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xterm windows typically don't have an icon. I would like to know what my options are. My immediate need is specifying an icon at xterm launch (cmdline argument or Xresource-style), not dynamically changing the icon after the window has been created.

I will post what I've found as an answer, but I hope there will be others with more information than me.

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I've read that it is possible to associate only .xbm images with an xterm. The way that I've found to change the icon for all xterms is:

  1. Edit ~/.Xresources and add a line like:
    xterm*iconPixmap: /usr/share/doc/tk8.5/examples/images/pattern.xbm

  2. Run the command xrdb -merge ~/.Xresources (this step implies that the path for .Xresources is not set in stone :)

An interesting post-launch alternative is xseticon, which can open .png files and set the icon of an existing window.

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In addition to what tzet has said:

One nice thing I often used is the active icon (option +ai) but gnome's metacity doesn't seem to honor the request.

xterm then displays a dot for every character on the "screen" - not readable at all one thinks, but if you code banner READY at the end of a long running task, this READY is readable in the icon.

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