I ran two similar experiments. First one works, second one doesn't. What am I doing wrong? Setup for both experiments: I have two terminal windows (urxvt) side by side (i3 wm, ubuntu 18.04.4 LTS)

Experiment 1:

Type in left window:

$ wmctrl -r :ACTIVE: -T test                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

This changes left window title to 'test'.
Type in right window:

$ wmctrl -a test                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

This activates (changes focus) back to left window.

Experiment 2:

I want to do same thing, but using window id rather than window title. So...
Type in left window:

$ echo $WINDOWID                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Type in right window:

$ wmctrl -i -a 31457300                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Nothing happens.

OK that's just an experiment. Here is what I really want to do:

I have several bash scripts, each of which runs until I kill it or reboot, each in its own window, on an alternate desktop I rarely look at. On rare occasion when script requires my attention, I want it to figure out what window it is running in and raise that window to the fore. "Figure out what window it is running in" I think is trivial - it's $WINDOWID. Using wmctrl to raise a window of known window ID should also be trivial, but I can't get it to work, as you see in experiment 2.

Alternate statement of problem:

I'd also be happy raising window by title rather than ID. Using wmctrl to raise a window by title is easy (wmctrl -a <title-or-fragment-thereof>). But I don't know how my bash script can discover the title of its window. There's no environment variable for that.

There is one solution I know about, and that works for me, but I don't like it. I know how to set the window title from bash, so hey I don't need to "discover" it, right? I could just set it instead (wmctrl -r :ACTIVE: -T SomeUniqueWindowTitle). Why don't I like this? Because I lose the original window title.

Here's another solution I don't like: each of the several bash scripts sets its window title already, and so the shared procedure could require a second argument - the window title. I could do that, but ... just wondering if there's a better, simpler way.

Thanks in advance!

  • Appears I have a typo. Command I use to raise window by title is "wmctrl -a xxx" where "xxx" is window title or fragment thereof.
    – Ken
    Apr 17 '20 at 15:51
  • If you made a typo, you can edit the post to correct it. Also, please use code formatting to format commands and output (askubuntu.com/editing-help#code)
    – muru
    Apr 17 '20 at 15:57
  • Are you sure the $WINDOWID variable is reliable? what does wmctrl -l say? Apr 17 '20 at 16:18
  • @steeldriver - Great question! wmctrl -l gives a different window ID. When I repeat experiment 2 using window ID from wmctrl -l ... SUCCESS! But there's a problem. wmctrl -l lists ALL windows ... how can a bash script (and my "shared procedure" is just another bash script) know which one is the one it is running in?
    – Ken
    Apr 17 '20 at 19:27
  • wmctrl -l gives same output regardless of from which window it is run. No way to know which one is 'me'.
    – Ken
    Apr 17 '20 at 20:31

I figured out how to do it. I apologize for my code, because (a) it's a mix of perl and bash, and (b) I'm no guru and I'm sure there's a better, simpler, more elegant way to do this. Anyway, this works for me. Your mileage may vary.

Bash command to raise to the fore the window in which it is running:

wmctrl -i -a $( my-window-id.pl )

my-window-id.pl should be executable and in your shell's search path. Or, if that's too much trouble, you could say instead:

wmctrl -i -a $( perl /path/to/my-window-id.pl )

and here is the source code for my-window-id.pl:

use warnings;
use strict;

# Print window ID of the window in which this script is running
# and exit with exit status 0.
# If it is not running in a window, print a message to stderr and
# exit with exit status 1.

# Determine my window ID based on "pstree -ps $$" and "wmctrl -lp".
# The pstree gives process ID of me and all my ancestors.
# One of those ancestors is my window (the window in which I am running).
# The wmctrl command gives a table of info on each active window,
# including each window's window ID and process ID.
# So if there exists a process ID that appears in output of both
# commands, then bingo that's my window's process ID, and the wmctrl
# table allows me to map that to a window ID.

my %pid_to_winid = ();
foreach my $raw_window_line ( split /\n/, `wmctrl -lp` ) {
    my ( $winid, undef, $pid ) = split /\s+/, $raw_window_line;
    $pid_to_winid{$pid} = $winid;

my $raw_pstree_out = `pstree -ps $$`;
my @pstree_pids    = $raw_pstree_out =~ m{ \( ( \d+ ) \) }gx;
foreach my $pid ( @pstree_pids ) {
    my $winid = $pid_to_winid{$pid};
    if ( $winid ) {
        print "$winid\n";
        exit 0;

print STDERR "No window ID found for this process.\n";
exit 1;

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