By convention, a preface introduces the book itself, while the introduction starts in on the subject matter. You should read through the preface to get an idea of how the book is organized, the conventions it follows, and so on.

In The Preface:



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Font and Character Conventions


The X Window System™ is a network-based graphics windowing system for workstations. It was developed by MIT, and has been adopted as an industry standard. The X Window System User’s Guide describes window system concepts and the application programs (clients) commonly distributed with Version 11, Release 4 of X. Because some commercial X systems still reflect X11, Release 3, we highlight important differences between the two.


This book assumes that X has already been installed on your system, and that all standard MIT clients are available. In addition, although X runs on many different types of systems, this book assumes that you are running it on a UNIX® system, and that you have basic familiarity with UNIX. If you are not using UNIX, you will still find the book useful—UNIX dependencies are not that widespread—but you may occasionally need to translate a command example into its equivalent on your system. The book also assumes that you are using a 3-button pointer, and that the operation of the twm window manager is controlled by the system.twmrc file from the MIT XII distribution (if this is not the case, the book provides information that will allow you to understand how twm is configured on your system).

This book has been written for both first time and experienced users of the X Window System. First-time users should read the book in order, starting with Chapter 1.

Experienced users can use this book as a reference for the client programs detailed here. Since there is great flexibility with X, even frequent users need to check on the syntax and availability of options. Reference pages for each client detail command-line options, customization database (resource database) variables, and other detailed information.


The book contains the following parts:

Part One: Using X


Describes the book’s assumptions, audience, organization, and conventions.

Chapter 1: An Introduction to the X Window System

Describes the basic tenninology associated with the X Window System: server, client, window, etc. The most important X clients are described.

Chapter 2: Getting Started

Shows the basics of using X: starting the server and creating the first tenninal window; starting the window manager; adding additional windows; exiting. This chapter is tutorial in nature: you can follow along at a workstation as you read.

Chapter 3: Using the twrn Window Manager

Describes how to use the twm window manager. This client is used to manipulate windows on the screen.

Chapter 4: The xterm Terminal Emulator

Describes how to use the xterm tenninal emulator, the most frequently-used client. Certain aspects of xterm operation described in this chapter, such as scrolling and “copy and paste,” are common to other applications as well.

Chapter 5: Font Specification

Describes the somewhat complicated font naming conventions and ways to simplify font specification, including wildcarding and aliasing. Describes how to use the xlsfonts, xfd, and xfontsel clients to list, display, and select available display fonts. Since the available fonts and font naming conventions changed radically from Release 2 to Release 3, this chapter also reviews these changes.

Chapter 6: Graphics Utilities

Explains how to use the major graphics clients included with X, notably the bitmap editor.

Chapter 7: Other Clients

Gives an overview of other clients available with X, including window and display infonnation clients, the xkill program, and several “desk accessories.”

Part Two: Customizing X

Chapter 8: Command Line Options

Discusses some of the command line options that are common to most clients.

Chapter 9: Setting Resources

Tells how to use create an X resources file, or other file, to set resources for client applications. This chapter also describes how to use xrdb, which saves you having to maintain multiple Xresources files if you run clients on multiple machines.

Chapter 10: Customizing the twm Window Manager

Describes the .twmrc file by showing the default file shipped by MIT, and then examining the purpose and syntax of entries. Explains various techniques for revising the .twmrc file to modify existing menus and create new ones. A revised .twmrc file is also offered for users to copy.

Chapter 11: Setup Clients

Describes how to set display and keyboard preferences using xset and how to set root window preferences using :xsetroot. Demonstrates how to redefine the logical keynames and pointer commands recognized by X using xmodmap.

Part Three: Client Reference Pages

Extended reference pages for all clients.

Part Four: Appendices

Appendix A: System Management

Appendix B: The uwm Window Manager

Appendix C: The OSF/Motif Window Manager

Appendix D: Standard Cursors

Appendix E: Release 3 and 4 Standard Fonts

Appendix F: xterm Control Sequences

Appendix G: Standard Bitmaps

Appendix H: Translation Table Syntax



Bulk Sales Information

This guide is being resold by many workstation manufacturers as their official X Window System documentation. For information on volume discounts for bulk purchases, call O’Reilly & Associates, Inc., at 800-338-6887 (in California, 800-533-6887), or send e-mail to (uunet!ora!linda).

