X Window System (X or XWindows) definition

Contributor(s): Johan Gardfeldt and Jaipreet Mahendra

Also see X (compact disc access time).

The X Window System (sometimes referred to as "X" or as "XWindows") is an open, cross-platform, client/server system for managing a windowed graphical user interface in a distributed network. In general, such systems are known as windowing systems. In X Window, the client-server relationship is reversed from the usual. Remote computers contain applications that make client requests for display management services in each PC or workstation. X Window is primarily used in networks of interconnected mainframes, minicomputers, and workstations. It is also used on the X terminal, which is essentially a workstation with display management capabilities but without its own applications. (The X terminal can be seen as a predecessor of the network PC or thin client computer.)

The X Window System was the result of research efforts in the early 1980s at Stanford University and MIT, aided by IBM, to develop a platform-independent graphics protocol. The X Window System is an open standard that is managed by the X.Org consortium. Although Microsoft has its own platform-dependent windowing system (an integral part of the Windows 95/98/NT operating systems), there are vendor-supplied X Windows products that can be installed to run on these systems.

This was first published in September 2005

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