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The X Window System

The X Window System provides a method for a networked computer (usually a Unix workstation) to display graphical applications on a remote display (either another Unix workstation, Windows PC, Macintosh, etc.).

An X server is a program that runs on the computer you sit in front of. The server knows what sort of video capabilities your computer has, what sort of mouse and keyboard, etc. An X client is a program that runs either on your computer or a remote computer, and communicates with an X server for display, input, and output.

Put simply, having an X server installed on your office PC allows you to run graphical applications from the CAE Lab Unix workstations without leaving your office. Please read our other documentation on the subject if you want to do this.

Recommended X Servers

Windows (Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000)

  • Exceed (NT and 2000 only) -- site-licensed with SDRC I-DEAS for university computers at no cost.
  • X-Win32 -- $35 for university computers.
  • Cygwin plus Cygwin/XFree86 -- no cost for any computer, including home computers. This requires a bit more effort to set up than Exceed or X-Win32, but it works.


  • eXodus -- $149-185 educational pricing, and works on both OS X and previous versions of MacOS.
  • Fink -- no cost for any OS X computer, at school or at home. This is almost definitely more difficult than the Exodus install, but email Mike if you need assistance on a university Mac.
  • X11 for Mac OS X -- no cost for any OS X computer, at school or at home. This is a beta release, and will be finalized in the near future.

GNU/Linux or *BSD

  • XFree86 -- no cost. Most likely this was already included in your distribution.
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