AfterStep Page</A><P>
<A HREF=""></A><P>
<A HREF="">AfterStep window manager</A><P>
<A HREF="">AfterStep applets</A><P>
<LI>Other Web Resources:
<P> There are also some useful things to be found on the following pages.
The first is the current, official AfterStep Customization Page; it includes
a web-based BBS with helpful suggestions. It was originally designed around
AfterStep v. 1.4.x; but the remarks are, on the whole, applicable to v.
1.5.x. The second is a page offering help to new users, maintained by Tomas
Duewiger (<CODE></CODE>). It is, again, designed around v.
1.4.x, but is nevertheless useful for users who have v. 1.5.x. The last is
a page which centres around AfterStep-Classic, but which will still no doubt
offer help even to people who are working under AfterStep v. &gt; 1.0. It is
important to note that any one of these may offer information which is not
perfectly current with the present development of AfterStep: for the very
latest, official word, subscribe to the AfterStep mailing list. Still, any
one of these sites will be a helpful resource to any AfterStep user:
<A HREF="">AfterStep Customization Page</A><P>
<A HREF="">AfterStep and some tricks</A><P>
<A HREF="">Kiwi's AfterStep Page</A><P>
<LI>AfterStep IRC channel:
<P>AfterStep has a presence on IRC, through EFnet. The channel is #afterstep.
If you need to find a server, try
<H2><A NAME="ss2.2">2.2 What is the latest version of AfterStep?</A>
<P> The latest official version is 1.4.5, released in April 1998.
A development release,, was widely considered to be a true
stable release; it has, in fact, fewer bugs than 1.4.5.
<P>Version 1.5.0 should be available by the time you read this. If you are
contemplating installing a version of AfterStep, it is worth either waiting
for the release of version 1.5.0, or installing the latest beta version of
1.5. Any version of the 1.5 series is a significant improvement over any
1.4.x release.
<P>There is also a current development effort around the old version of
AfterStep (v. 1.0). This effort is called AfterStepClassic. It is
primarily directed towards fixing bugs in the old 1.0 release of AfterStep,
and is not always compatible with new developments in AfterStep. It uses
<EM>only</EM> the .steprc-style configuration, so if you are looking for
information on how to configure AfterStepClassic, you should assume that the
information about versions &lt; 1.2 apply to you. The lead developer for
AfterStepClassic is Stephen Ma (<CODE></CODE>).
<H2><A NAME="ss2.3">2.3 What do I need to install AfterStep?</A>
<P> AfterStep is an X window manager. So, you need to have an X
workstation. It will apparently compile against, and work with, X11R5, but
for optimal performance, it is preferable that you use X11R6. In order to
compile AfterStep from the source, you need (apart from a C compiler, like
gcc) the X developers' libraries on your system. The most common problem
that people have in compiling AfterStep is as a result of not having the
required libraries on their system. In particular, XFree86 lists the
necessary libraries as an "optional" package. As a result, many people do
not install them, and so cannot compile AfterStep. You should be able to
get the libraries wherever you got your distribution of XFree86.
<P>AfterStep is known to run on Linux, FreeBSD (not all modules work), HP-UX,
and Solaris. For the latter two, you should read the relevant READMEs
before trying to compile.
<P>X, and hence AfterStep, is really designed with an eye to the assumptions of
multiuser systems like UNIX or VMS. If you are using X on some other
platform, and particularly, if you are trying to run X atop any version of
Windows, you will have to do much of the porting work yourself. There is a
link above offering advice on getting AfterStep to work under Windows; but
this practice is not encouraged. You are likely to get greater ease of use
by using LiteSTEP.
<H2><A NAME="ss2.4">2.4 I receive the message: Cannot open display. What should I do?</A>
<P>AfterStep is an X window manager and cannot be run from the terminal.
It must be run through X. The easiest way to do that is to create (or
edit) your own .xinitrc file (which contains a list of the programs you
wish to load upon startup) and to add the line exec afterstep to the end.
This last exec'd line is significant in that it says to shut down X when
that program is terminated. Now that you have that file, simply startup X
in your customary manner (most likely by issuing "startx" or "xinit").
Now you're off and running. Good luck!
<P>If you are using xdm, you will need to put the call to afterstep in your
.xsessions file.
