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Man Pages

Manual Reference Pages  -  XSNOW (6)


xsnow - let it snow on your desktop and windows




xsnow [-option .,..]


Xsnow lets it snow on your desktop and windows (sic!).


-display display_name
  Drop the snowflakes on the given display. Make sure the display is nearby, so you can hear them enjoy...
-snowflakes num_snowflakes
  This is the number of snowflakes. Default is 100, max is 1000.
-sc snowflake_color
  Use the given string as the color for the flakes instead of the default "snow".
-bg background_color
  Use the given string as the color for the background. Note that the usual default desktop pattern consisting of 50% white 50% black doesn’t particularly look good with Xsnow.
-solidbg When using solid colored backgrounds specifying this option MAY greatly improve performance. (Not on SUN Solaris 2.5.1 for example!)
-tc tree_color
  Use the given string as the color for the trees.
-slc sleigh_color
  This option is obsolete in version 1.41. Used to be the color for the sleigh. Santa has decided not to have you interfere with the color of his means of transportation any more.
-santa santa_size
  There are 3 sizes of Santa: 0, 1 and 2. Default is 2. Thanks to Thomas Linder for the (big) Santa!
-santaspeed santa_speed
  The speed Santa should not exceed if he doesn’t want to get fined. The default speed for Santa size 0 is 1, for Santa 1 it’s 2 and for Big Santa it’s 4.
-santaupdatefactor factor
  This is to slow down Santa with respect to the snow. Default the value is 3, meaning that Santa is moved only every third time the snow flakes move. Specifying zero here is considered very naughty.
-delay delay
  This is the number of milliseconds delay after updating everything. Default is 50 milliseconds, i.e. 20 updates per second max.
  If you specify this option the snowflakes will ’whirl’ more dramatically, resulting in a somewhat jerkier movement.
-whirl This sets the whirl factor, i.e. the maximum adjustment of the horizontal speed. The default value is 4.
-nowind Default it gets windy now and then. If you prefer it quiet specify -nowind.
-windtimer period
  With -windtimer you can specify how often it gets windy. It’s sort of a period in seconds, default value is 30.
-xspeed -yspeed
  These options set the maximum horizontal and vertical speed. The default X maximum speed is 4, the default maximum Y speed is 8.
-wsnowdepth -ssnowdepth
  This sets the maximum thickness of the snow on top of windows and at the bottom of the display respectively. The default snowdepth for windows is 15, at the bottom of the screen the default is 50.
-offset With -offset you can specify that snow starts building up a number of pixels lower or higher. This is handy if you use twm and squeezed window titles.
  Do not display the trees.
-nosanta Do not display Santa Claus running all over the screen.
  No Rudolf.
  Do not have snow sticking anywhere.
  Do not keep snow on top of the windows.
  Do not keep snow at the bottom of the screen.
  Xsnow takes care to not let it snow on Pop-up windows, due to their nature. If however, you use an Xserver that has backing store on for all windows, then specify this option. Symptom would be that no snow is kept on any window, but only at the screen bottom.
-version Prints the current Xsnow version and does not start Xsnow. The current version (of this man page) is 1.42, December 14th 2001


xsnow Starts xsnow
xsnow& (Mind the empersand) Starts xsnow as a background process. Use this if you start xsnow from a script. To stop xsnow find the process id (pid) as follows: ps -ef|grep xsnow and use the kill command to stop xsnow.
xsnow -bg SkyBlue3 -sc snow
  Sets the background to a bluish color and lets it snow white.
xsnow -ssnowdepth 100
  Starts with a thin layer of snow that gradually builds up at the bottom of the screen.
xsnow -santa 2 -santaspeed 10
  Gives you the biggest Santa at a speed that is hardly legal.
xsnow -delay 100 -notrees
  For slow systems use longer delay and don’t draw the trees.
xsnow -snowflakes 1000 -delay 0
  Uses the maximum number of snowflakes and runs as fast as possible.
xsnow -bg SkyBlue3 -solidbg
  Sets the background to a bluish color and specify -solidbg for increased performance (depending on your system!).


See /usr/lib/X11/rgb.txt for the list of colors and their respective poetic names, like Chartreuse and SkyBlue3.


See xroach(1)


Rick Jansen (


Copyright 1984,1988,1990,1993-1995,2000-2001 by Rick Jansen (

Xsnow is available freely and you may give it to other people as is, but I retain all rights. Therefore it does not classify as ’Public Domain’ software. However, it *is* allowed to package Xsnow for Unix/Linux distributions, CD-Roms etc, and to make the necessary changes to makefiles etc. to facilitate this.


Xsnow borrows some code from xroach by J.T. Anderson (

Xsnow uses vroot.h for use with virtual window managers. vroot.h is copyright 1991 by Andreas Stolcke, copyright 1990 by Solbourne Computer Inc. (stolcke@ICSI.Berkeley.EDU)

The big Santa was made by Thomas Linder (

The idea and code for wind are from Eiichi TAZOE (,

Xsnow 1.42 works with KDE, thanks to Robin Hogan <>, who figured this out for xpenguins 2.2


System load
Xsnow itself doen’t use very much CPU time, but it can load the X server and/or network quite substantially. Use less snowflakes and a bigger delay in such a case. On a standalone workstation there usually will not be be any problem. Another improvement can be to specify a solid background color with -bg and with this also specify the option -solidbg. This may greatly improve performance! DO check this though, on some systems (SUN Solaris 2.5.1) performance is much WORSE.

KDE (etc)
Xsnow now works with KDE, and some other root window occupying desktop management systems. On KDE your icons will be snowed away magnificently, although that is not harmful for your icons really. Simply wipe with a small window where you thought your trash was, and see it appear. Now you need to scrape your computer screen too, not just your car’s.

SGI Irix 5.x
Silicon Graphics and Irix 5.x users may not see any snow or Santa at all, as long the desktop icons are visible. To circumvent this problem issue this command:

/usr/lib/desktop/telldesktop quit

The icons will disappear and Xsnow will work perfectly. To restart the desktop just start /usr/lib/desktop/startdesktop or select Desktop->Home Directory from the toolchest.

It’s even possible to have both - desktop icons and xsnow (and even multiple desks). You need to modify the window manager’s resource file 4DWm, the file ~/.desktop-‘hostname‘/4DWm. Example:

*Global.backgroundDescription: -execute /etc/killall -TERM xsnow ; /usr/local/bin/xsnow
*Desk 1.backgroundDescription: -execute /etc/killall -TERM xsnow ; /usr/local/bin/xsnow
*Desk 2.backgroundDescription: -execute /etc/killall -TERM xsnow ; /usr/local/bin/xsnow

Restart the window manager (4Dwm) from the toolchest and Xsnow should appear. What this does is stop the currently running Xsnow and start a new one when you switch to another desktop.

HP and hp-ux
HP also uses a Workspace Manager which may interfere with Xsnow. If Xsnow does not appear: In the "Style Manager", choose "Backdrop" and select "NoBackdrop". You should now be able to run Xsnow.

Snow does not stick?
On black-and-white X terminals snow may not stick to windows because backing store is on. Try specifying the option -nonopopup when starting Xsnow.

Snow hovering above windows?
If you use twm it is possible you see the snow layer hovering a little bit above your windows. In that case set BorderWidth 0 in your .twmrc file. If you use windows with ’squeezed title bars’ specify a -offset to get the snow on the windows itself.


snowplough(1), your_travel_agent(1)
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