XFree86® on Darwin and Mac OS X : Run the X Window System
Previous: Getting Started
Next: XFree86® on Darwin and Mac OS X

4. Run the X Window System

4.1. Setting Your Path

You need to add the X Window System executables to your path. Your path is the list of directories to be searched for executable commands. The X11 commands are located in /usr/X11R6/bin, which needs to be added to your path. In Quartz mode, the XDarwin application does this for you automatically. It can also be configured to add additional directories where you have installed command line applications. When running from the Darwin console, you will need to set the path correctly for your shell as XDarwin will not do this for you.

More experienced users will have already set their path correctly using the initialization files for their shell. In this case, you can inform XDarwin not to modify your path in the preferences. XDarwin launches the initial X11 clients in the user's default login shell. (An alternate shell can also be specified in the preferences.) The way to set the path depends on the shell you are using. This is described in the man page documentation for the shell.

In addition you may also want to add the man pages from XFree86 to the list of pages to be searched when you are looking for documentation. The X11 man pages are located in /usr/X11R6/man and the MANPATH environment variable contains the list of directories to search.

4.2. Starting the X Server

On Mac OS X, you can run XFree86 from the Darwin text console or in parallel with Aqua. To get to the text console in Mac OS X you need to logout and type ``>console'' as the user name. This will shutdown Core Graphics and bring up the console login prompt. Login again as your user. From the text console you can start the X Window System by typing ``exec startx''.

When you are ready to quit XFree86 type ``exit'' in the main terminal window or quit with the window manager if you have one running. Unfortunately in IOKit mode, the X server does not shutdown correctly and if you did not start with ``exec startx'', you will get an apparently frozen screen with only a spinning beachball cursor on it. Nothing you type shows up on the screen, but in fact your keystrokes are being received by the console. Type ``logout'' to return to normalcy after a brief delay. With Darwin, this should put you back at the text console login prompt. With Mac OS X, Core Graphics will restart and you should be given a login window.

To start XFree86 in Quartz mode you can launch the XDarwin application in the /Applications folder, or from the command line type ``startx -- -quartz''. By default this will give you a mode picker to choose between full screen or rootless mode. You can change the default to always use a particular mode in the preferences, or you can specify the ``-fullscreen'' or ``-rootless'' options on the command line instead of ``-quartz''.

4.3. Double-clickable X11 Executables

Mac OS X 10.3 can be configured to automatically launch XDarwin when you double-click an X11 executable in the Finder. When an executable file is double-clicked Launch Services checks to see if it is linked against the X11 libraries. If it is, Launch Services opens the default X server. To set the default X server, do the following:

On Mac OS X 10.3 the default X server is started when an X11 executable is double-clicked, whether or not its extension is ''.x11app''. On previous versions of Mac OS X, an X11 executable must have a ''.x11app'' extension for this to work.

4.4. Customize the X Window System

The X Window System is very customizable and you will certainly want to change some things. There is a lot you can do to control how your windows look, how the windows are moved, resized, etc. You will likely want to get a fancier window manager than twm, which is included with XFree86. The .xinitrc file in your home directory controls what programs are run when you start the X Window System. You can find a sample .xinitrc file in /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.

There are many window managers that have been ported to Darwin. The following pages contain collections of window managers and other X window system clients:

Good luck!

XFree86® on Darwin and Mac OS X : Run the X Window System
Previous: Getting Started
Next: XFree86® on Darwin and Mac OS X