<H2><A NAME="ss2.5">2.5 How can I install AfterStep without being root?</A>
<P>This is fairly easy, but you must be sensitive to the version you
are using.
<P>You will have to install all the files under your home directory. The
usual recommendation is to use the same directories as suggested in the
installation procedure, but replacing /usr/share, usr/local, or whatever
you like by your home directory. For example, if you home directory is
/home/blah you would use directories like /home/blah/bin, /home/blah/etc,
/home/blah/lib, and the like.
<P>Compile AfterStep following the standard installation procedure (i.e the
one described in the README) until the install step. Then, do the
following (make sure to create the destination directories first if they
don't exist. All the source paths are relative to the AfterStep source
<LI> Copy afterstep/afterstep to $HOME/bin/.</LI>
<LI> Copy modules/*/(binaries) to $HOME/bin/.</LI>
<LI> Copy apps/*/(binaries) to $HOME/bin/.</LI>
<LI> Copy GNUstep/ to $HOME/.</LI>
<LI> Edit $HOME/GNUstep/Library/AfterStep/base.* to reflect the above paths
in the lines starting with ModulePath and PixmapPath.</LI>
<LI> Put $HOME/bin in your path.</LI>
<P>You should be set. Feel free to modify this procedure according to
your particular needs or the particular setup of your machine/account.
<P>You should note that, during the 1.4.5.x series, the source paths changed.
If the changes are not transparent to you, you should probably move to the
1.5 series anyway. The 1.5 series includes an install script that allows
you to set the install directories to whatever you want. Even though the
instructions say you should have root access, you can install AS under your
home directory. The trick here is to specify only directories to which
you have write permissions. <EM>Importantly, you must specify the full
path</EM> on most systems. Otherwise, there is a good chance that something
will not read correctly; this will affect your installation of AfterStep.
On some systems, you may also have to add the new subdirectories to your
".profile", ".cshrc", ".xsessions", or other such file. If you don't know
what this means, you should either contact your system administrator, or read
a good book about your operating system or X windowing system.
<H2><A NAME="ss2.6">2.6 Why do I keep getting compile errors?</A>
<P>The most common reason for problems compiling is that you do not have all
the necessary libraries and headers available on your system. This often
happens to people who have recently upgraded their distribution of XFree86.
The necessary libraries are included in an "optional" file which matches the
version of XFree86 in question; the most recent of these is X332prog.tgz
(for XFree86 3.3.2). You should be able to find the file you need wherever
you obtained your distribution of X.
<H2><A NAME="ss2.7">2.7 Why do I keep getting an error referring to sgmltools?</A>
<P>This FAQ file is maintained in SGML according to the Linuxdoc DTD; some
version of the FAQ is included with every AfterStep distribution. In order
to make it easily readable, a program called sgml2html (part of sgmltools)
converts the file to HTML. A script, afterstepdoc (by default, the first
button on the Wharf), should open a browser and allow you to read the FAQ.
Unfortunately, not everyone has sgmltools; and even if they are installed,
they are not detected correctly at install time. As a result, the HTML
version of the FAQ is now shipped with the latest versions of AfterStep.
The SGML source is still included with the AfterStep source, however, so if
you want other versions of this FAQ -- dvi, PostScript, or even plain text
-- just use the sgmltools package to convert the SGML source to whatever
format you like.
<H2><A NAME="ss2.8">2.8 Why can't I get AfterStep to compile on SGI or SCO?</A>
<P>The problem here was tracked down and reported by Benjamin J. Tracy
(<CODE></CODE>) and (independently) John Koch
(<CODE></CODE>). The ordering of the libraries in the link command
is wrong. Just make sure that the afterstep library appears <EM>before</EM>
the -lX11 argument on the link command line (in the Makefile). Everything
should work after that.
<H2><A NAME="ss2.9">2.9 Will AfterStep compile correctly on FreeBSD?</A>
<P>AfterStep itself works fine on FreeBSD, but some as-apps will not work. In
particular, there are some that depend upon a Linux-type /proc filesystem.
That filesystem is very different on BSD-type system.
