Chapter 23. Running the X Windows System

The XFree86 project ( is an open source implementation of The X Window System—a.k.a., X Windows, or just X11 (X eleven)—which for many years has brought GUIs to all types of Unix. Less than a year after Apple’s initial release of Mac OS X, the XFree86 team announced stable Darwin support.

The most significant thing X Windows can offer your Mac is the ability to run lots of Unix programs that require a GUI but are programmed using X11’s own widget-working APIs, not Aqua’s. Apple does not bundle X11 support with Mac OS X, however; you have to obtain it separately and install it yourself.

Installing the X Windows System

The XFree86 site contains instructions for downloading and installing the X11R6 binaries on a Mac OS X system. The site also provides instructions for compiling the X11R6 suite from source. The easiest way to get X11 for Mac OS X is through either XDarwin or GNU/Darwin, both of which contain easy-to-install binary distributions of X11. Alternatively, the Fink Project includes packages for the X11 server, software, and binaries. Fink also includes the system xfree86 package, which is a placeholder package that lets you use the X11 distribution of your choice with Fink (the placeholder package satisfies the same dependencies as the Fink X11 package).

Manually Installing the X Window System

If you want to install the XFree86 distribution manually, download the XFree86 distribution (see the instructions on ...

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