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Go backManaging the X Window desktop

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.

This image can be zoomedarticles/thexwindowsystem/screenshot.big.jpg
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.

Page added on 25th June 2005.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.