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<H2><A NAME="s3">3. Problems After Installation</A></H2>
<H2><A NAME="ss3.1">3.1 I just upgraded to version 1.5, but I don't see any difference. Why?</A>
<P>By default, version 1.5 installs in different directories than versions
&lt; 1.5. The binary names are the same, unfortunately, so if the earlier
binaries are "earlier" in your path than the new binaries, you will not get
the new binaries.
<P>One trick is to use the new, version 1.5 install script to place the new
binaries wherever the old binaries are. Another possibility is to track
down the old binaries, and remove them from the system. By default,
AfterStep used to install in /usr/X11R6/bin. Version 1.5 installs, by
default, in /usr/local/bin.
<H2><A NAME="ss3.2">3.2 I don't want so many desktops in version 1.4.x or later; I want to change feature xyz in version 1.4.x or later.</A>
<P>Just edit the relevant file under ~/GNUstep/Library/AfterStep. See the
section on configuration for details.
<H2><A NAME="ss3.3">3.3 The desktop is bigger than my pager indicates.</A>
<P>This is/was a known bug. The problem is that the pager is at least three
screens in at least one dimension. There have been reports of getting the
pager to work correctly if the desktop size is set to 3X3 or 3X2. (For more
information on how to configure the Pager, see the section on Modules,
<P>Albert Dorofeev (<CODE></CODE>) reports that the following changes
to src/functions.c will fix the problem in AfterStep 1.4; I do not know
whether these will work for other versions. In src/functions.c, change the
if (newx > Scr.VxMax)
newx = Scr.VxMax;
if (newy > Scr.VyMax)
newy = Scr.VyMax;
if (newx >= (Scr.VxMax - Scr.MyDisplayWidth) )
newx = Scr.VxMax - Scr.MyDisplayWidth;
if (newy >= (Scr.VyMax - Scr.MyDisplayHeight) )
newy = Scr.VyMax - Scr.MyDisplayHeight;
<P>This change apparently leaves a bug whereby the mouse pointer "jumps" on the
right-hand border; but at least your pager will correspond to the desktop.
<P>The bug is fixed as of AfterStep 1.4.5.x, so if it really annoys you, please
upgrade. In the 1.4.5 and later series, the virtual desktop is set up in
the base.{yourbppnumber}bpp file, <EM>and not</EM> the pager configuration
file. Please edit the correct file according to your configuration.
<H2><A NAME="ss3.4">3.4 I'm running Solaris, and have had problems with the alphasort() function.</A>
<P> There are ever-fewer problems with AfterStep and Solaris; this one has
been patched in version 1.4.4 and later. You should upgrade to the latest
version. You should also check the information in the README.Solaris file,
and see the following site:
<A HREF=""></A>.
<H2><A NAME="ss3.5">3.5 I reduced the number of buttons in my titlebars, and now AS crashes.</A>
<P> Depending on which version you are using, you may need to edit your feel
file, as well. Look at the section on looks and feels.
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<H2><A NAME="s4">4. AfterStep Configuration</A></H2>
<H2><A NAME="ss4.1">4.1 What's a .steprc, and why do I need it anyway?</A>
<P> In versions of AfterStep prior to version 1.2 (including current
versions of AfterStepClassic), all configuration is handled in a single
file. This is the .steprc file; it should be in your home directory if
you're running any of these versions. These files are generally
well-commented, and can be edited easily to change the defaults. The
default file from version 1.0 included several major sections:
<LI>Distinctive Look and Feel</LI>
<LI>Window Placement</LI>
<LI>Miscellaneous Settings</LI>
<LI>Pager and Virtual Desktop</LI>
<LI>Common Paths</LI>
<LI>Animated Iconize Customization</LI>
<LI>Wharf Customization</LI>
<LI>Icon Selector</LI>
<LI>Initialization Function</LI>
<LI>Menus (which does not include bindings!)</LI>
<LI>Mouse Bindings</LI>
<LI>Keyboard Shortcuts</LI>
<LI>Module Definitions</LI>
<P>New versions of AfterStep don't use this file, preferring the
GNUstep/Library standard instead. The settings for looks and feels, for
instance, have been broken out into separate files, and the configurations of
Wharf, Pager, and other modules and applications have been placed in their
own files. See below.
<H2><A NAME="ss4.2">4.2 I'm using AfterStep 1.2 or later, and I can't find the .steprc. Why?</A>
<P>AfterStep now uses a directory structure to handle desktop customization.
