rxvt - VT102 emulator for the X window system


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


rxvt - version 2.20 - is a color 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.

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'.


-display displayname

-geometry geom


-bg color

-fg color

-cr color -fn fontname

-fb fontname

-fk fontname

-km mode

-grk mode

-name name






-sl number

-e command [arguments] -title text

-n text

-C Capture system console messages.

RESOURCES (available also as long-options)

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. 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 colors 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

background: color

foreground: color

colorn: color

colorBD: color

colorUL: color cursorColor: color

cursorColor2: color

reverseVideo: boolean

scrollColor: color

backgroundPixmap: file[;geom]

path: path

font: fontname

fontn: fontname

boldFont: fontname

kfont: fontname

kfontn: fontname

kanji_encoding: mode

greek_keyboard: mode

title: text

iconName: text

mapAlert: boolean

visualBell: boolean

loginShell: boolean

utmpInhibit: boolean

print-pipe: string

scrollBar: boolean

smallfont_key: keysym

bigfont_key: keysym

saveLines: number

meta8: boolean

cutchars: string

keysym.sym: string


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.




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 file (usually /etc/utmp), 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.


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

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

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

rxvt -fg Black -bg White -rv


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.



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


Selecting/pasting very large chunks of text is a problem. But as is the case for xterm, it is a bug of the pseudo terminal driver of those systems.

rxvt-2.14 has the utmp support cleaned-up and supports utmpx (i.e. Solaris 2.x) but there are still some problems. Please inform the maintainer of the correct solutions to utmp problems since he doesn't have root access of his own to test utmp.

Cursor change support is not yet implemented.

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

Graphics support is fairly crude.

For some fonts there are problems with pixel-droppings being left behind when simulated bold (overstrike) precedes a space character. Fixing rxvt to handle these cases requires a lot of energy. So the easiest course by far is to specify a boldFont, specify colorBD or, if it was compiled without NO_BRIGHTCOLOR, to select a foreground color that matches the pixel values of color 0-7 so that overstrike bold won't be used.

Like xterm, rxvt handles mono-space fonts only.


John Bovey, University of Kent, 1992.

Very very very heavily modified by Rob Nation

Greek keyboard input: Angelo Haritsis

Utmpx addition (Solaris 2.x) and extensive reworking of pseudo-tty handling and addition of BSD sgtty terminal handling support by Raul Garcia Garcia 16/10/95.

mj olesen olesen@me.QueensU.CA (changes.txt 2.11 to 2.20)


olesen@me.QueensU.CA, but thesis first!/will someone else volunteer?


mj olesen
Thu Jan 23 13:43:44 1997