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Linux Magazine: Multiple Choice: So Many Window Managers, So Little Time

Oct 20, 1999, 02:26 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Joseph Moss)

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"Most graphical user interfaces are all-in-one systems. Often, with Windows and MacOS for example, they are integrated right into the operating system. This makes things nice and consistent for the user, but this consistency comes at the expense of choice.

Linux, like most forms of Unix, takes a different approach. It uses the X Window System. The X Window System (also called X11, or simply X) de-couples the graphics system from the OS, and splits it into two components: One component, called the X server, draws the dots and lines on your monitor; a second component, called the client, tells the server what to draw and keeps track of what's going on within the various windows on your desktop. In fact, these two components can even reside on different computers and communicate across a network. The X server has to run on your desktop, but it can be controlled by a client a continent away, if you choose."

"The window manager is another important part of the X Window System. The window manager is a client to the X server that runs alongside other clients, handling a lot of the management work of manipulating and displaying the windows on your desktop. You can run only one window manager at a time, and they enjoy special privileges. For example, when an application requests a new window on your screen, the X server won't create it until the window manager says where it should be placed."

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