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Manual Reference Pages  -  RXVT (1)


rxvt (ouR XVT) - a VT102 emulator for the X window system



rxvt [options] [-e command [ args ]]


rxvt, version 2.6.4, is a colour vt102 terminal emulator intended as an xterm(1) replacement for users who do not require features such as Tektronix 4014 emulation and toolkit-style configurability. As a result, rxvt uses much less swap space -- a significant advantage on a machine serving many X sessions.


The rxvt options (mostly a subset of xterm's) are listed below. In keeping with the smaller-is-better philosophy, options may be eliminated or default values chosen at compile-time, so options and defaults listed may not accurately reflect the version installed on your system. ‘rxvt -h' gives a list of major compile-time options on the usage line. Option descriptions may be prefixed with which compile option each is dependent upon. e.g. ‘Compile XIM:' requires XIM on the usage line. Note: ‘rxvt -help' gives a list of all options compiled into your version.

Note that rxvt permits the resource name to be used as a long-option (--/++ option) so the potential command-line options are far greater than those listed. For example: ‘rxvt --loginShell --color1 Orange'.

-help, --help Print out a message describing available options.
-display displayname Attempt to open a window on the named X display (-d still respected). In the absence of this option, the display specified by the DISPLAY environment variable is used.
-geometry geom Window geometry (-g still respected); resource geometry.
-rv|+rv Turn on/off simulated reverse video; resource reverseVideo.
-ip|+ip Turn on/off inheriting parent window's pixmap. Alternative form is -tr; resource inheritPixmap.
-bg colour Window background colour; resource background.
-fg colour Window foreground colour; resource foreground.
-pixmap: file[;geom] Compile XPM: Specify XPM file for the background and also optionally specify its scaling with a geometry string. Note you may need to add quotes to avoid special shell interpretation of the ‘;' in the command-line; resource backgroundPixmap.
-cr colour The cursor colour; resource cursorColor.
-pr colour The mouse pointer colour; resource pointerColor.
-bd colour The colour of the border between the xterm scrollbar and the text; resource borderColor.
-fn fontname Main normal text font; resource font.
-fb fontname Main bold text font; resource boldFont.
-fm fontname Main multicharacter font; resource mfont.
-km mode Multiple-character font-set encoding mode; eucj: EUC Japanese encoding. sjis: Shift JIS encoding; resource multichar_encoding.
-grk mode Greek keyboard translation; iso: ISO-8859 mapping. ibm: IBM-437 mapping; resource greek_keyboard.
-name name Specify the application name under which resources are to be obtained, rather than the default executable file name. Name should not contain ‘.' or ‘*' characters. Also sets the icon and title name.
-ls|+ls Start as a login-shell/sub-shell; resource loginShell.
-ut|+ut Compile utmp: Inhibit/enable writing a utmp entry; resource utmpInhibit.
-vb|+vb Turn on/off visual bell on receipt of a bell character; resource visualBell.
-sb|+sb Turn on/off scrollbar; resource scrollBar.
-si|+si Turn on/off scroll-to-bottom on TTY output inhibit; resource scrollTtyOutput has opposite effect.
-sk|+sk Turn on/off scroll-to-bottom on keypress; resource scrollTtyKeypress.
-sr|+sr Put scrollbar on right/left; resource scrollBar_right.
-st|+st Display normal (non XTerm/NeXT) scrollbar without/with a trough; resource scrollBar_floating.
-iconic Start iconified, if the window manager supports that option. Alternative form is -ic.
-sl number Save number lines in the scrollback buffer; resource saveLines.
-tn termname This option specifies the name of the terminal type to be set in the TERM environment variable. This terminal type must exist in the termcap(5) database and should have li# and co# entries; resource termName.
-e command [arguments] Run the command with its command-line arguments in the rxvt window; also sets the window title and icon name to be the basename of the program being executed if neither -title (-T) nor -n are given on the command line. If this option is used, it must be the last on the command-line. If there is no -e option then the default is to run the program specified by the SHELL environment variable or, failing that, sh(1).
-title text Window title (-T still respected); the default title is the basename of the program specified after the -e option, if any, otherwise the application name; resource title.
-n text Icon name; the default name is the basename of the program specified after the -e option, if any, otherwise the application name; resource iconName.
-C Capture system console messages.
-pt style Compile XIM: input style for input method; OverTheSpot, OffTheSpot, Root; resource preeditType.
-im text Compile XIM: input method name. resource inputMethod.
-mod modifier Override detection of Meta modifier with specified key: alt, meta, hyper, super, mod1, mod2, mod3, mod4, mod5; resource modifier.
-xrm resourcestring No effect on rxvt. Simply passes through an argument to be made available in the instance's argument list. Appears in WM_COMMAND in some window managers.

