Development Version

This is the latest (unstable) version of this documentation, which may document features not available in or compatible with released stable versions of polybar.

See the stable version of this documentation page instead.


Polybar supports controlling parts of the bar and its modules from the outside through inter-process-messaging (IPC).

IPC is disabled by default and can be enabled by setting enable-ipc = true in the bar section.

By default polybar ships with the polybar-msg tool that is needed to send messages to polybar.


Starting with version 3.6.0, the underlying IPC mechanism has been completely changed.

Writing directly to the named pipe to send IPC messages has been deprecated, polybar-msg should be used exclusively Everything you could do by directly writing to the named pipe, you can also do using polybar-msg. In addition, hook messages are also deprecated; they are replaced by actions on the ipc module.

Unless noted otherwise, everything in this guide is still valid for older versions.

Sending Messages

polybar-msg can be called on the commandline like this:

polybar-msg [-p <pid>] <type> <payload>

If the -p argument is specified, the message is only sent to the running polybar instance with the given process ID. Otherwise, the message is sent to all running polybar processes that have IPC enabled.


IPC messages are only sent to polybar instances running under the same user as polybar-msg is running as.

Concretely, polybar and polybar-msg use the $XDG_RUNTIME_DIR environment variable in accordance with the XDG Base Directory Specification to determine where to find the socket to communicate.

If polybar and polybar-msg don't have the same value for $XDG_RUNTIME_DIR, they will likely not be able to communicate. The variable may not be set if you use su or sudo to execute polybar-msg as a different user, often a full user session is required.

The <type> argument is either action or cmd. The allowed values for <payload> depend on the type.

Message Types


Using cmd for <type>, you can control certain aspects of the bar.

Available values for <payload> are:

  • quit: Terminates the bar

  • restart: Restarts the bar in-place

  • hide: Hides the bar

  • show: Makes the bar visible again, if it was hidden

  • toggle: Toggles between the hidden and visible state.

Module Actions

For the <type> action, polybar-msg can execute module actions in the bar.

An action consists of the name of the target module, the name of the action and an optional data string:


More information about action strings and available actions can be found in Actions

For example, if you have a date module named date, you can toggle between the regular and alternative label with:

polybar-msg action "#date.toggle"

As an example for an action with data, say you have a menu module named powermenu, you can open the menu level 0 using:

polybar-msg action ""


For convenience, polybar-msg also allows you to pass the module name, action name, and data as separate arguments:

polybar-msg action date toggle
polybar-msg action powermenu open 0

New in version 3.6.0.