Scratchpad Everything

If you’ve read my recent post on using a scratchpad in XMonad, and if you’ve actually implemented this in your own setup, you probably know how useful it is. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, you basically setup a simple keybinding that calls up a terminal (usually floated, but managed by its own specific manageHook) to be used briefly before being banished away by the same keybinding.

Recently, I found that you can apply this functionality to any application you’d like.


I have my music playing through MPD all the time. Occasionally, I’ll like to play some other media, a youtube video or what have you. When I do this, I call up ossxmix, adjust down MPD, and adjust up my browser (per application volumes are awesome by the way).

I realized that this was a perfect scratchpad scenario. I was calling up this application for just a second, using it, then sending it away. This simple activity was requiring that I M-p, type ossxmix, hit enter, layout-shuffle, adjust volumes, then M-S-c every single time. What was I thinking?


My last writeup used the contrib module XMonad.Util.Scratchpad which, though it has a shorter name, simply provided wrapper functions for the things I’m now using from XMonad.Util.NamedScratchpad.

In the parent extension, things are much more transparent and free. For me, this lead to a much cleaner config file too. I wish I had been using things this way from the start.

So of course, we’ll need to add import XMonad.Util.NamedScratchpad to the top of our config file.

Please refer back to my previous post for information regarding some boilerplate code. This writeup assumes you have a main-do block that calls out myManageHook and myKeys to be defined as separate functions. I also won’t be going into hiding the NSP


The Named Scratchpad extension exposes a new data type that can be used to represent a scratchpad. The following four things must be specified to fully describe a scratchpad:

Those last two data types might sound scary, but they aren’t. If you think of the fact that most users define custom window management in a list of (Query Bool --> ManageHook) and one representation of this might be (className =? "Firefox" --> doFloat) that should give you an idea of the sorts of functions that you should use to fill those last two slots for your scratchpads.

The haddocks for this module talk about everything that’s available, but here’s a commented version of my declaration:

myScratchPads = [ NS "mixer"    spawnMixer findMixer manageMixer -- one scratchpad
                , NS "terminal" spawnTerm  findTerm  manageTerm  -- and a second


    spawnMixer  = "ossxmix"                               -- launch my mixer
    findMixer   = className =? "Ossxmix"                  -- its window has a ClassName of "Ossxmix"
    manageMixer = customFloating $ W.RationalRect l t w h -- and I'd like it fixed using the geometry below:


        h = 0.6       -- height, 60% 
        w = 0.6       -- width, 60% 
        t = (1 - h)/2 -- centered top/bottom
        l = (1 - w)/2 -- centered left/right

    spawnTerm  = myTerminal ++ " -name scratchpad"       -- launch my terminal
    findTerm   = resource  =? "scratchpad"               -- its window will be named "scratchpad" (see above)
    manageTerm = customFloating $ W.RationalRect l t w h -- and I'd like it fixed using the geometry below


        -- reusing these variables is ok since they're confined to their own 
        -- where clauses 
        h = 0.1       -- height, 10% 
        w = 1         -- width, 100%
        t = 1 - h     -- bottom edge
        l = (1 - w)/2 -- centered left/right

So you can see I have a list containing two scratchpads. The datatype syntax requires the “NS” plus the four things I’ve listed above.

You’ll notice I liberally use sub-functions via where clauses. You can think of these as simple variables and if parenthesized and placed directly where they’re called out, they would work exactly the same. I think this is clearer and it should be fairly obvious how it works.

The beauty of all this is that it’s almost all that’s needed. Each scratchpad has a name which can be bound to a key; even better, the whole scratchpad list will be managed with one simple addition to your manageHook.

I inserted the following keybindings:

myKeys = [ ...
         , ...

         , ("M4-t"   , scratchTerm )
         , ("M4-S-m" , scratchMixer)

         , ...


           -- this simply means "find the scratchpad in myScratchPads that is 
           -- named terminal and launch it"
           scratchTerm  = namedScratchpadAction myScratchPads "terminal"
           scratchMixer = namedScratchpadAction myScratchPads "mixer"

I’m using EZConfig notation in my keybindings.

And tacked the following onto the end of my managehook:

myManageHook = ([ -- whatever it might be...
                , ...
                , ...

                -- this manages the entire list of scratchpads 
                -- based on the query and hook listed for each
                ]) <+> namedScratchpadManageHook myScratchPads

That’s it, a scratch terminal and a scratch mixer; but most importantly, simple and transparent tools for adding any arbitrary application (graphical or in-term) as a scratchpad application.

One final note about testing: As you’re tweaking your queries and hooks, be sure to call up the application, close it, then Mod-Q and test your changes. If you’ve got a scratchpad still open from before your last config change, it will still be using the old ManageHook.

14 Jun 2010, tagged with haskell, xmonad