For companies requiring extensive customization of the guide, source licensing terms are also available.


The source to xshowfonts.c, which is printed in Appendix E, is also available free from UUNET (that is, free except for UUNET’s usual connect-time charges). If you have access to UUNET, you can retrieve the source code using uucp or ftp. For uucp, find a machine with direct access to UUNET, and type the following command:

uucp uunet \! "uucp/ nutshell/Xuser/xshowfonts.c.Z yourhostN"/yourname/

The backslashes can be omitted if you use the Bourne shell (sh) instead of csh. The file should appear some time later (up to a day or more) in the directory lusrlspoolluucppublic/yourname.

To use ftp,ftp to and use anonymous as your user name and guest as your password. Then type the following:

cd nutshell/Xuser
binary (you must specify binary transfer for compressed files)
get xshowfonts.c.Z

The file is a compressed C program.


This guide is based in part on three previous X Window System user’s guides, one from Masscomp, which was written by Jeff Graber, one from Sequent Computer Systems, Inc., and one from Graphic Software Systems, Inc., both of which were written by Candis Condo (supported by the UNIX development group). Some of Jeffs and Candis’s material in turn was based on material developed under the auspices of Project Athena at MIT.

Most of the reference pages in Part Three have been adapted from reference pages copyright © 1988, 1989 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or from reference pages produced by Graphic Software Systems. Refer to the "Authors" section at the end of each reference page for details. Other copyrights are listed on the relevant reference pages.

Permission to use these materials is gratefully acknowledged.

This guide was primarily developed using the MIT sample server on a Sun-3™ Workstation, with additional testing done on a Sony NEWS™ workstation running Sony’s X implementation, a Visual640 X Display Station™, and an NCD16™ Network Display Station.

We are grateful to Sony Microsystems for the loan of a Sony NEWS workstation and to Visual Technology Incorporated for the loan of a Visual 640 X Display Station. We appreciate the support of these manufacturers in helping us develop complete and accurate X Window System documentation.

We’d also like to thank the Open Software Foundation for permission to reprint the system.mwmrc file in Appendix C, The OSF/Motif Window Manager. Special thanks to Elizabeth Connelly of OSF for arranging this.

Special thanks is given to Dave Curry for his expert technical and editorial support.

We’d also like to thank others on the staff at O’Reilly & Associates who helped significantly with the book. Jean Marie Diaz wrote the chapters discussing twm, tested examples throughout the book, and provided extensive technical support. Sue Willing coordinated the production effort and the design of illustrations. Donna Woonteiler and Peter Mui indexed the book. Linda Mui, Adrian Nye, and Dan Heller provided valuable technical support. Chris Reilley created the illustrations, many of which were adapted from illustrations done by Laurel Katz and Linda Lamb for previous editions of this guide. Sue Willing, Donna Woonteiler, Colleen Urban, and Chris Reilley prepared the camera-ready copy. Edie Freedman designed the cover for the X Window System series and directed the design of illustrations for this guide.

We’d also like to thank Jim Fulton and Keith Packard of the MIT X Consortium for their technical support and review comments on the book.

Despite the efforts of these people, the standard authors’ disclaimer applies: any errors that remain are our own.

Font and Character Conventions

The following typographic conventions are used in this book.

Italics are used for:

•  new terms where they are defined.

•  file and directory names, and command and client names when they appear in the body of a paragraph.


is used within the body of the text to show:

• command lines or options that should be typed verbatim on the screen.

is used within examples to show:

• computer-generated output.

• the contents of files.

Courier bold is used within examples to show command lines and options that should be typed verbatim on the screen.
Courier italics are used within examples or explanations of command syntax to show a parameter to a command that requres context-dependent substitution (such as a variable). For example, filename means to use some appropriate filename; option (s) means to use some appropriate option(s) to the command.
Helvetica is used to show menu titles and options.

The following symbols are used within the X Window System User’s Guide:

[ ] surround an optional field in a command line or file entry.
$ is the standard prompt from the Bourne shell, sh(1).
% is the standard prompt from the C shell, csh(1).
name(1) is a reference to a command called name in Section 1 of the UNIX Reference Manual (which may have a different name depending on the version of UNIX you use).

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