<H2><A NAME="ss4.3">4.3 OK, so how do I customize non-.steprc versions?</A>
<P>This depends on the version you have.
<P>Versions through 1.4.4 need a full set of directories in each user's home
directory. In other words, you need to copy everything in
<P>There were several changes to this directory structure between version 1.4.0
and 1.4.4. A full outline of these changes is beyond the scope of this
document, but there are some general remarks on particularly common problems
below. For more help configuring 1.4.4, see
<A HREF=""></A> or
<A HREF=""></A>.
<P>In particular, you should note that the ~/G/L/A/ directories <EM>are
not compatible</EM> between versions 1.4.0 and 1.4.4. You must copy the
full {AS install}/G/L/A/ directory (including all sub-directories) into your
home directory, even if you are only upgrading from 1.4.0 to 1.4.4.
<P>The ~/GNUstep/Library/AfterStep arrangement is, admittedly, somewhat
inefficient, because there are always at least two copies of everything on
any system running AfterStep. As of versions post-1.4.5, it is possible to
add only those files which you have changed to the directory structure in
your home directory; everything else will use the default installation in
/usr/share/afterstep or /usr/local/share/afterstep (this location varies
among versions; the latter is the default in version 1.5).
<EM>Nevertheless</EM>, there are some subtle differences among the
configuration files of each version. If you have upgraded, and you
suddenly have problems, your first impulse should be to try renaming your
~/G/L/A/ directory, and starting AfterStep. If the problem disappears,
you can reasonably presume that it has something to do with your
configuration files. That doesn't mean that the answer will be obvious, but
it does mean that you'll know where to start looking.
<H2><A NAME="ss4.4">4.4 I just upgraded versions, and now nothing works.</A>
<P>First, determine whether you have upgraded from a ".steprc version" to a
"non-.steprc version". Versions after 1.2 do not (by default) use the
.steprc file, so your old customization will not be invoked by default if
you have moved from, say, 1.0 to 1.4.5.
<P>If you have changed from 1.4.0 to a later version, you need to remove your
old version of the ~/GNUstep/Library/AfterStep directory structure.
Version 1.4.4 introduced the "configurable" and "non-configurable"
distinction, and so several items have moved. See the previous question.
<P>Subtle changes have been introduced between versions; this is even true
between, say, 1.4.4 and In particular, several modules have had
their configuration files changed to be in keeping with Wharf style. The
practical effect of this is apparently inexplicable problems which develop
after an upgrade. If you suddenly have problems after an upgrade, and
especially if some modules suddenly do not work, try replacing your
configuration with the default configuration. If that works, you can edit
the new configuration to reflect your previous customization.
<P>It is also important to note that the syntax for looks and feels changed
again in version 1.5. Several of these changes have been as a result of
requested features or (more often) improvements in the efficiency or ease of
use of the overall program. These changes, of course, entail some
frustration; but before you ask, "What happened?" you should <EM>always</EM>
try renaming your ~/GNUstep/Library/AfterStep directory, and
re-starting. If this solves the problem, you should try customizing the new
version, using your old customization as a model. You are likely to be able
to re-use most of your old configuration files as they are.
<H2><A NAME="ss4.5">4.5 How do I change my startmenu?</A>
<P>In versions before 1.2, edit the appropriate section of the .steprc. In
later versions, you need to adjust the necessary parts of the
~/GNUstep/Library/AfterStep/start directory structure. The start
directory includes sub-directories for every sub-menu. It also has a file
corresponding to every entry on a menu. Each file should contain a single
line to invoke the desired program. So, if you wanted an entry in your main
startmenu which said
xiterm (pixmap)
<P>your ~/G/L/A/start directory would contain a file:
xiterm\ (pixmap)
<P>That file would contain a single line:
xiterm -pixmap [path_to_pixmap.xpm] &amp;
<P>(you would, of course, adjust the command-line options to reflect your
<P>By default, the sort order of the start menu is determined at compile time.
It is usually sorted alphabetically or chronologically (according to the
creation date of the file). This has the disadvantage of forcing a sort
order which one might not like. As a result, version 1.5 offers a new
(completely-worked-out) way to sort menu items.
