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How to gracefully kill (close) programs and processes via command line

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Some programs allow you to close them gracefully, asking you if you want to save your data, or log off before the programs is closed. This can also disable crash recovery dialogs, like in Firefox. This can be true of graphically programs as well as console programs. The term for closing programs is Linux/Unix is kill

Graphical programsEdit

Using a program called wmctrl, you can close programs the way they are meant to be shutdown. wmctrl has many other uses besides this, but for this howto, the close functions is all we care about.


  • -c <WIN>
    • Close the window <WIN> gracefully.
  • <WIN> is a string, piece of text, in the tile bar. It is NOT case sensitive.
    • Example:
      • For window title: theory of evolution - Writer
      • <WIN> could be: openoffice


  • You want to close
    • The title of the window is theory of evolution - Writer
    • Execute: wmctrl -c openoffice
    • If the file is unsaved, it will pop-up, Do you want to save.
      • Note it will only close one instance of OpenOffice, so if you have two files open, you would need to run it twice.

Console programsEdit

To close console programs you use the kill command. Kill has a bunch of different signals that can be sent to a programs to initial a close.

Kill signals
  • Common kill signal
SIGHUP 1 Hangup
SIGINT 2 Interrupt from keyboard
SIGKILL 9 Kill signal (never graceful)
SIGTERM 15 Termination signal
SIGSTOP 17,19,23 Stop the process

It is not always obvious what kill signal will close the program gracefully so it is likely you will have to test out different signals, and figure out which signal closes the programs better. If you are lucky the programs user man will give you a hint.


  • You want to close, rtorrent, allow it to first close all connections
    • The user guide states: SIGINT: Normal shutdown with 5 seconds to send the stopped request to trackers. [1]
    • SIGINT is #2
  • Execute: kill -2 `pidof rtorrent`
  • To make a nice script for it

# rtorrent
if [[ -n `pidof rtorrent` ]];then
	echo "rtorrent is open, time to die (gracefully)...."
	kill -2 `pidof rtorrent`

Close command for specific programsEdit

  • rtorrent
    • kill -2 `pidof rtorrent`
  • Firefox
    • wmctrl -c Firefox
      You may need to execute the close command twice
    • wmctrl -c Firefox;wmctrl -c Firefox
    • wmctrl -c openoffice
      If you have multiple instances of OpenOffice, you need to execute the close command more than once
  • Galeon
    • galeon -q
  • Gimp
    • wmctrl -c gimp
  • Inkscape
    • wmctrl -c inkscape
  • Psi
    • wmctrl -c psi
  • Rhythmbox
    • rhythmbox-client—quit
  • qBittorrent
    • wmctrl -c qBittorrent
  • Pidgin
    • purple-remote "quit"
  • VirtualBox
    • VBoxManage controlvm VIRTUALMACHINENAME savestate
      • Where VIRTUALMACHINENAME is the virtual machine's <uuid> or <name>
      • To find out the <uuid> or <name>, execute: VBoxManage list vms
      • Output: "<name>" {<uuid>}
      • Example output: "xp" {93854539-39ea-49fc-952a-becd6bfc6756}
Some untested commands

Script to close many programs gracefullyEdit

Say you want to make a shutdown script, you can add this to close programs gracefully.


# rtorrent
if [[ -n `pidof rtorrent` ]];then
	echo "rtorrent is open, time to die (gracefully)...."
	(kill -2 `pidof rtorrent` &)

# mozilla firefox...
echo "closing mozilla (if its open)..."
(wmctrl -c mozilla &)
# sometimes it takes a second shot (see below)

# galeon...
if [[ -n `pidof galeon` ]];then
	echo "closing galeon..."
	(galeon -q &)

echo "closing openOffice (if its open)..."
(wmctrl -c OpenOffice &)

# Inkscape
echo "closing Inkscape (if its open)..."
(wmctrl -c Inkscape &)

# Gimp
echo "closing Gimp (if its open)..."
(wmctrl -c gimp &)

# Pidgin...
echo "closing pidgin (if its open)..."
(purple-remote "quit"  &)

# qBittorrent
echo "Closing qBittorrent (if its open)..."
(wmctrl -c qBittorrent &)

# mozilla firefox...
echo "closing mozilla again (if its open)..."
(wmctrl -c mozilla &)

if [[ -n `pidof VirtualBox` ]];then
    VBoxManage controlvm 93854539-39ea-49fc-952a-becd6bfc6756 savestate 

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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