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twm is an X Window System window manager, distributed as a standard window manager with the X window system since release 4 (X11R4). It is a re-parenting window manager, it provides titlebars, shaped windows and icon management, and is extensively configurable. Although a breakthrough achievement at its time, it has been largely superseded by other window managers and is no longer maintained. It is still available as part of many X distributions, although it is mainly used as the window manager of last resort.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Naming
3 Authors


Its first version, written by Tom LaStrange for X11R1, was published on the Usenet newsgroup comp.unix.sources on June 13, 1988 (see the original posting). Less than a year later Jim Fulton of the X Consortium approached Tom, requesting that he hands over the maintenance of the code to the X Consortium. After making it compliant with the then new Inter Client Communications Conventions Manual and adding support for shaped titlebars twm was released as the standard window manager of X11R4, replacing uwm.

Although no longer maintained and rarely used these days, twm had made a strong impact on the development of window managers, as many window managers, such as swm, vtwm, tvtwm, ctwm, fvwm and their derivatives were built on its code, while many others used concepts pioneered by it.


There is some uncertainty in the X community to what exactly twm stands for. It is variably extended to Tom's or Tab Window Manager.

In fact, both names are correct. twm started its life as Tom's Window Manager. However, when the X consortium took over its maintenance and several other people contributed to it substantially, its name was changed to Tab Window Manager. As the vtwm.gamma manual page put it

To save Tom LaStrange from being blamed for any of the massive numbers of changes that have been done to twm since he gave up control of it, the name "twm" now stands for "Tab Window Manager".

The word "tab" was most likely picked because it started with "t" more than anything else, but the "official" line of reasoning is that with the appropriate setup (namely with the SqueezeTitle option) the window title bars can be squeezed, making the windows look like folders with tabs.


twm was originally written by Tom LaStrange, then at Solbourne Computer. Later Jim Fulton, Keith Packard, and Dave Sternlicht, all three at the X Consortium at the time, Steve Pitschke, then at the Stardent Computer, and Dave Payne, then at Apple Computer, contributed substantially.