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Lucas Morris
Lucas Morris

X Windows: How to Run Linux GUI Applications on Windows with X Server


Download X Windows: A Guide for Linux and Windows Users




X Windows, also known as X11 or X, is a windowing system for bitmap displays, common on Unix-like operating systems. It provides the basic framework for a graphical user interface (GUI) environment: drawing and moving windows on the display device and interacting with a mouse and keyboard. X does not mandate the user interface this is handled by individual programs. As such, the visual styling of X-based environments varies greatly; different programs may present radically different interfaces.


X Windows has many advantages over other windowing systems. It is open source, cross platform, stable, cost-efficient, portable, and network-capable. It allows users to run graphical applications on remote machines, use multiple displays and monitors, customize their desktop environment, and access a variety of software tools. It also has some limitations and criticisms, such as user interface issues, accessibility problems, security risks, and performance overheads.




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There are also some alternatives to X Windows that offer different features and approaches. Some of them are Wayland, Mir, Compiz, and Exceed. Each of them has its own pros and cons, and may suit different needs and preferences.


In this article, we will show you how to download and install X Windows on your Linux or Windows machine. We will also explain how to configure and use X Windows to run graphical applications locally or remotely.


How to download X Windows




The best place to get X Windows is from your operating system or distribution vendor. They usually provide precompiled packages that are compatible with your system and easy to install. However, if you want to get the latest version of X Windows or compile it from source code, you can also download it from the official website or one of the mirrors.


For Linux users




If you are using a Linux-based operating system, chances are that you already have X Windows installed on your system. Most Linux distributions come with X Windows as part of their default installation. However, if you want to check if you have X Windows or update it to the latest version, you can use your package manager to do so.


How to install X Windows from the package manager




The exact command to install or update X Windows may vary depending on your Linux distribution and package manager. Here are some examples for some popular distributions:


DistributionPackage ManagerCommand


Debian/Ubuntuaptsudo apt update && sudo apt install xorg


Red Hat/CentOS/Fedorayum/dnfsudo yum update && sudo yum groupinstall \"X Window System\"


Arch Linux/Manjaropacmansudo pacman -Syu && sudo pacman -S xorg


SUSE/openSUSEzyppersudo zypper refresh && sudo zypper install xorg-x11-server


Gentooemergesudo emerge --sync && sudo emerge xorg-server


If you are not sure what package manager or distribution you are using, you can run the following commands in a terminal:


cat /etc/os-release # To check your distribution name and version


ls /usr/bin grep - e # To check your package manager name


After installing or updating X Windows, you need to configure it and start the X server.


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How to configure X Windows and start the X server




The X server is the program that runs on your machine and communicates with the hardware to display graphics on the screen. It also accepts input from the keyboard and mouse and passes it to the X clients, which are the graphical applications that run on top of X.


To configure X Windows, you need to create or edit a file called xorg.conf, which is usually located in /etc/X11/ or /usr/share/X11/. This file contains various settings and options for the X server, such as the display resolution, color depth, keyboard layout, mouse acceleration, and more. You can use a text editor or a graphical tool like xorgconfig or xorgsetup to create or modify this file. For more details on how to configure xorg.conf, you can refer to the official documentation or this tutorial.


To start the X server, you can use one of the following methods:


  • Use the startx command in a terminal. This will start the X server and run your default window manager or desktop environment. You can also specify a different window manager or desktop environment by passing its name as an argument to startx, such as startx gnome or startx kde.



  • Use a display manager, which is a program that provides a graphical login screen and allows you to choose your window manager or desktop environment. Some common display managers are gdm, kdm, lightdm, sddm, and xdm. You can enable or disable them using your system's service manager, such as systemd or init.



  • Use a boot loader, such as GRUB or LILO, to boot directly into X Windows. You need to edit your boot loader configuration file and add an entry for X Windows with the appropriate kernel parameters. For example, for GRUB, you can add something like this to /boot/grub/grub.cfg:



menuentry 'X Windows' linux /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda1 ro quiet splash initrd /boot/initrd.img append 'xforcevesa nomodeset xinitrc=/etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc'


Once you have started the X server, you can run X applications and use window managers.


How to run X applications and use window managers




X applications are programs that use the X protocol to communicate with the X server and display graphics on the screen. They can be run locally on your machine or remotely on another machine over the network. Some examples of X applications are xterm, xclock, xcalc, gimp, firefox, and libreoffice.


To run an X application locally, you can simply type its name in a terminal or use a graphical launcher. For example, to run xterm, you can type xterm in a terminal or click on its icon in your menu or desktop.


To run an X application remotely, you need to use a secure shell (SSH) connection with X forwarding enabled. This will allow you to run an X application on another machine and display its output on your local machine. For example, to run firefox on a remote machine called example.com and display it on your local machine, you can type ssh -X user@example.com firefox in a terminal.


A window manager is a program that controls the placement and appearance of windows on the screen. It provides features such as moving, resizing, minimizing, maximizing, closing, and decorating windows. It also provides a way to switch between windows and workspaces. Some examples of window managers are twm, fvwm, metacity, openbox, and i3.


To use a window manager, you need to specify it in your .xinitrc file, which is located in your home directory. This file contains commands that are executed when you start the X server using startx. You can use a text editor to create or edit this file. For example, to use openbox as your window manager, you can add this line to your .xinitrc file:


exec openbox


You can also use a desktop environment instead of a window manager. A desktop environment is a collection of programs that provide a complete and consistent graphical user interface for your system. It usually includes a window manager, a panel, a menu, a file manager, an icon theme, a wallpaper, and other utilities. Some examples of desktop environments are GNOME, KDE, XFCE, and LXDE.


To use a desktop environment, you need to install it from your package manager or download it from its official website. Then, you need to specify it in your .xinitrc file or choose it from your display manager. For example, to use GNOME as your desktop environment, you can add this lin


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