XPenguins(1) General Commands Manual XPenguins(1)
xpenguins - cute little penguins that walk along the tops of your win‐
xpenguins [-option ...]
XPenguins is a program for animating cute cartoons/animals in your root
window. By default it will be penguins - they drop in from the top of
the screen, walk along the tops of your windows, up the side of your
windows, levitate, skateboard, and do other similarly exciting things.
Be careful when you move windows as the little guys squash easily.
XPenguins is now themeable, so it is easy to select something else to
animate instead of penguins, or even (with a little artistic talent)
define your own; see the THEMES section below.
In all the following cases a double dash can be replaced by a single
Do not show any cherubim flying up to heaven when a toon gets
Do not show any gory death sequences.
-c dir, --config-dir dir
Look for config files and themes in this directory. The default
is usually /usr/share/xpenguins.
-d display, --display display
Send the toons to the specified X display. In the absence of
this option, the display specified by the DISPLAY environment
variable is used.
Print out a message describing the available options.
Skip reading from ~/.xpenguinrc
Do not show menu
Do not use double buffering
Iconify menu at startup
Print out the auxiliary information about a theme and exit. Use
the -t option to select the theme to describe.
Start with a random theme.
List the available themes, one on each line, and exit.
-m delay, --delay delay
Set the delay between each frame in milliseconds. The default
is defined by the theme.
-n number, --penguins number
The number of toons to start, up to a maximum of 512. The de‐
fault is defined by the theme.
Toons fall through `popup' windows (those with the save-under
attribute set), such as tooltips. Note that this also includes
the KDE panel.
Toons regard all windows as rectangular. This option results in
faster calculation of window positions, but if you use one of
those fancy new window managers with shaped windows then your
toons might sometimes look like they're walking on thin air.
Enable the penguins to be squished using any of the mouse but‐
tons. Note that this disables any existing function of the
mouse buttons on the root window.
Lift penguins window number pixels, e.g. to keep above a panel.
-t theme, --theme theme
Use the named theme. The default is Penguins. If the theme has
spaces in its name then you can use underscores instead, or al‐
ternatively just put the name in double quotes. This option can
be called multiple times to run several themes simultaneously.
Suppress the exit message when an interrupt is received.
Print out the current version number and quit.
--all Load all available themes and run them simultaneously.
Send toons to the window with this ID, instead of the root win‐
dow or whichever window is appropriate for the current desktop
environment. Note that the ID of X clients reported by xwininfo
is rarely that of the foremost visible window that should be
--nice loadaverage1 loadaverage2
Start killing toons when the 1-min averaged system load exceeds
loadaverage1; when it exceeds loadaverage2 kill them all. The
toons will reappear when the load average comes down. The load
is checked every 5 seconds by looking in /proc/loadavg, so this
option only works under unices that implement this particular
pseudo file (probably just Linux). When there are no toons on
the screen, XPenguins uses only a minuscule amount of CPU time
- it just wakes up every 5 seconds to recheck the load.
The system themes are usually kept in /usr/share/xpenguins/themes, and
these can be augmented or overridden by the user's themes in
$HOME/.xpenguins/themes. Each theme has its own subdirectory which to
be valid must contain a file called config. The name of the theme is
taken from the directory name, although because many install scripts
choke on directory names containing spaces, all spaces in a theme name
are represented in the directory name by underscores. Any directory
name containing spaces is inaccessible by xpenguins.
In addition to the config file, the theme directory contains the toon
images that make up the theme in the form of xpm image files. Addi‐
tionally, there should be an about file which gives information on the
creator of the theme, the license under which it is distributed and
various other things. This file is principally for use by xpenguins_ap‐
plet, an applet for GNOME that allows different themes to be selected
at the click of a button.
The config file has a reasonably straightforward format. You can either
read this rather terse description of it or you can have a look at the
config file for the default Penguins theme, which is usually installed
at /usr/share/xpenguins/themes/Penguins/config, and is reasonably well
commented. We'll first establish some simple terminology. Say you have
a Farmyard theme with cows and sheep. The cows and sheep are types of
toon, while the various things they get up to (walking, mooing and so
on) are termed activities. Each activity has its own xpm image file,
in which the frames of the animation are laid out horizontally. Some
activities (notably walking) use different images depending on the di‐
rection the toon is moving in. In this case the frames for the two di‐
rections are laid out one above the other in the image.
