I need a solution for getting the current active (focused) window information on a Gnome 2 desktop. I'm mostly interested in the process running that window and window title.

Is it possible?


Getting window title:

xwininfo -root -children | grep $(printf '%x\n' $(xdotool getwindowfocus)) | grep -oEi '"[^"]+"' | head -1

Getting process name:

ps -e | grep $(xdotool getwindowpid $(xdotool getwindowfocus)) | grep -v grep | awk '{print $4}'


cat /proc/$(xdotool getwindowpid $(xdotool getwindowfocus))/comm

5 Answers 5


It is as simple as this:

xdotool getactivewindow getwindowname

Good luck hope it works for you!


You can use xdotool, a versatile X window automation tool.

focused_window_id=$(xdotool getwindowfocus)
active_window_id=$(xdotool getactivewindow)
active_window_pid=$(xdotool getwindowpid "$active_window_id")

(I don't know what the difference between focused and active is.)

(I thought wmctrl could do this, but apparently not.)


Simpler (IMO) than OP's solution (i.e. without ps, grep and awk), to get the process name :

cat /proc/$(xdotool getwindowpid $(xdotool getwindowfocus))/comm

Or if you want an end of line :

echo $(cat /proc/$(xdotool getwindowpid $(xdotool getwindowfocus))/comm)
  • Yes, cat /proc/ is nice (and arguably faster, since it doesn't involve grepping the whole ps output). I added it to solution in question body, so future users will be able to find it.
    – Rogach
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 3:34

I know the question is old, but I feel xprop also should be mentioned here. It's readily available under X. It can be either used in an interactive way:

  1. type xprop and select the window you want using mouse cursor, then
  2. WM_NAME gives you the title of the window, _NET_WM_PID gives the pid

Or you can directly tell xprop which window you need by passing -id or -name option. Using awk you can get the active window id and pass it back to xprop like that (taken from here):

xprop -id $(xprop -root -f _NET_ACTIVE_WINDOW 0x " \$0\\n" _NET_ACTIVE_WINDOW | awk "{print \$2}")

Finally, using Your Favourite Tool™ (e.g. grep or sed) you can grep-out the needed values. For example for pid the output of the above command can be piped to sed: sed -nE 's/^_NET_WM_PID.*= ([0-9]+)/\1/p'


Try the xwininfo command, http://www.xfree86.org/4.2.0/xwininfo.1.html, it definitely returns the window title and as far as process goes, well ...

X has assigned it an ID and become the parent PID of the window and would also conceal it by default, so, assuming that Gnome has NET_WM_PID supported, as this patch from 2001 indicates it has, http://mail.gnome.org/archives/gtk-devel-list/2001-October/msg00238.html, then we can review this post, http://www.mail-archive.com/[email protected]/msg05809.html , where the author writes a short C program to convert Window ID into PID, voila.

  • But it seems that xwininfo requires me to manually select the needed window. I hoped for a way to get the focused window from bash.
    – Rogach
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 19:30
  • Something as in, `xwininfo -root -children | grep -oEi 'Window id: (?[0-9a-zA-Z]+) | grep -oEi '(?0-9a-zA-Z)' -- edit: my finger slipped, my regex for window id was bad. check this other site for varying reference: davygoat.com/software/rizzle/How_it_works.html
    – rhoyerboat
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 20:19
  • This command only gives the "root" window id, and not the active one :(
    – Rogach
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 3:39
  • As of 2022, xwininfo -root -tree will work
    – ATorras
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 23:45

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