X Window System

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The X Window System (also called X Windows or X) is an open standard for windowing systems. The current version of X since 1994 is version 11 revision 6 (X11R6) but there are also many extensions.

X11R6 is standard on many Unix and Linux systems. By itself the X program (the "X server") supplies only mechanism which means that it requires programs running on top to provide a useful operating environment. The first such program is the Window Manager which handles window borders, stacking, workspaces and other functions. A window manager is sometimes part of a suite of programs called a Desktop Environment which provides even more functionality and a unified look and feel between programs.

Communication between X server and "client" programs is done over the "X protocol" which is able to run over TCP/IP sockets. Such sockets can in turn be forwarded over Secure Shell (SSH). This allows desktops and programs to be run remotely. There are X forwarding programs also for e.g. Microsoft Windows and MacOS.

Changing keyboard layout


xmodmap is a command-line utility that provides fine-grained control of the keymap. It does not have macro support.

GNOME 2, Mate

Keyboard layout and other settings can be selected in the program "gnome-keyboard-properties". It is available in the menu System→Preferences→Keyboard.

Under the "Layouts" tab, the "Options..." button opens up a dialogue box for choosing how various keys should be interpreted. For instance, the Caps Lock and Control keys can be swapped here.

Criticism and deprecation

The X Window System specification itself has not been revised since the mid '90s, even though many various extensions have appeared. It has been criticized for its low performance and lack of modernity.

Two projects stand out:

Based on OpenGL-ES for rendering. Like X, it uses a protocol but only over native Unix/Linux communication mechanisms.
Developed by Canonical for use as standard in future versions of Ubuntu Linux distributions. Uses a driver model from Android.

External links

  • x.org - The home for the X Consortium which manages the X protocol and reference implementation.
  • Wikipedia - X Window System

See also