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1. General information

1.1 What is X, and what is a window manager?

"X" is common shorthand for The X Window System. It is the basis for building some graphical user interfaces (GUIs). These are most often found on UNIX-type systems, although there are implementations for other platforms. Notice that X is not the interface itself. For more information, please see The X Window System.

A window manager (briefly) is a program which controls the way various windows interact during an X session. AfterStep is one such window manager.

1.2 What is AfterStep?

AfterStep is a Window Manager for X which started by emulating the NEXTSTEP look and feel, but which has been significantly altered according to the requests of various users. Many adepts will tell you that NEXTSTEP is not only the most visually pleasant interface, but also one of the most functional and intuitive out there. AfterStep aims to incorporate the advantages of the NEXTSTEP interface, and add additional useful features.

The developers of AfterStep have also worked very hard to ensure stability and a small program footprint. Without giving up too many features, AfterStep still works nicely in environments where memory is at a premium.

1.3 What is its history?

What follows is drawn from the AfterStep man page:

AfterStep originated as a continuation of the BowMan window manager, originally developed by Bo Yang. BowMan was based on fvwm, which was written by Robert Nation. In turn, fvwm was based on twm. And so on. Open Source / Free (please pick your preferred term, without prejudice) software works exactly because of these sorts of traditions. Yay!

The changes which led to AfterStep were originally part of BowMan development. As the desire for simple emulation was superseded by a desire to improve, the designers decided to change the name, and the AfterStep project was born.

Many of the earlier developers of AfterStep subsequently decided to move to the Window Maker (originally WindowMaker) project, under the leadership of Alfredo Kojima ( Window Maker (which, as of this writing, may yet receive another name change: gswm for "GNUstep Window Manager") is committed to emulating closely the NEXTSTEP(tm) look and feel.

As a result of all that, Guylhem Aznar ( took over development of AfterStep. Though he had help from several able developers (check the "TEAM" file for a list of the wonderful programmers responsible for AfterStep), and obviously built on the previous efforts of other excellent programmers, new and current users of AfterStep owe a special debt to Mr Aznar. Without his work, AfterStep would never have approached its current stability, flexibility, or functionality.

1.4 What are AfterStep's main features?

  1. NEXTSTEP-similar title bar, title buttons, borders and corners.
  2. The AfterStep Wharf, which is a much worked-out version of GoodStuff. To avoid copyright complications it is not called a `dock'.
  3. NEXTSTEP style menus. The menus are not, however, controlled by applications; they are more like pop-up service lists on the root window.
  4. NEXTSTEP style icons. The default icons are consistent with those in the NEXTSTEP interface, but they are configurable.
  5. Pixmapped Pager with desktop pixmapping.
  6. Easy-to-use look files, which allow you to share you desktop appearance with your friends.
  7. Start menu entries in a hierarchy of directories.
  8. WinList, a tasklist which can be horizontal or vertical.
  9. Many modules & as-apps to make your X window station look great.

The flexibility of fvwm has not been traded off. Initiation files recognize most of the fvwm 1.24r commands. Virtual screens and the pager are still intact. Modules for fvwm-1.x should work just fine.

1.5 Is it compatible with fvwm-2?

Compatibility with fvwm-2 & Enlightenment modules is planned for an upcoming version, but support is not yet available. Some Enlightenment-based items will work well with AfterStep, however. In particular, support for Eterm is now available.

1.6 Is it available for Microsoft Windows-based machines?

Not really, unless the Windows machine has an X server installed. If you want to take that approach, look at Running AfterStep under Win32!. But there is an AfterStep-alike program called LiteSTEP, which gives Windows machines an AfterStep-ish appearance. As of this writing, LiteSTEP development versions are available at, while some screen shots are available at Keep in mind, however, that these programs are not versions of AfterStep. Please do not send questions about LiteSTEP to the AfterStep mail list.

If you want to make AfterStep work under any version of Windows, you are welcome to try following the instructions at the Web sites listed above, and every last bit of associated documentation. Please do not contact Andrew Sullivan for help, however, as he cannot help you: he does not use AfterStep with Windows.

1.7 Where can I get this FAQ?

The latest version is always available at That is the official home page of the AfterStep FAQ, and offers links to several mirror sites as well.

The latest version is also usually available from The AfterStep FTP site has found a new home courtesy of Red Hat; please see the section on the FTP site for details. One can also always find the latest version of the FAQ through the AfterStep web site. What's more, there are sites whose sysadmins have been generous in offering mirrors of the FAQ. Here are the mirrors:, hosted by David Mihm., hosted by David Vondrasek., hosted by Nathan Widmyer., hosted by Peter Booth.

Ce document est aussi disponible en français, à

Please note that the version numbering system of the FAQ has changed. The FAQ version number used to follow roughly the same protocol as the version numbering of AfterStep. This led to confusion, because the number of the FAQ and the number of AfterStep tended to get out of synch. The FAQ version number is now the date of its release, according to the ISO data format: {Arabic numeral of year}-{Arabic numeral of month number}-{Arabic numeral of day of month}. For example, a FAQ released on 31 October 1998 would be called "as-faq.1998-10-31", with the appropriate extension for the file format.

1.8 Who contributes to this FAQ?

The initial version of the FAQ was written by Frank Fejes ( and Jonathan B. Leffert ( Major additions were made by Kragen Sittler ( Diego Zamboni ( maintained the file until Guylhem Aznar ( took over with the release of AS 1.4. The file is now maintained by Andrew Sullivan (, with contributions from Tomas Duewiger ( Naturally, the FAQ is prepared in co-operation with the program developers; but any errors or omissions are now Andrew Sullivan's responsibility, so you should contact him to complain. Most of the questions and answers have been provided by the people participating in the AfterStep mailing lists. If you have a suggestion about this file or, better yet, an answer to an unanswered question in this file, please send an e-mail to Mr Sullivan, or to the main AfterStep list; see the next question for more information on the list.

1.9 What is the AfterStep-related mailing list?

This question used to read, "What are the AfterStep-related mailing lists?" Due to some changes in hosting, things have changed:


This list is no longer functioning.


The purpose of this list is to provide a forum in which users of the AfterStep X11 window manager can discuss issues related to to using AfterStep. Appropriate topics include, but are not limited to, the installation and configuration of AfterStep and related modules and applications. Developers should also subscribe to, and work through, this list, as no other list is active as of this writing.


This list contains the same messages as the AfterStep mailing list. The messages are saved up (not transmitted individually) and sent out as a bundle. This decreases the number of separate messages received from the list, but makes it more difficult to reply to a specific message.


This list is no longer functioning.


This list is no longer functioning.

For information on subscribing to any of these lists, or more information, please see A re-instated searchable archive of the list is planned by Ed Orcutt; Mr Orcutt is also the owner of the AfterStep lists. His employer, Caldera, has been generous in donating server and web space for the mailing lists.

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