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herbstclient [OPTIONS] COMMAND [ARGS …]

herbstclient [OPTIONS] [--wait|--idle] [FILTER …]


Sends a COMMAND with its (optional) arguments ARGS to a running herbstluftwm(1) instance via Xlib. If COMMAND has an output, it is printed by herbstclient. If output does not end with a newline, then a newline is added to improve readability.

See herbstluftwm(1) for a list of available COMMANDs and their ARGS.

If --wait or --idle is passed, then it waits for hooks from herbstluftwm. The hook is printed, if it matches the optional FILTER. FILTERs are regular expressions. For a list of available hooks see herbstluftwm(1).


-n, --no-newline

Do not print a newline if output does not end with a newline.

-0, --print0

Use the null character as delimiter between the output of hooks.

-l, --last-arg

When using -i or -w, only print the last argument of the hook.

-i, --idle

Wait for hooks instead of executing commands.

-w, --wait

Same as --idle but exit after first --count hooks.

-c, --count COUNT

Let --wait exit after COUNT hooks were received and printed. The default COUNT is 1.

-q, --quiet

Do not print error messages if herbstclient cannot connect to the running herbstluftwm instance.

-v, --version

Print the herbstclient version. To get the herbstluftwm version, use herbstclient version.

-h, --help

Print the herbstclient usage with its command line options.


Run multiple commands via a binary interface. The protocol is described in the BINARY PIPE section below.


When --binary-pipe is passed, a binary communication channel to herbstluftwm is established such that multiple commands can be run through a single herbstclient instance. Both stdin and stdout are in binary mode, whereas the stderr channel remains text mode. The interface consists of null-byte terminated UTF-8 text tokens. The following token sequences are supported on stdin, where 0 denotes a null-byte:

  • ARG 0 T 0 pushes the text token T to the next command to be run.

  • RUN 0 runs the command (i.e. sends it to herbstluftwm).

  • After writing RUN and the nullbyte to herbstclient’s stdin, do not forget to flush!

On stdout, null-byte separated key-value pairs are printed, that is, the output will always be a sequence of the format KEY 0 VALUE 0. The protocol may be extended in the future, but will always stick to the key-value-format.

  • STDOUT 0 TEXT 0 means that the stdout of the recently executed command is TEXT

  • STDERR 0 TEXT 0 means that the stderr of the recently executed command is TEXT

  • STATUS 0 N 0 means that the exit status of the recently executed command is the integer N

Whenever herbstluftwm quits or when the EOF of stdin is reached, then the binary pipe also closes and herbstclient exits.


printf 'ARG\0echo\0ARG\0hello world\0RUN\0ARG\0get_attr\0ARG\0tags.count\0RUN\0' \
    | herbstclient --binary-pipe \
    | hexdump -C



Specifies the DISPLAY to use, i.e. where herbstluftwm(1) is running.


Returns the exit status of the COMMAND execution in herbstluftwm(1) server.




Failure. See herbstluftwm(1) for a list of error codes.


See the herbstluftwm Github issues:


Feel free to join the IRC channel #herbstluftwm on


herbstclient was written by Thorsten Wißmann. All contributors are listed in the herbstluftwm distribution AUTHORS file.


Patch submission and bug reporting:


Copyright 2011-2020 Thorsten Wißmann. All rights reserved.

This software is licensed under the "Simplified BSD License". See LICENSE for details.