The joy of X - master the Linux GUI
X controls the desktop and provides all the facilities that any graphical program – like Open Office, for instance – will use to make a window appear on screen, permit it to be moved, resized and all the other nuts and bolts.
X doesn’t impose any style on these windows; they’re all pretty plain by default. On top of X sits a piece of software called a window manager. You can have many different window managers, but only one can run at a time. The window manager effectively provides window dressing, which makes windows have a consistent style and behaviour. The window manager provides close, minimise and maximise buttons. It gives windows a metallic border, or a purple border, or a transparent background or anything else that can be imagined.
Launch any program. The content of the main window is the program itself. The title bar above it is actually drawn by the window manager, not the program. If you launched a different window manager you would still find the program still runs perfectly normally but the appearance of the title window and borders has changed.
With the advent of Linux, desktop environments have become popular. The two most well-known are GNOME and KDE. A desktop environment sits on top of both a window manager and X itself. As well as giving a standard look and feel the environments come with a collection of tools like file managers and a clock.
You might have seen some of your favourite programs under both the GNOME and KDE desktop environments and while the program performs identically there is a difference in its visual presentation. There are many excellent tutorials about GNOME and KDE online, and how they differ, including here at iTWire. However, we’re going to delve into the bottom layer and look at X and how you can harness its power.
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David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. Within two years, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Newcastle, as a UNIX systems manager. This was a crucial time for UNIX at the University with the advent of the World-Wide-Web and the decline of VMS. David moved on to a brief stint in consulting, before returning to the University as IT Manager in 1998. In 2001, he joined an international software company as Asia-Pacific troubleshooter, specialising in AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and database systems. Settling down in Newcastle, David then found niche roles delivering hard-core tech to the recruitment industry and presently is the Chief Information Officer for a national resources company where he particularly specialises in mergers and acquisitions and enterprise applications.