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10. The X Window System

Q: Does Linux Support X?
Q: How To Get the X Window System to Work
Q: Where To Find a Ready-Made [XF86Config] file
Q: What Desktop Environments Run on Linux?
Q: xterm Logins Show Up Strangely in who, finger
Q: How to Start a X Client on Another Display

A: The answers to this question can, and do, fill entire books. If the installation program wasn't able to configure the X server correctly, Linux will most likely try to start the X display, fail, and drop back into text-only terminal mode.

First and foremost, make certain that you have provided, as closely as possible, the correct information to the installation program of your video hardware: the video card and monitor. Some installation programs can correctly guess a ``least common denominator'' screen configuration, like a 640-by-480 VESA-standard display, but there are many possible video hardware configurations that may not be able to display this standard.

The X Window System configuration file is called (usually) [/etc/XF86Config], [/etc/X11/XF86Config], or [/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/XF86Config].

If you need to manually configure the X server, there are several possible methods:

Also, make sure that the problem really is an incorrect [XF86Config] file, not something else like the window manager failing to start. If the X server is working correctly, you should be able to move the mouse cursor on the screen, and pressing Ctrl-Alt-Backspace will shut down the X server and return to the shell prompt in one of the virtual terminals.

A: Linux with XFree86 supports the KDE, GNOME, and commercial CDE desktop environments, and extended window managers like WindowMaker. Each uses a different set of libraries and provides varying degrees of MS Windows-like look and feel.

Information on KDE is available from The KDE environment uses the Qt graphics libraries, available from The desktop uses its own window manager, kwm, and provides a MS Windows-like look and feel.

The GNOME home page is The environment uses the free GTK libraries, available from, and window managers like Enlightenment,, SawFish, There's also a Web page for GNOME installation and upgrade that functions much like Debian's apt-get utility with a friendly GUI front end. It's at:

The commercial CDE environment uses the Motif libraries and a variation of the Motif mwm window manager, dtwm, and provides a suite of desktop and session-management utilities. Several vendors have made the source code of Motif available and provided binary packages for Linux distributions. As a starting point, download and installation information is available at

A free version of Motif, called LessTiF, is available from

WindowMaker, is a window manager that has many desktop environment-like features. It provides support for GNUstep,, a clone of the commercial NeXTStep environment.

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