I have been using Ubuntu for quite some time but, I have no idea what the X server is? I hear it quite often.

I would like to know what the X Server is and what it does. How ~/.xinitrc file is used and knowing what the x.org does in the realm of X Server?

  • 1
    Not really an ubuntu question.
    – enzotib
    Oct 17, 2010 at 8:38
  • 6
    May be. But i am on Ubuntu, and if there was something specific to X regarding Ubuntu, I would like to know that.
    – chetan
    Oct 17, 2010 at 11:39
  • 14
    Hm, I'd say personally that this is a fair question, IMO. A new ubuntu user, I think this is relevant information, and it's not really something he'd know where more properly to look for otherwise since he doesnt know what it is.
    – emf
    Oct 17, 2010 at 19:18
  • 1
    @enzotib seeing how ubuntu is linux... this is a ubuntu question. see meta.askubuntu.com/questions/47/…
    – WalterJ89
    Oct 18, 2010 at 2:35

2 Answers 2


X is an application that manages one or more graphics displays and one or more input devices (keyboard, mouse, etc.) connected to the computer.

It works as a server and can run on the local computer or on another computer on the network. Services can communicate with the X server to display graphical interfaces and receive input from the user.

It's worth noting, a common component used with an X server is the Window Manager, an application that manages the resizing and moving of windows and decorative elements of windows such as title bars, minimize, and close buttons.

The X server can be started with the 'startx' command, or more commonly, from a display manager such as gdm.

~/.xinitrc is a shell script used by xinit, that starts the X server when not using a display manager, to define some application to start automatically in the X server.

/etc/X11/xorg.conf is a configuration file used to give the X server information about the hardware components used, but now the X server can avoid using it, because it is capable of autoconfiguring itself.

  • i am on Ubuntu maverick, it must be using gdm right? so ~/.xinitrc will help or something else?
    – chetan
    Oct 17, 2010 at 11:41
  • you can avoid using it, for startup applications just use the System->Preference->Startup-applications menu item
    – enzotib
    Oct 17, 2010 at 15:06
  • 3
    I am new to this concept. Does it mean x server is X.org, or X.org is a concrete implementation of x server? Sep 17, 2020 at 17:59
  • @QinshengZhang X.org is a concrete implementation of a X server
    – enzotib
    Sep 17, 2020 at 18:17

As the above poster mentioned, X is a server (meaning a program which other programs call upon and be called by) which is responsible for creating a graphical environment and if it fails for whatever reason, you'll be greeted by Command Line Interface (CLI).

The term server can also be said to apply to PulseAudio, which is the sound server, and it calls applications and is called upon to produce sound.

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