X-Window System

The X-Window System is a network transparent window system which was developed at MIT. It runs on a wide range of computing and graphics machines. It allows users to run Solaris (or Sun OS) command shells, and Open Window’s Deskset Tools such asFileManager and CalenderManager in a separate window. X Windows also allows the use of a Virtual Desktop.

Starting X-Windows

To start X Windows, type startwin -gui tvtwm -winsys X11R5 at the UNIX prompt. To get the
full list of options you can use for startwin, type startwin
. It may take some time for windows to start up. If you would rather not type in the full command, you can set up a .startwinrc file in your home directory. Type the following lines in this file:

    winsys = X11R5
    gui = tvtwm

If you are on a sparc4 then you can’t use the X server. You would have to put this in your .startwinrc file:

    server = openwin
    gui = tvtwm
    winsysname = X11

If you are on a machine running CDE, Common Desktop
, you will first need to go to the Options menu, and select Command Line Login. You can then proceed to login, and use the startwin command as described above.

You can also make an alias for this command. Put this line at the end of your .cshrc (or .tcshrc) file:

    alias xwin ‘startwin -gui tvtwm -winsys X11R5’

Then the next time you login your aliases will be set up. The next time you want to start X Windows, type in xwin at the Unix Prompt.

The startwin command defines the appropriate paths and environment variables, reads in the initialization files, and then starts X Windows. If you do not have initialization files in your home directory, X Windows uses the init files from one of the default system directories (found under /usr/usc/lib/startwin). The default window system is Openwindows.

Basic Definitions

Before getting into how to use X Windows, it is useful to have an understanding of some basic terminology. The following are some common terms:


workspace the background screen are on which windows and icons are displayed
icons small pictorial representations of application windows.
iconmanager a utility used by tvtwm to help control your icons.
mouse a device that is used to select and manipulate information on the screen. (controls the pointer)
pointer a representation of the location of the mouse on the screen.
window server a program which handles input through the keyboard and mouse and coordinates the display of the applications on the screen.
deskset a set of graphical window-based applications, such as filemanager, mailtool, etc.
virtual desktop a program which allows you to use multiple screens at one time.
window manager a graphical user interface to your window system such as: tvtwm, cvtwm, motif, openlook.

Basic Environment

The X Windows environment gives you access to a variety of desktop tools, all of which are overlaid on a workspace. Each application runs in its own window. When a window is not in use, you have the option of closing it (the application becomes an icon or it will appear in the IconManager). Closing a window is quite different from quitting. An application that is represented by an icon is actually still running.

The window currently receiving input has “keyboard” focus. You can specify which window has keyboard focus by moving the pointer to the appropriate windows. You can reopen an icon (into a window) by moving the mouse onto the icon and double-clicking the left mouse button.

Window Managers

The window manager is the mechanism that X Window uses to control the windows location, size, etc. The X Window’s window manager is usually tvtwm. tvtwm stands for Tom’s Virtual Tab Window Manager.

The window manager provides menus and mechanisms for controlling windows.

The main menu in a windowing system is the root or workspace
menu. It can be found by clicking the right mouse button over the workspace (or background) area of the screen.

The arrows next to the Programs and Utilities options indicate that are further choices available by menu with this selection.

Another common menu is the window menu. It can be found in most window applications and is used to control the window. To access the window menu, position the mouse pointer over the title bar and click the right mouse button.

The window menu includes the following options:

Close Close the window to an icon
Full Size Expand the window to the full length of the screen.
Move Move the window to a new location. (must drag it with select button)
Resize Resize the window. (Use select button to expand/contract window.)
Back Move the window under any other windows that may overlap it.
Stick Keeps the application in view as you change screens.
Refresh Clear and redisplay the window.
Quit Kill any programs running in the window and remove the window.

A selection which is grayed out indicates an option that is unavailable at the time. Some options are toggle switches which will change as you select their opposite. (For example, Full size will change to Restore size so that you change the window back to its previous size.)

For more information about X Windows, see the Customization Guide to X-Windows.