RESOURCES (available also as long-options)

Note: ‘rxvt --help' gives a list of all resources (long options) compiled into your version. If compiled with internal Xresources support (i.e. rxvt -h lists .Xdefaults) then rxvt accepts application defaults set in XAPPLOADDIR/Rxvt (compile-time defined: usually /usr/lib/X11/app-defaults/Rxvt) and resources set in ~/.Xdefaults, or ~/.Xresources if ~/.Xdefaults does not exist. Note that when reading X resources, rxvt recognizes two class names: XTerm and Rxvt. The class name XTerm allows resources common to both rxvt and xterm to be easily configured, while the class name Rxvt allows resources unique to rxvt, notably colours and key-handling, to be shared between different rxvt configurations. If no resources are specified, suitable defaults will be used. Command-line arguments can be used to override resource settings. The following resources are allowed:

geometry: geom Create the window with the specified X window geometry [default 80x24]; option -geometry.
background: colour Use the specified colour as the window's background colour [default White]; option -bg.
foreground: colour Use the specified colour as the window's foreground colour [default Black]; option -fg.
colorn: colour Use the specified colour for the colour value n, where 0-7 corresponds to low-intensity (normal) colours and 8-15 corresponds to high-intensity (bold = bright foreground, blink = bright background) colours. The canonical names are as follows: 0=black, 1=red, 2=green, 3=yellow, 4=blue, 5=magenta, 6=cyan, 7=white, but the actual colour names used are listed in the COLORS AND GRAPHICS section.
colorBD: colour Use the specified colour to display bold characters when the foreground colour is the default.
colorUL: colour Use the specified colour to display underlined characters when the foreground colour is the default.
cursorColor: colour Use the specified colour for the cursor. The default is to use the foreground colour; option -cr.
cursorColor2: colour Use the specified colour for the colour of the cursor text. For this to take effect, cursorColor must also be specified. The default is to use the background colour.
reverseVideo: boolean True: simulate reverse video by foreground and background colours; option -rv, False: regular screen colours [default]; option +rv. See note in COLORS AND GRAPHICS section.
inheritPixmap: boolean True: make the background inherit the parent windows' pixmap, giving artificial transparency. False: do not inherit the parent windows' pixmap.
scrollColor: colour Use the specified colour for the scrollbar [default #B2B2B2].
troughColor: colour Use the specified colour for the scrollbar's trough area [default #969696]. Only relevant for normal (non XTerm/NeXT) scrollbar.
backgroundPixmap: file[;geom] Use the specified XPM file (note the ‘.xpm' extension is optional) for the background and also optionally specify its scaling with a geometry string WxH+X+Y, in which "W" / "H" specify the horizontal/vertical scale (percent) and "X" / "Y" locate the image centre (percent). A scale of 0 displays the image with tiling. A scale of 1 displays the image without any scaling. A scale of 2 to 9 specifies an integer number of images in that direction. No image will be magnified beyond 10 times its original size. The maximum permitted scale is 1000. [default 0x0+50+50]
menu: file[;tag] Read in the specified menu file (note the ‘.menu' extension is optional) and also optionally specify a starting tag to find. See the reference documentation for details on the syntax for the menuBar.
path: path Specify the colon-delimited search path for finding files (XPM and menus), in addition to the paths specified by the RXVTPATH and PATH environment variables.
font: fontname Select the main text font used [default 7x14]; option -fn.
fontn: fontname Specify the alternative font n. The default font values:

