What is devilspie?

devilspie is a non-gui utility that lets you make applications start in specified workplaces, in specified sizes and placements, minimized or maximized and much more based on simple config files. The homepage can be found here

The gui

A simple fully capable gui has been written, gdevilspie, by a different author. If you install it you will likely not need this page as it is pretty self-explanatory.

How can I get it?

Install the devilspie package from the Universe repository.

How do I set it up?

  • devilspie is configured with s-expressions stored in files ending with ".ds".
  • Syntax is not difficult and is much more effective than it was in versions previous to 0.13, which used .xml files.
  • For details, see:
    • README, which should be placed in the directory where you unpacked the source (see above)
    • Forum thread with list of logical operations and many examples

    • Another forum thread which is mainly about the 0.10 version but begins with great HowTo which also includes some very useful stuff about later versions.

    • Great non-Ubuntu wiki page which can be a great reference.

How do I use it?

  • You can start Devil's pie with
    in gnome-terminal.
  • It will read all the s-expressions stored in these two directories:
    • $HOME/.devilspie/ which should be /home/<YourUserName>/.devilspie/ on Ubuntu

    • $SYSCONFDIR/devilspie/ which should be /etc/devilspie/ on Ubuntu
    • The former will apply just when you start devilspie, the latter will apply to all users.
  • You can use several options:
    • -d or --debug for debuging purposes, when run in terminal, it will print some useful information.

      • Note: this is the same as running Devil's Pie with an s-expression like this: (debug)

    • -a or --apply-to-existing should apply devilspie also to existing windows. However, it seems that it applies regardless this option.

    • devilspie <file.ds> or devilspie <file1.ds> <file2.ds> etc will explicitly specify which config files should be used.

  • After setting it up, you will probably want to run it on start up, so that every window you open will open the way you want it to. For further info as to how to do that, read AddingProgramToSessionStartup

  • If you were to experience freezes down after adding devilspie to your startup programs with a low number (such as 30 or 50), try to higher it up so that devilspie starts as the last application. You may want to start it with -a option that applies the rules to already existing windows then. However, it may not be necessary.


Background for this setup: A dual-screen workspace where the smaller (laptop) screen is used solely for "communications" (IRC and IM windows). The goal is to get three windows (xchat, Pidgin buddy list and Pidgin chat window) into pre-set locations wasting as little screen estate as possible.

| Pidgin |                        |
| Buddy  |        Pidgin          |
| List   |     Conversation       |
|        |                        |
|        +------------------------+
|        |                        |
|        |        Xchat           |
|        |                        |
|        |                        |


Buddy list and conversation window are undecorated (no titles or borders), moved and resized. Buddy list is also removed from task list (so it won't show up in Window list). Note: Even with 'undecorate' the conversation window seems to have a some border, this is the reason for some additional pixels there...

(if (is (application_name) "Pidgin")
                (if (is (window_role) "buddy_list")
                                (geometry "199x767+0+0")
                (if (is (window_role) "conversation")
                                (geometry "822x400+201+0")


Xchat is undecorated (no titles or borders), moved and resized. Xchat main window does not have a window_role defined, but fortunately the other windows (like Preferences or Network List) do, so the empty match seems to work.

(and (is (application_name) "xchat")
     (is (window_role) "")
                (geometry "823x363+200+404")

How can I see what applications are currently running?

xlsclients -l

Window 0x4e00001:
  Machine:  sally
  Name:  Pidgin
  Icon Name:  pidgin
  Command:  pidgin
  Instance/Class:  pidgin/Pidgin

From the above, to match on pidgin requires (is (application_name) "Pidgin") and not (is (application_name) "pidgin")

How can I find the geometry of currently running applications?


xwininfo: Please select the window about which you
          would like information by clicking the
          mouse in that window.

xwininfo: Window id: 0x5a0000a "xeyes"

  Absolute upper-left X:  1017
  Absolute upper-left Y:  347
  Relative upper-left X:  1
  Relative upper-left Y:  27
  Width: 172
  Height: 119
  Depth: 24
  Visual: 0x21
  Visual Class: TrueColor
  Border width: 0
  Class: InputOutput
  Colormap: 0x20 (installed)
  Bit Gravity State: NorthWestGravity
  Window Gravity State: NorthWestGravity
  Backing Store State: NotUseful
  Save Under State: no
  Map State: IsViewable
  Override Redirect State: no
  Corners:  +1017+347  -491+347  -491-584  +1017-584
  -geometry 172x119+1016+320

Autodesk Maya Users:

Maya users may need to use Devilspie to control Maya's Window functionality:

touch $HOME/.devilspie/Maya.ds
vim $HOME/.devilspie/Maya.ds

And add this line to the file:

(if (is (window_name) "Maya") (below))

Now Maya is under all it's children.

How can I improve this wiki page?

Simply add any useful stuff! Especially the section about setting up should be improved so that it more then just linking somewhere else, also some examples would be greatly appreciated. Also feel free to correct anything wrong.

CategorySoftware CategoryGraphics

Devilspie (last edited 2014-11-06 17:25:00 by 209)