Skip to content


Repository files navigation


River is a dynamic tiling Wayland compositor with flexible runtime configuration.

Install from your package manager — Join us at #river on — Read our man pages, wiki, and Code of Conduct

The main repository is on codeberg, which is where the issue tracker may be found and where contributions are accepted.

Read-only mirrors exist on sourcehut and github.

Note: river has not yet seen a stable 1.0 release and it will be necessary to make significant breaking changes before 1.0 to realize my longer term plans. That said, I do my best to avoid gratuitous breaking changes and bugs/crashes should be rare. If you find a bug don't hesitate to open an issue.


Currently river's window management style is quite similar to dwm, xmonad, and other classic dynamic tiling X11 window managers. Windows are automatically arranged in a tiled layout and shifted around as windows are opened/closed.

Rather than having the tiled layout logic built into the compositor process, river uses a custom Wayland protocol and separate "layout generator" process. A basic layout generator, rivertile, is provided but users are encouraged to use community-developed layout generators or write their own. Examples in C and Python may be found here.

Tags are used to organize windows rather than workspaces. A window may be assigned to one or more tags. Likewise, one or more tags may be displayed on a monitor at a time.

River is configured at runtime using the riverctl tool. It can define keybindings, set the active layout generator, configure input devices, and more. On startup, river runs a user-defined init script which usually runs riverctl commands to set up the user's configuration.


Note: If you are packaging river for distribution, see

To compile river first ensure that you have the following dependencies installed. The "development" versions are required if applicable to your distribution.

  • zig 0.13
  • wayland
  • wayland-protocols
  • wlroots 0.17.2
  • xkbcommon
  • libevdev
  • pixman
  • pkg-config
  • scdoc (optional, but required for man page generation)

Then run, for example:

zig build -Doptimize=ReleaseSafe --prefix ~/.local install

To enable 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. Simply run the river command.

On startup river will run an executable file at $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/river/init if such an executable exists. If $XDG_CONFIG_HOME is not set, ~/.config/river/init will be used instead.

Usually this executable is a shell script invoking riverctl(1) to create mappings, start programs such as a layout generator or status bar, and perform other configuration.

An example init script with sane defaults is provided here in the example directory.

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

Future Plans

Currently details such as how tags work across multiple monitors are not possible for users to configure. It would be possible to extend river's source code to allow more flexibility here but this comes at the cost of complexity and there will always be someone who prefers something slightly different.

My long term plan to address this is to move as much window management policy as possible out of the river compositor process and into the "layout generator" process which will need to be renamed to "window manager." This will give users much more power and control over river's behavior and also enable some really cool workflows. For example, it would be possible to write a window manager in lisp and use hot code reloading to edit its behavior it while it is running.

This is a non-trivial architectural change and will take a while to implement. I plan to focus on this change for the 0.4.0 release cycle. Unfortunately, it will almost certainly break existing river configurations as well. I think the benefits outweigh that downside though and I will do my best to offer a reasonable upgrade path.


If my work on river adds value to your life and you'd like to support me financially you can find donation information here.


River is released under the GNU General Public License v3.0 only.

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).

The river logo is licensed under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, see the license in the logo directory.