• 20090105 update: I'm running Debian on my main desktop machine now. Here's what I did this time. I was running Ubuntu, and the notes I wrote for that still exist below.
  • 20100315 update: Probably none of these instructions are necessary anymore, since a recent version of xmobar is in the Debian repositories. Just sudo aptitude install xmobar should be sufficient.

How to install xmobar on Debian.

I already had zlib1g-dev and libxft-dev installed. zlib1g-dev would be pulled in by libghc6-zlib-dev anyway. Also already used aptitude to install xmonad, so that might have pulled in some dependencies necessary for the following steps.

Debian instructions


  1. sudo aptitude install libghc6-stm-dev # dependency of xmobar


Since Debian sid doesn't have the Haskell X11-xft package, I want to install it with cabal-install, which Debian also does not have.

  1. darcs get --partial http://darcs.haskell.org/cabal-branches/cabal-1.6/ # (Per http://www.haskell.org/cabal/code.html.) Due to cabal-install's dependence on Cabal >=1.6 && <1.7, but Debian sid has Cabal- at the moment, which is part of ghc6.
  2. cd cabal-1.6
  3. ghc --make Setup && ./Setup configure --user && ./Setup build && ./Setup install
  4. cd ..

HTTP and zlib

HTTP and zlib are dependencies of cabal-install.

  1. sudo aptitude install libghc6-http-dev libghc6-zlib-dev # pulls in libghc6-network-dev and libghc6-parsec-dev

Debian squeeze currently doesn't have the required version of libghc6-http-dev, so following http://projects.haskell.org/http/ (or what used to be there):

  1. git clone git://code.galois.com/HTTPbis.git
  2. runhaskell Setup configure --user && runhaskell Setup build && runhaskell Setup install


  1. darcs get --partial http://darcs.haskell.org/cabal-install/
  2. cd cabal-install
  3. runhaskell Setup configure --user && runhaskell Setup build && runhaskell Setup install
  4. cd ..

cabal binary is now installed as ~/.cabal/bin/cabal. I've added ~/.cabal/bin to my PATH.


  1. cabal update
  2. cabal install X11-xft


  1. darcs get --partial http://code.haskell.org/xmobar/
  2. cd xmobar
  3. runhaskell Setup configure --user --flags="with_xft" && runhaskell Setup build && runhaskell Setup install

Now the xmobar binary is installed as ~/.cabal/bin/xmobar.

At first, Setup configure could not find X11-xft, even though ghc-pkg list showed X11-xft as being installed in my home directory. This was because I forgot the "--user" option to Setup configure.


  • PROTIP: After doing any runhaskell Setup configure --user && runhaskell Setup build && runhaskell Setup install, that package is registered under ~/.ghc and visible to ghc-pkg. If you rm -rf ~/.cabal without ghc-pkg unregistering the package, then subsequent builds will fail.
  • runhaskell is equivalent to runghc. I suppose runhaskell is more generic, so that compilers other than ghc can be run.
  • Haskell Package Version Tracker - Debian versus Hackage
  • I had to add lowerOnStart = True to my xmobarrc to get it to work this time. Otherwise it's the same as shown at the bottom of this page.

Old Ubuntu instructions

(December 2008) I use xmonad on Ubuntu. I use the xmobar status bar with it. Ubuntu doesn't have a package for xmobar, nor for many of its dependencies. So to build xmobar I had to build and install a bunch of dependencies. Also, in order to make installing Haskell packages easier, I installed cabal-install, which had its own dependencies.

Dependencies with Ubuntu packages

First some dependencies can be installed using aptitude. These are libxft-dev (for xft support in xmobar), and zlib1g-dev for building cabal-install.

Building cabal-install dependencies

Building parsec, stm, network, http, and zlib should now work with the command runhaskell Setup configure --user && runhaskell Setup build && runhaskell Setup install for each. Or you could use the bootstrap.sh included with cabal-install.

I think those are all of the dependencies.

Building cabal-install

Now cabal-install should install into your home directory with the standard Haskell configure, build, and install commands:

runhaskell Setup configure --user && runhaskell Setup build && runhaskell Setup install

Installing X11-xft

With cabal installed, a simple cabal install X11-xft should work.

Building xmobar

Finally, I was able to build xmobar. I'm using the version pulled directly from the darcs repository.


Here is my ~/.xmonad/xmobar.config:

Config { font = "-*-fixed-medium-r-normal-*-13-*-*-*-*-*-*-*"
       , bgColor = "black"
       , fgColor = "grey"
       , position = TopW L 90
       , commands = [ Run Weather "KNKX" ["-t","<station>: <tempC>C","-L","18","-H","25","--normal","green","--high","red","--low","lightblue"] 36000
                    , Run Network "eth0" ["-L","0","-H","32","--normal","green","--high","red"] 10
                    , Run Cpu ["-L","3","-H","50","--normal","green","--high","red"] 10
                    , Run Memory ["-t","Mem: <usedratio>%"] 10
                    , Run Swap [] 10
                    , Run Com "uname" ["-s","-r"] "" 36000
                    , Run Date "%a %b %_d %Y %H:%M:%S" "date" 10
                    , Run StdinReader
       , sepChar = "%"
       , alignSep = "}{"
       , template = "%StdinReader% }{ %cpu% | %memory% * %swap% | %eth0% <fc=#ee9a00>%date%</fc>| %KNKX% | %uname%"

External links