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7.3.2. The X Window System

The X Window System is a network-transparent window system which runs on a wide range of computing and graphics machines. X Window System servers run on computers with bitmap displays. The X server distributes user input to and accepts output requests from several client programs through a variety of different interprocess communication channels. Although the most common case is for the client programs to be running on the same machine as the server, clients can be run transparently from other machines (including machines with different architectures and operating systems) as well. We will learn how to do this in Chapter 10 on networking and remote applications.

X supports overlapping hierarchical sub-windows and text and graphics operations, on both monochrome and color displays. The number of X client programs that use the X server is quite large. Some of the programs provided in the core X Consortium distribution include:

  • xterm: a terminal emulator

  • twm: a minimalistic window manager

  • xdm: a display manager

  • xconsole: a console redirect program

  • bitmap: a bitmap editor

  • xauth, xhost and iceauth: access control programs

  • xset, xmodmap and many others: user preference setting programs

  • xclock: a clock

  • xlsfonts and others: a font displayer, utilities for listing information about fonts, windows and displays

  • xfs: a font server

  • ...

We refer again to the man pages of these commands for detailed information. More explanations on available functions can be found in the Xlib - C language X Interface manual that comes with your X distribution, the X Window System Protocol specification, and the various manuals and documentation of X toolkits. The /usr/share/doc directory contains references to these documents and many others.

Many other utilities, window managers, games, toolkits and gadgets are included as user-contributed software in the X Consortium distribution, or are available using anonymous FTP on the Internet. Good places to start are and

Furthermore, all your graphical applications, such as your browser, your E-mail program, your image viewing programs, sound playing tools and so on, are all clients to your X server. Note that in normal operation, that is in graphical mode, X clients and the X server on Linux run on the same machine.

Introducing Linux
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