<P>In version 1.5, the startmenu can be sorted numerically. Suppose you have
three files you want to sort in your startmenu, named "a", "b", and "c".
You could sort these in reverse alphabetical order in your startmenu by
naming them "0_c", "1_b", and "2_c".
<P>You can specify a startmenu name which is different from the filename, by
including that startmenu name in quotes in the file which is associated with
the startmenu name. For instance, a file named 8_xitermtransparent would be
the 8th file in the startmenu. If the contents of the file were as follows,
then it would be named "X terminal ~transparent":
Exec "X terminal ~transparent" exec xiterm -pixmap
~/GNUstep/Library/AfterStep/non-configurable/0_background -sl 500 -vb &amp;
MiniPixmap "mini-app.xpm"
<P>(Note that this command should all be on one line in the actual file!) In
this case, the xiterm window comes up with the current background of the
first desktop in AfterStep; this simulates a "transparent" xterm. For more
on "transparent" xterms, please see the section on as-apps.
<P>The sorting of items in the startmenu always puts directories (which are
equivalent to sub-menus) first. Directories, however, are themselves sorted
according to the same scheme as are files, except that there is no mechanism
for naming a sub-menu something other than the directory name.
<P>From version 1.4.5, you also have to read the new startmenu into your
configuration. On the startmenu, under "Desktop" (1.5 or later) or "Quit"
(&lt; 1.5), is an option, "update startmenu". Choose this item, and your new
startmenu will appear.
<P>People who have Red Hat Linux 5.1 have had another problem with the
startmenu updating: all changes are lost after exiting. This is because of
the way that Red Hat has modified the startup of AfterStep. The version of
AfterStep included in Red Hat 5.1 includes an m4 preprocessing routine
which, among other things, re-writes the
~/GNUstep/Library/AfterStep/start directory every time AfterStep
starts. As a bit of editorial, I (Andrew) might point out that I don't know
what this does, nor why Red Hat used it. I also don't intend to learn. If
you can't get Red Hat to explain to you what they did, my suggestion is to
remove the RPM, and compile and install the official version. David Mihm
(<CODE></CODE>), however, suggests that you can get around the m4
preprocessing this way:
echo "exec afterstep" >~/.xinitrc
echo "exec afterstep" >~/.xsessions
chmod 700 ~/.xsessions
<P>It has been suggested (by Ian Hay, <CODE></CODE>) that the m4
preprocessing was an attempt on Red Hat's part to make the use of AfterStep
more friendly to new users: this preprocessing apparently ensures that new
apps get added to the start menu after they've been installed. Matteo
Lunardi (<CODE></CODE>) has offered a work-around, at least in
some versions. In the xinit-1.4.2.noarch.rpm, he edited the file
/etc/X11/xinit/Xclients, this way:
if [ -f $HOME/.wm_style ] ; then
WMSTYLE=Cat $HOME/.wm_style case "$WMSTYLE" in
# we have to start up afterstep
if [ -x /usr/X11R6/bin/afterstep -a -f
/usr/share/afterstep/wmconfig.conf ] ; then
# if [ ! -d $HOME/GNUstep/Library/AfterStep ]; then
mkdir -p $HOME/GNUstep/Library/AfterStep
wmconfig --output=afterstep --directories \
/usr/share/afterstep/wmconfig.conf 2>/dev/null
# fi
env > "$HOME"/Xrootenv.0
# if this works, we stop here
eval "exec /usr/X11R6/bin/afterstep" >
"$HOME"/.AfterStep-errors 2>&amp;1
<P>In this case, the change was to add comment marks ("#") to the "if" lines
(not the one where it says, "if this works, we stop here"). Apparently,
however, it also works to add the comment marks to the "mkdir" and
"wmconfig" lines.
<P>As an alternative, Kai Puolamaki (<CODE></CODE>) suggests that
you configure your wmconfig utility to make things work better. This is
likely the best way to make these adjustments. Red Hat's wmconfig utility
relies on a system-wide directory, /etc/X11/wmconfig, but is adjustable by
users through an individual directory, ~/.wmconfig. So, if you wanted
a menu item, "Mail", containing both mutt and elm, you would add two files:
<P>The file "mutt" would contain the following:
mutt name "Mutt"
mutt description "Mutt email client"
mutt group Mail
mutt exec "xterm -e mutt &amp;"
<P>The file "elm" would be similar:
elm name "Elm"
elm description "Elm email client"
elm group Mail
elm exec "xterm -e elm &amp;"
<P>More information is available from the wmconfig manpage. Note that there is
an additional advantage to this syntax: it ensures that your menu changes
are also available if you change window managers.
