I have a certain work environment with dozens of open Windows. How can I bring to the front a window with a known name/title programatically or using the command line?

3 Answers 3


I used to use wmctrl -a <name>, which works fine, but recently switched to xdotool, e.g.:

xdotool search --name <name-or-regex-for-name> windowraise

It has many other features too.

To install:

sudo apt-get install xdotool

  • 6
    xdotool windowraise brings the window to the front but does not give focus to the window or switch to the desktop with the window. instead, windowactivate will do all three.
    – jozxyqk
    May 29, 2015 at 9:18

Well, after sudo apt-get install wmctrl-ing, you can play with this bash script:

#! /bin/bash

WINTITLE="Mail/News" # Main Thunderbird window has this in titlebar
PROGNAME="mozilla-thunderbird" # This is the name of the binary for t-bird

# Use wmctrl to list all windows, count how many contain WINTITLE,
# and test if that count is non-zero:

if [ `wmctrl -l | grep -c "$WINTITLE"` != 0 ]
wmctrl -a "$WINTITLE" # If it exists, bring t-bird window to front
$PROGNAME & # Otherwise, just launch t-bird
exit 0

Which I found here

  • 4
    No need for the brackets and backticks: if ! wmctrl -l | grep -q "$WINTITLE" Sep 2, 2010 at 2:09
  • wmctrl has a -i option, which supports working with the window with its hex identifier. And so you can do this wmctrl -lp|grep 'whatever incomplete name'|cut -d' ' -f1|xargs wmctrl -ai - which would do something similar Oct 11, 2014 at 16:36

When using xdotool, it seems difficult to bring to front all windows for a given application or class using only one command. I end up having better results by wrapping it in a for loop at the shell level. Using Bash:

for WINDOW in $(xdotool search --desktop 0 Firefox); do
   xdotool windowactivate ${WINDOW}

Few remarks:

  • By default, xdotool search will search the pattern (here Firefox) in window name, class, and classname. If you want to restrict your search space, use the relevant --class, --name or --classname options.
  • The --desktop 0 option limits the search to the first desktop. This seems to be a workaround to avoid the XGetWindowProperty[_NET_WM_DESKTOP] failed (code=1) mentioned in some comments.
  • At the time of this writing, the xdotool project is stalled since 2015. It still remains my tool of choice. For personal reasons, Jordan Sissel (the original author) is not as active as he was in the past, so don't hesitate to contribute to the project.

This is a copy of an answer I've posted on AskUbuntu, but I think it is Linux-flavor independent, so it may be useful here too.

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