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river is a dynamic tiling wayland compositor that takes inspiration from dwm and bspwm.

Note: river is currently early in development. Expect breaking changes and missing features. If you run into a bug don't hesitate to open an issue

Design goals

  • Simplicity and minimalism, river should not overstep the bounds of a window manager.
  • Window management based on a stack of views and tags.
  • Dynamic layouts generated by external, user-written executables. (A default rivertile layout generator is provided.)
  • Scriptable configuration and control through a custom wayland protocol and separate riverctl binary implementing it.


On cloning the repository, you must init and update the submodules as well with e.g.

git submodule update --init

To compile river first ensure that you have the following dependencies installed:

  • zig 0.7.1
  • wayland
  • wayland-protocols
  • wlroots 0.13.0
  • xkbcommon
  • libevdev
  • pixman
  • pkg-config
  • scdoc (optional, but required for man page generation)

Note: NixOS users may refer to the Building on NixOS wiki page

Then run, for example:

zig build -Drelease-safe --prefix /usr install

To enable experimental Xwayland support pass the -Dxwayland option as well.


River can either be run nested in an X11/wayland session or directly from a tty using KMS/DRM.

On startup river will look for and run an executable file at one of the following locations, checked in the order listed:

  • $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/river/init
  • $HOME/.config/river/init
  • /etc/river/init

Usually this executable init file will be a shell script invoking riverctl to create mappings and preform other configuration.

An example init script with sane defaults is provided here in the example directory and installed to /etc/river/init.

For complete documentation see the river(1), riverctl(1), and rivertile(1) man pages.


If you are interested in the development of river, please join us at #river on freenode. You should also read if you intend to submit patches.


river is released under the GNU General Public License version 3, or (at your option) any later version.

The protocols in the protocol directory are released under various licenses by various parties. You should refer to the copyright block of each protocol for the licensing information. The protocols prefixed with river and developed by this project are released under the ISC license (as stated in their copyright blocks).

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