<H2><A NAME="ss4.6">4.6 Where did the "Decorations" item go in version 1.5?</A>
<P>The "Decorations" menu has been re-named to "Desktop".
<H2><A NAME="ss4.7">4.7 What are "look", "feel", "desktop", etc. files?</A>
<P> In versions that do not use a .steprc, the various elements of the
desktop have been separated out, in order that they can each be customized
independently. Look files and feel files allow you to customize the desktop
in almost an infinite number of ways. Note that any functional changes you
make in a look file (like adjusting the number of buttons that appear on a
window titlebar) may need to be reflected in a corresponding feel file: the
"feel" handles how you interact with windows, while the "look" controls
their appearance. This is handy if you want your windows always to respond
in more or less the same way, but want them to look differently depending on
the task you're performing, the machine you're on, or whatever.
<H2><A NAME="ss4.8">4.8 Can I have differently-sized buttons on the titlebar?</A>
<P>Yes, but not in every version. It is reported that version 1.5 handles
differently-sized titlebar buttons with no difficulty. If you want this
functionality, please move to version 1.5.
<H2><A NAME="ss4.9">4.9 Fine, but how do I reduce the number of buttons on the titlebar?</A>
<P> This depends upon what version you are using. Version 1.5 allows you
simply to change the look file to reflect the buttons you want. Any version
before 1.5 requires a change both to the look and to the feel. The trick
here is to understand the difference between a look and a feel. A look file
simply determines how elements of the screen will appear. It does not
determine how the elements will interact: that's what a feel file does. So,
if you want to reduce the number of buttons on a titlebar, you need to
adjust both the look and feel files. The look file must define the
appearance of <EM>exactly</EM> the number of buttons for which there are
functions in the feel file; and each button defined in the feel file must
have a reference in the look file.
<P>To see how this works, consider a look file with the following definitions:
# TitleButtons : [1] [3] [5] [7] [9] (title) [0] [8] [6] [4] [2]
TitleButton 1 b1.xpm b1-pressed.xpm
TitleButton 2 b2.xpm b2-pressed.xpm
TitleButton 3 b3.xpm b3-pressed.xpm
TitleButton 4 b4.xpm b4-pressed.xpm
TitleButton 6 b6.xpm b6-pressed.xpm
<P>Now, this defines the appearance of two buttons on the left of each titlebar
(TitleButton 1 and TitleButton3), and three buttons on the right of each
titlebar (TitleButton 2, TitleButton 4, and TitleButton 6). For each
definition, the first XPM mentioned defines the appearance of the button
when it is not pressed; the second XPM defines the way the button looks
when it is pressed. <EM>The numbering of these buttons is hard-coded</EM>,
so you cannot just number your buttons in any order at all. Follow the
"boilerplate" numbering scheme (above the TitleButton pixmap definitions in
our example).
<P>In order to make this look function correctly, each titlebar button needs to
have its function defined in the feel file. So, the feel file might include
something which looks like this (this one is taken from the feel.DEFAULT
file in
Mouse 1 1 A ChangeWindowUp
Mouse 2 1 A GetHelp
Mouse 3 1 A ChangeWindowDown
Mouse 1 2 A Delete
Mouse 2 2 A Destroy
Mouse 3 2 A Destroy
Mouse 1 3 A PopUp "Window"
Mouse 2 3 A WindowList 2
Mouse 3 3 A WindowList 2
Mouse 1 4 A Shade
Mouse 2 4 A Stick
Mouse 3 4 A Stick
Mouse 1 6 A Iconify
Mouse 2 6 A Maximize
Mouse 3 6 A Maximize
<P>The first column defines what action causes the desired behaviour; so,
"Mouse 1" means "mouse button one is pressed". The second column defines
where the behaviour is to have its desired effect: in our list, we have
definitions for all five (TitleButton 1, TitleButton 2, TitleButton 3,
TitleButton 4, and TitleButton 6) of the buttons defined in the look file.