As in shell scripts, comments are initiated with the # character and
hide the remainder of the line. The format is entirely free except that
there is an arbitrary limit on the length of a line of 512 characters.
Spaces, tabs and newlines all count equally as white space. Data is en‐
tered as a sequence of key value pairs, all separated by white space.
Neither the keys nor the values are case sensitive, except where the
value is a filename. The following keys are understood:
Set the recommended delay between frames in milliseconds.
Begin defining a new toon called toon. If only one type of
toon is present in the theme then this key may be omitted.
Set the default number of toons of the current type to start.
Begin defining an activity for the current toon. The currently
understood activities are walker, faller, tumbler, climber,
floater, runner, explosion, squashed, zapped, splatted, angel,
exit and action?, where ? is a number between 0 and 6. Once
you've seen the program in action you should be able to guess
which is which. A valid theme must contain at least walkers and
fallers. Additionally, you may define a default activity (with
define default); any properties (such as width and speed) set
here are then adopted by the activities defined from then on,
if they do not themselves explicitly define those properties.
After an activity has been declared with define, the following
properties may be assigned:
The file containing the image data for the activity. Note that
you may not set a default pixmap.
The width of each frame of the animation in pixels.
The height of each frame of the animation in pixels.
The number of frames in the animation.
The number of directions for the activity (can be 1 or 2).
The initial speed of the toon when engaged in this activity, in
pixels per frame.
The rate at which the speed increases, in pixels per frame
squared. This property is not utilised by all activities.
The maximum speed in pixels per frame, again not utilised by
Only understood by the actions; indicates how many times to re‐
peat the action. If negative, then the probility of stopping
the action every time the action is complete is -1/loop.
Some notes regarding the various activities. If you design a new theme,
feel free to make the splatted, squashed, zapped and exit animations as
gory and bloody as you like, but please keep the explosion activity
nice and tame; that way those of a nervous disposition can employ the
--no-blood option which replaces all these violent deaths with a taste‐
ful explosion that wouldn't offend your grandmother. Xpm images files
are a factor of two smaller if you can limit the number of colours in
the image such that only one character need be used to represent each
colour; this also makes XPenguins start up much more rapidly. Rarely
are more than 64 colours required.
So that's about it for the config file, now for the about file. This is
very simple. Again comments are initialised by a #. An entry consists
of a key at the start of a line, followed by the corresponding value
which is read up to the next newline. The following keys are under‐
stood, although none are compulsory.
artist Used to list the artist(s) who created the original images.
The person who compiled the images into an XPenguins theme. It
is useful if an email address can also be provided.
date The date when the theme was last modified. My preferred format
is day of the month, name of the month in english, full year.
For example: 24 April 2001.
icon The name of an image file that can be used as an icon for the
theme; XPM and PNG are suitable formats.
license The name of the license under which the theme is distributed
The year and holder of the copyright.
comment Any other essential information, such as the theme's web site,
as brief as possible.
Please test any about files you create by looking at how the
information is displayed by the xpenguins_applet program.
Robin Hogan <R.J.Hogan@reading.ac.uk>.
Inspiration provided by Rick Jansen <firstname.lastname@example.org> in the form of the
classic xsnow. Most penguin images were taken from Pingus, a free lem‐
mings clone that can be found at <http://pingus.seul.org/>; these im‐
ages were designed by Joel Fauche <email@example.com> and Craig
Timpany <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Additional images in version 2 by Rob Gi‐
etema <email@example.com> and Robin Hogan.
XPenguins can load an X server and/or network (although the CPU time
used is small), and if a large number of penguins are spawned then they
may begin to flicker, depending on the speed of the X server.
The xpenguins homepage is located at:
version < 3.0: http://xpenguins.seul.org/
version >= 3.0: https://www.ratrabbit.nl/ratrabbit/software/xpenguins
If there are icons drawn on the root window then the toons will erase
them when they walk over them, although an expose event will be sent to
the window every second to redraw them.
Since version 3.0, xpenguins uses, if possible, a transparent, click-
through window to draw it's toons. The --squish flag does not function
in this mode.
The behaviour of the menu is not well defined when the same theme name
is used more than once.
User defined themes: $HOME/.xpenguins/themes/*
System themes: /usr/local/share/xpenguins/themes/*
Remember used flags: $HOME/.xpenguinsrc
xsnow(6), xroach(1), xwininfo(1), pingus(6)
XPenguins 3.2.0 February 2021 XPenguins(1)