Using the X Window System means interacting with Linux on several different levels. X itself simply provides the graphics for displaying components of a graphical user interface: X draws the screen, draws objects on the screen, and tracks user input actions such as keyboard input and mouse operations. To organize all of this into familiar objects like windows, menus, and scrollbars, X relies on a separate program called a window manager. A window manager alone won’t necessarily assure tight integration between applications running under X; that higher degree of integration comes from something called a desktop environment. While X itself is a single program, X under Linux supports several popular window managers, and two popular desktop environments.
To use X effectively, you’ll learn the basic keyboard and mouse operations for communicating with X. If you’re like most X users, you’ll find it helpful to use a window manager and a desktop with X. You’ll learn why window managers and desktops are useful and get help in choosing and setting up a window manager and a desktop.
Using the keyboard with X closely resembles using the keyboard with Microsoft Windows. X sends your keyboard input to the active window, which is said to have the input focus. The active window is usually the window in which you most recently clicked the mouse; however, under some circumstances, it can be the window beneath the mouse cursor.