Notice that each button gets a definition for every mouse button, so there
is never an undefined action on any TitleButton. The third column specifies
the context for the action. In this case, the context is "Any" (actually
any context except in the TitleBar); you can also specify modifications
(e.g. by adding "C" for "Control"). The final column specifies the
behaviour which attaches to the action. So, in the last row, we define that
clicking the third mouse button on the innermost TitleButton on the
right-hand side of a window will Maximize that window.
<P>Other functions get defined in the same list in every feel file, so you will
have to look carefully to ensure you define everything correctly.
<H2><A NAME="ss4.10">4.10 Why does some key not work as I expect?</A>
<P>There are two possibilities here. One is that you are having problems with
your "delete" or "backspace" key. This is a generic X problem, and you
should investigate it by reading the relevant documentation for xmodmap.
Try issuing "man xmodmap" at the command prompt.
<P>The second possibility is that you have a set of keypresses which work in
another X window manager, but which do not work under your recent
installation of AfterStep. In that case, you need to edit the "feel" file.
Before you go on, go back and read the previous question about mouse
bindings. Done that? Good. Now, keybindings work just the same. So, in
your feel file, you might have the following keybinding:
Key Left A C Scroll -100 0
<P>This says that if you press "Control" (3d column) and the left cursor
key (1st column) while anywhere on the screen, AfterStep will scroll one
page to the left. If you want to get the functionality of "Ctrl-left" back,
in order to use it in some other X application, then you'll need to remove
this keybinding from your feel file.
<P>You can avoid having <EM>any</EM> keybinding defined by AfterStep by using
one of the included feels: feel.ICCCM. Just select it from the
Desktop/Feels (v. 1.5) or Decorations/Feels (v. &lt; 1.5) menu under your
<H2><A NAME="ss4.11">4.11 Why can't I have my .steprc in version 1.4.x or later?</A>
<P>You can. Use the -f switch to force AfterStep to read from a file. Please
notice that not everything will work with your old .steprc file "right out
of the box"; but if you like the old version that much, why upgrade anyway?
<P>That said, version 1.5 has worked out almost all the incompatibility issues.
<H2><A NAME="ss4.12">4.12 I'm using Red Hat, and I can't find the configuration files you've mentioned.</A>
<P> Red Hat apparently used to include a look-alike to AfterStep which is
actually a hack of fvwm-2. <EM>It is not AfterStep</EM>, although some Red
Hat distributions also contain the real AfterStep. Red Hat has changed the
name of their "hacked" version, in order to reduce confusion.
<P>A "real" version of AfterStep is included in Red Hat Linux 5.1. It uses m4
preprocessing for configuration, however, so not all configuration remarks
in this document will be useful to Red Hat users. If you want to configure
the AfterStep included in Red Hat, you should ask Red Hat how to do it, or
read the documentation for m4, or both. There is some discussion of the Red
Hat preprocessing under the startmenu section, above.
<H2><A NAME="ss4.13">4.13 What is the database file?</A>
<P>The database file allows you to adjust certain features of the desktop. It
allows you to define icons for minimized programs, allows you to force
certain programs (like Pager or Wharf, for instance) to stay on top, and
other such options. Have a look at the default database file, back it up,
and play with some of the settings; it's pretty self-explanatory, but it
takes a little fooling to make it work as you want.
<P>Items in the database file follow the "Style" conventions from fvwm and
AfterStep. So, each item is listed this way:
Style "WM_CLASS" {comma-separated list of options}
<P>You can learn the value of "WM_CLASS" by using the Ident module included
with AfterStep. Ethan Fischer (<CODE></CODE>) offers the
following account of what the various options do:
In general, these options have both an "on" and an "off" keyword (like
"Title" and "NoTitle", for instance). This allows a general style (like
the "*" style), to be overridden by a later style. For example:
Style "*" NoButton 1, BorderWidth 2
Style "xterm" Button 1, NoHandles
will hide the leftmost button on the titlebar for any window except xterm
windows. It will turn off resize handles for xterm windows. It will also
give a 2-pixel border to xterm windows - note that BorderWidth only affects
windows with NoHandles (this is in the manpage), so all other windows will
receive the normal 1-pixel border.
Here's a list of options, along with what they do. For each group, the
default is listed first.