.in 0        
3trans].nr 3crow 0  
font: 7x14
3trans].nr 3brule 1  
3trans].nr 3crow 1     
font1: 6x10 
3trans].nr 3brule 1
3trans].nr 3brule 1
3trans].nr 3crow 3  
font3: 8x13
3trans].nr 3brule 1
font4: 9x15 
3trans].nr 3brule 1 
boldFont: fontname Specify the name of the bold font to use if colorBD has not been specified and it is not possible to map the default foreground colour to colour 8-15 [default NONE]. This font must be the same height and width as the normal font; option -fb.
mfont: fontname Select the main multiple-character text font used [default k14]; option -fk.
mfontn: fontname Specify the alternative multiple-character font n. If compiled for multiple-character fonts, the Roman and multiple-character font sizes should match.
multichar_encoding: mode Set the encoding mode to be used when multicharacter encoding is received; eucj: EUC Japanese encoding [default for Kanji]. sjis: Shift JIS encoding. big5: BIG5 encoding. gb: GB encoding; option -km.
greek_keyboard: mode Set the Greek keyboard translation mode to be used; iso: ISO-8859 mapping (elot-928) [default]. ibm: IBM-437 mapping (DOS codepage 737); option -grk. Use Mode_switch to toggle keyboard input. For more details, see the distributed file README.greek.
selectstyle: text Set mouse selection style to old which is 2.20, oldword which is xterm style with 2.20 old word selection, or anything else which gives xterm style selection.
title: text Set window title string, the default title is the command-line specified after the -e option, if any, otherwise the application name; option -title.
iconName: text Set the name used to label the window's icon or displayed in an icon manager window, it also sets the window's title unless it is explicitly set; option -n.
mapAlert: boolean True: de-iconify (map) on receipt of a bell character. False: no de-iconify (map) on receipt of a bell character [default].
visualBell: boolean True: use visual bell on receipt of a bell character; option -vb. False: no visual bell [default]; option +vb.
loginShell: boolean True: start as a login shell by prepending a ‘-' to argv[0] of the shell; option -ls. False: start as a normal sub-shell [default]; option +ls.
utmpInhibit: boolean True: inhibit writing record into the system log file utmp; option -ut. False: write record into the system log file utmp [default]; option +ut.
print-pipe: string Specify a command pipe for vt100 printer [default lpr(1)]. Use Print to initiate a screen dump to the printer and Ctrl-Print or Shift-Print to include the scrollback as well.
scrollBar: boolean True: enable the scrollbar [default]; option -sb. False: disable the scrollbar; option +sb.
scrollBar_right: boolean True: place the scrollbar on the right of the window; option -sr. False: place the scrollbar on the left of the window; option +sr.
scrollBar_floating: boolean True: display an rxvt scrollbar without a trough; option -st. False: display an rxvt scrollbar with a trough; option +st.
scrollTtyOutput: boolean True: scroll to bottom when tty receives output; option(+si). False: do not scroll to bottom when tty receives output; option(-si).
scrollTtyKeypress: boolean True: scroll to bottom when a non-special key is pressed. Special keys are those which are intercepted by rxvt for special handling and are not passed onto the shell; option(-sk). False: do not scroll to bottom when a non-special key is pressed; option(+sk).
smallfont_key: keysym If enabled, use Alt-keysym to toggle to a smaller font [default Alt-<]
bigfont_key: keysym If enabled, use Alt-keysym to toggle to a bigger font [default Alt->]
saveLines: number Save number lines in the scrollback buffer [default 64]; option -sl.
termName: termname Specifies the terminal type name to be set in the TERM environment variable; option -tn.
meta8: boolean True: handle Meta (Alt) + keypress to set the 8th bit. False: handle Meta (Alt) + keypress as an escape prefix [default].
backspacekey: string The string to send when the backspace key is pressed. If set to DEC or unset it will send Delete (code 127) or, if shifted, Backspace (code 8) - which can be reversed with the appropriate DEC private mode escape sequence.
deletekey: string The string to send when the delete key (not the keypad delete key) is pressed. If unset it will send the sequence traditionally associated with the Execute key.
cutchars: string The characters used as delimiters for double-click word selection. The built-in default:
BACKSLASH ‘"'&()*,;<=>?@[]{|}
preeditType: style OverTheSpot, OffTheSpot, Root; option -pt.
inputMethod: name name of inputMethod to use; option -im.
modifier: modifier Set the key to be interpreted as the Meta key to: alt, meta, hyper, super, mod1, mod2, mod3, mod4, mod5; option -mod.
keysym.sym: string Associate string with keysym sym (0xFF00 - 0xFFFF). It may contain escape values (\a: bell, \b: backspace, \e, \E: escape, \n: newline, \r: return, \t: tab, \000: octal number) or control characters (^?: delete, ^@: null, ^A ...) and may enclosed with double quotes so that it can start or end with whitespace. The intervening resource name keysym. cannot be omitted. This resource is only available when compiled with KEYSYM_RESOURCE.


Lines of text that scroll off the top of the rxvt window (resource: saveLines) and can be scrolled back using the scrollbar or by keystrokes. The normal rxvt scrollbar has arrows and its behaviour is fairly intuitive. The xterm-scrollbar is without arrows and its behaviour mimics that of xterm

Scroll down with Button1 (xterm-scrollbar) or Shift-Next. Scroll up with Button3 (xterm-scrollbar) or Shift-Prior. Continuous scroll with Button2.


