xterm's ziconbeep feature

July 26, 2006

One of the cornerstones of my X setup is an xterm feature that a lot of people probably haven't heard of: -ziconbeep. The manpage explanation is too long and obscure to quote, so I'll summarize: if an iconified (aka minimized) xterm with -ziconbeep gets output, it puts '*** ' at the front of its title (technically only the icon name) and optionally beeps. (When you de-minimize the xterm, the title addition goes away.)

This probably sounds like a dinky little feature, but it is marvelously convenient for having scads of mostly inactive things sitting around. When one of them wakes up, you know about it right away; better yet, if you use some sort of taskbar equivalent that sorts windows by their alphabetical names, you can zoom right in the activity because the windows with unseen output are right at the front.

(In my X setup I put the start of my taskbar equivalent at the top left corner of the screen. To pop open whatever just woke up I just have to slam my mouse to the top left corner and click, which is damn fast and convenient (at least as long as I'm in the first virtual screen). If several things woke up, I just have to click several times.)

The one thing the xterm manpage doesn't really explain about -ziconbeep is how to suppress the bell. From the right viewpoint it's obvious: use a negative value like '-100' for the volume percentage.

I don't know if 'modern' terminal programs like gnome-terminal and kconsole have similar features. If not, they should get them. (I put modern in quotes because I tend to have strong and not always positive feelings about attempts at supplanting xterm.)

Written on 26 July 2006.
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Last modified: Wed Jul 26 02:14:10 2006
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