Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about w3m

Akinori Ito <>
Corrected by Tom Berger <>


General Questions, How to Get It, Required Environment

How do I pronounce w3m?

It's W-three-M. It doesn't rhyme with pteranodon.

Why is it called w3m?

It's an abbreviation of WWW-wo-Miru, which is Japanese for See the WWW. So in English the name of this browser would be something like stw3.

On which platforms does w3m work?

It runs on various versions of Unix, since version 990226 on OS/2 and since version 990303 also on MS-Windows with Cygwin32.

More recent versions have been confirmed to run on:

Where can I get more information about w3m?

At the English w3m home page.

Is there a mailing list for w3m?

There is a mailing list for developers (w3m-dev-en). Please see the w3m home page for details. You may also mail your comments to the author.

Are there any binary distributions?

So far there are only binaries for the win/cygnus32 version. Contact the author if you want to contribute binaries for other platforms.

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Compile and Install

No problem :-)

Options, Commands, Usage

w3m quits if started without parameters. What's wrong?

w3m is a pager. Therefore it just quits when invoked without any arguments. It keeps running

w3m starts with black characters on a black background. How do I change this?

When compiled with color support, w3m assumes a white background and therefore displays black characters.

You may either change the background color of your terminal (e.g. with the -bg option in a xterm) or take these steps

  1. invoke monochrome mode of w3m with w3m -M
  2. type o to get to the options setting panel
  3. mark Display with color as YES and choose an arbitrary color
  4. click on [OK].
Does w3m support colors?

Yes. When you run ./configure, answer the question

  Let's do some configurations. Choose config option among the list.

  1 - Baby model    (no color, no menu, no mouse, no cookie, no SSL)
  2 - Little model  (color, menu, no mouse, no cookie, no SSL)
  3 - Mouse model   (color, menu, mouse, no cookie, no SSL)
  4 - Cookie model  (color, menu, mouse, cookie, no SSL)
  5 - Monster model (with everything; you need openSSL library)
  6 - Customize

with 2, 3, 4, or 5.

Does w3m support monochrome displays?

Yes. You may either

How do I shift the display?

You can shift the display by moving the cursor to the edge of the screen. You may also use the following commands

Another idea would be adjusting the xterm with the -geometry option e.g. something like

  xterm -geometry 110x45 -bg white -name w3m -e w3m -B
How do I move between hyperlinks?

You can move to the next hyperlink using TAB. ESC TAB moves the cursor to the previous hyperlink. (see Section Functions and Key bindings of w3m's manual)

Graphical browsers display a word red, but w3m doesn't. Why?

w3m doesn't support the attribute COLOR="..." of HTML. It wouldn't be impossible to implement this, but I think it would make documents more difficult to read.

How do I change the colors for hyperlinks, images and form fields?

Type o within w3m to get the options panel. You can change these settings there.

w3m doesn't seem to use the variable EDITOR. Why?

Go to the options setting panel using the o key. Any entry in the Editor field overrides the environment variable.

If you want to use the editor specified by EDITOR, blank the field and save the settings using the button [OK].

How do I quit a search or URL text input?

Clear input text using CTRL-u and hit RETURN.

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Questions about WWW usage

How do I fill in forms with w3m?

Form input fields are displayed in red (or reverse). Move the cursor to them. Then, if it is

Seems like w3m is slower than some other browsers. Why?

w3m renders a HTML document in two passes. Therefore it doesn't start to display the document until it has finished reading it.

Most other browsers display the document before having read the whole page, and therefore seem faster.

Loading time doesn't decrease when loading a previously seen page.

w3m doesn't have its own cache. Therefore, it reads the document from the server each time it accesses it. If possible, use a cache server.

How do I download a linked file?

Use a (or d with Lynx-like keybindings) or ESC RET. If you want to download an inline image, use ESC I. (see Section Functions and Key bindings of w3m's manual)

How do I specify a proxy server?

Set the environment variables HTTP_PROXY, HTTPS_PROXY, GOPHER_PROXY and FTP_PROXY, or use the options setting panel (o key). For example, if you want to use port 8000 of, specify
How do I change the default image viewer?

By default w3m uses xv to view images. If you want to change it into, let's say, display, add the following line to ~/.w3m/mailcap or /etc/mailcap:

  image/*; display %s

You can specify external viewers of other file types as well:

  image/*;                     display %s
  application/postscript;      ghostview %s
  application/x-dvi;           xdvi %s
How do I enter a URL?

Type U

w3m appends a URL to the former one even when I clear the line with CTRL-u. What should I do?

Enter the complete address, e.g.

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What is w3m's configuration file?

It is ~/.w3m/config.

With this file, each user can adjust w3m's behavior by changing the values of options whose effects are described in the options setting panel. Each line contains one option setting, consisting of an option name and its value with a space as a separator.

Without a user-specific configuration file, w3m honours the system wide configuration file /etc/w3m/config.

What are these w3mxxxx files in my ~/.w3m directory for?

These are temporary files used by w3m when reading documents from a WWW server. They are not cache files and are usually deleted when w3m is terminated. If any temp files are left behind, please remove them yourself.

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