Using awesome in dom0

Qubes-specific features

  • support for the Qubes OS window colors
  • rudimentary support for the Qubes application menu entries following the freedesktop standard
  • support for custom filters and menu entries


awesome can be installed with the standard dom0 installation mechanisms.

$ sudo qubes-dom0-update awesome

That’s it. After logging out, you can select awesome in the login manager.


To contribute code you may clone the awesome repository as follows:

$ git clone

For build instructions please check the repository README.

The repository attempts to follow the upstream Fedora repository.

Common customizations

This section focuses on Qubes-specific customizations. For generic awesome customizations you might want to have a look at the awesome website.

Customizations for awesome are usually done at ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua. The default file can be found at /etc/xdg/awesome/rc.lua.

Application menu

Starting from Qubes 4.0 application menu entries specific to awesome can be put into ~/.config/awesome/xdg-menu/ following the freedesktop standard. The folder might have to be created.

Focus steal hardening

The default Qubes OS awesome installation comes with the defaults set by the awesome developers for focus changes. Some users may want more tight control over window focus changes - especially since focus changes can have security implications when sensitive data is provided to an incorrect application or even qube.


For the below example we’ll define wanted focus changes as one of the below:

  • mouse move & click afterwards
  • workspace/tag change
  • pre-defined key combinations for focus changes (e.g. Mod-j & Mod-k)
  • tag assignments and unassignments

Everything else is considered an unwanted focus steal.

In particular the following events are not meant to cause a focus change:

  • new window created
  • a window was closed
  • application request
  • mouse move without click (sloppy focus)

For the below example other requests from applications to the window manager are meant to be ignored in general as well, e.g.:

  • windows shouldn’t be able to maximize themselves without the user giving a respective command to the WM (simple test: Firefox F11 next to another window)
  • windows shouldn’t be able to change their size themselves
  • windows shouldn’t be able to modify their borders in any way

Users may want to adjust their definitions and respective implementations according to their needs.


The implementation may be specific to the awesome version you’re running. This guide refers to awesome version 3.5.9 which is available to Qubes 3.2 and Qubes 4.0 users.

Please keep in mind that this guide may not be conclusive. Your mileage may vary.

Change the autofocus implementation

The line require("awful.autofocus") in your rc.lua implements various focus-related features for your awesome instance.

In order to customise these, you can copy the file /usr/share/awesome/lib/awful/autofocus.lua to e.g. ~/.config/awesome/autofocus_custom.lua and replace the line above with require("autofocus_custom").

Then you can customise the focus behavior. According to our above definitions it would look as follows:

local client = client
local screen = screen
local aclient = require("awful.client")
local atag = require("awful.tag")

--- When loaded, this module makes sure that there's always a client that will have focus
-- on events such as tag switching, client unmanaging, etc.
-- awful.autofocus

-- Give focus when clients appear/disappear and no one else has focus.
-- @param obj An object that should have a .screen property.
function check_focus(obj)
    -- When no visible client has the focus...
    if not client.focus or not client.focus:isvisible() then
        local c = aclient.focus.history.get(obj.screen, 0)
        if c then client.focus = c end

-- Give focus on tag selection change.
-- @param tag A tag object
function check_focus_tag(t)
    local s = atag.getscreen(t)
    if not s then return end
    check_focus({ screen = s })
    if client.focus and client.focus.screen ~= s then
        local c = aclient.focus.history.get(s, 0)
        if c then client.focus = c end

--made above functions global & removed some focus switches below (user interaction required instead)

--clear any focus
function clear_focus()
    --unfortunately this doesn't work at the moment
    --(Qubes uses an older awesome version that doesn't have the fix yet)
    --client.focus = nil

atag.attached_connect_signal(nil, "property::selected", check_focus_tag)
client.connect_signal("unmanage", clear_focus)
client.connect_signal("tagged", check_focus)
client.connect_signal("untagged", check_focus)
client.connect_signal("property::hidden", clear_focus)
client.connect_signal("property::minimized", clear_focus)
Remove unwanted focus changing key bindings

The mouse bindings

awful.button({ }, 4, awful.tag.viewnext),
awful.button({ }, 5, awful.tag.viewprev)

in the default rc.lua may cause tag and thus focus changes without keyboard interaction and tend to happen accidentally. This doesn’t suit our definition from above and should therefore be removed or commented out.

Adjust client rules

The default client rule allows certain focus changes via focus = awful.client.focus.filter. These changes can be prevented entirely by setting focus = false.

Alternatively users may provide their own focus filter functions.

Disable sloppy focus

In your rc.lua you’ll find a section such as

    -- Enable sloppy focus
    c:connect_signal("mouse::enter", function(c)
        if awful.layout.get(c.screen) ~= awful.layout.suit.magnifier
            and awful.client.focus.filter(c) then
            client.focus = c

These enable sloppy focus aka focus changes on mouse movements (without clicking) and should be removed or commented out to disable that behaviour.

Ignore requests from applications to the window manager

Handling of such requests is currently mostly implemented by awesome in the file /usr/share/awesome/lib/awful/ewmh.lua. You can either comment out the respective client.connect_singal() lines in that file (it will change back after each awesome update though) or disconnect the signals in your rc.lua.

As of awesome 3.5.9 this however is apparently only possible for signals connected to global functions, i.e. currently only the below signals can be disconnected in the rc.lua:

local ewmh = require("awful.ewmh")

client.disconnect_signal("request::activate", ewmh.activate)
client.disconnect_signal("request::tag", ewmh.tag)

The signal names may change across awesome versions.