A sidebar to the article “The X Window System,”
published in Byte, issue 1/89, pp. 356.
While the X Window System provides the mechanism for drawing windows and sending
graphics around a network, it doesn’t mandate the user interface that runs on
top of it. The user interface specifies what windows and icons will look like,
how the user will interact with them, and so on. Examples of user interfaces for
other windowing systems are the Macintosh Finder and the OS/2 Presentation Manager,
while Open Look (see the article Face
to Face with Open Look, by Tony Hoeber in the December 1988 BYTE) provides a user
interface for Unix windowing systems like X Window and NeWS.
X.Desktop, another window manager, is a complete desktop manager for Unix systems based
on X Window, written by the Cambridge, England, firm IXI Ltd. X.Desktop is a client
application that runs on your workstation for the duration of a session. It completely hides
the normal spartan Unix shell, though you can call up an ordinary shell in a window
any time you need to.
The icon-based desktop (see photo) will be familiar to anyone who has used
a Mac or GEM system, but X.Desktop adds a few refinements of its own to the metaphor. For
example, you can give parameters to a program by dragging the icon for the data file
to the program icon and dropping it on top. To edit a file, you drag its icon on
top of the icon for the required editor. What really distinguishes X.Desktop is its
configurability. You can change not only the icons that represent a file type, but
also the actions performed when an icon is clicked on or dropped onto another.
By modifying rule files and by providing alternative X Window managers, it is possible
for X.Desktop to emulate the behavior of any other desktop system with great precision.
IXI is offering X.Desktop as an OEM product, and it is currently being considered
by several major Unix vendors.