To temporarily override mouse reporting, for either the scrollbar or the normal text selection/insertion, hold either the Shift or the Meta (Alt) key while performing the desired mouse action.

If mouse reporting mode is active, the normal scrollbar actions are disabled -- on the assumption that we are using a fullscreen application. Instead, pressing Button1 and Button3 sends ESC[6~ (Next) and ESC[5~ (Prior), respectively. Similarly, clicking on the up and down arrows sends ESC[A (Up) and ESC[B (Down), respectively.


The behaviour of text selection and insertion mechanism is similar to xterm(1).

Selection: Left click at the beginning of the region, drag to the end of the region and release; Right click to extend the marked region; Left double-click to select a word; Left triple-click to select the entire line.
Insertion: Pressing and releasing the Middle mouse button (or Shift-Insert) in an rxvt window causes the current text selection to be inserted as if it had been typed on the keyboard.


You can change fonts on-the-fly, which is to say cycle through the default font and others of various sizes, by using Shift-KP_Add and Shift-KP_Subtract. Or, alternatively (if enabled) with Alt-> and Alt-<, where the actual key can be selected using resources smallfont_key/bigfont_key.


rxvt tries to write an entry into the utmp(5) file so that it can be seen via the who(1) command, and can accept messages. To allow this feature, rxvt must be installed setuid root on some systems.


If graphics support was enabled at compile-time, rxvt can be queried with ANSI escape sequences and can address individual pixels instead of text characters. Note the graphics support is still considered beta code.

In addition to the default foreground and background colours, rxvt can display up to 16 colours (8 ANSI colours plus high-intensity bold/blink versions of the same). Here is a list of the colours with their rgb.txt names.

.in 0        
3trans].nr 3crow 0  
color0 (black) = Black
3trans].nr 3brule 1  
3trans].nr 3crow 1     
color1 (red) = Red3 
3trans].nr 3brule 1
3trans].nr 3brule 1
3trans].nr 3crow 3  
color3 (yellow) = Yellow3
3trans].nr 3brule 1
color4 (blue) = Blue3 
3trans].nr 3brule 1 

It is also possible to specify the colour values of foreground, background, cursorColor, cursorColor2, colorBD, colorUL as a number 0-15, as a convenient shorthand to reference the colour name of color0-color15.

Note that -rv ("reverseVideo: True") simulates reverse video by always swapping the foreground/background colours. This is in contrast to xterm(1) where the colours are only swapped if they have not otherwise been specified. For example,

rxvt -fg Black -bg White -rv would yield White on Black, while on xterm(1) it would yield Black on White.


rxvt sets the environment variables TERM, COLORTERM and COLORFGBG. The environment variable WINDOWID is set to the X window id number of the rxvt window and it also uses and sets the environment variable DISPLAY to specify which display terminal to use. rxvt uses the environment variables RXVTPATH and PATH to find XPM files.


/etc/utmp System file for login records.
/usr/lib/X11/rgb.txt Color names.


xterm(1), sh(1), resize(1), X(1), pty(4), tty(4), utmp(5)

See rxvtRef.html rxvtRef.txt for detailed information on recognized escape sequences and menuBar syntax, etc.


Check the BUGS file for an up-to-date list.

Cursor change support is not yet implemented.

Click-and-drag doesn't work with X11 mouse report overriding.

Graphics support is fairly crude.


rxvt-2.6.4.tar.gz can be found at the following ftp sites


Project Coordinator Geoff Wing <>
Web page maintainter Oezguer Kesim <>
Mailing list The Rxvt Workers <> mailing list has also been established for rxvt development, to subscribe, email to <>. There is also a mailing list for announcements of new releases of rxvt. To subscribe, email to <>.


John Bovey University of Kent, 1992, wrote the original Xvt.
Rob Nation <> very heavily modified Xvt and came up with Rxvt
Angelo Haritsis <> wrote the Greek Keyboard Input
mj olesen <olesen@me.QueensU.CA> Wrote the menu system.
Project Coordinator (changes.txt 2.11 to 2.21)
Oezguer Kesim <> Project Coordinator (changes.txt 2.21a to 2.4.5)
Geoff Wing <> Rewrote screen display and text selection routines.
Project Coordinator (changes.txt 2.4.6 - )

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X Version 11 1 (RXVT) 02 NOVEMBER 2001

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