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 Display names

From the user's perspective, every X server has a display name in the form of:


This information is used by the application to determine how it should connect to the X server and which screen it should use by default (on displays with multiple monitors):

  • hostname: The host name specifies the name of the client machine to which the display is physically connected. If the host name is not given, the most efficient way of communicating to a server on the same machine will be used.

  • displaynumber: The phrase "display" is usually used to refer to a collection of monitors that share a common key board and pointer (mouse, tablet, etc.). Most workstations tend to only have one keyboard, and therefore, only one display. Larger, multi-user systems, however, frequently have several displays so that more than one person can be doing graphics work at once. To avoid confusion, each display on a machine is assigned a display number (beginning at 0) when the X server for that display is started. The display number must always be given in a display name.

  • screen number: Some displays share a single keyboard and pointer among two or more monitors. Since each monitor has its own set of windows, each screen is assigned a screen number (beginning at 0) when the X server for that display is started. If the screen number is not given, screen 0 will be used.

On POSIX systems, the default display name is stored in your DISPLAY environment variable. This variable is set automatically by the xterm terminal emulator. However, when you log into another machine on a network, you might need to set DISPLAY by hand to point to your display, see Section

More information can be found in the X man pages.

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