More than just another window manager!
A complete environment for X11 on Mac OS X



(Out of date)




Lists and



Introduction to
X11 on OS X



About Oroborus

New Year Brings New Version! - Version 0.9 final is now available (5th Jan. 2004).

WARNING! - I've found there was a major problem with the (default) USA.xmodmap file in the v0.9 final release. I've fixed it now and updated the download archive - but if you downloaded v0.9 final before 15:00 GMT on 6th Jan. (and you can't fix up your USA.xmodmap yourself - file available here: USA.xmodmap), you should download v0.9 again...
Sorry about that!

Version 0.9 final has major improvements over v0.8.5, including faster drawing, hardware OpenGL, window property rules (so each X11 window can be initialised with exactly the properties you want), new presentation mode (hides Dock and menus), works with Apple's X11 (including its X11 Plugin library for altivec-accelerated drawing), on-the-fly X11 keyboard switching, and much more!
(There's also now an updated theme to go with OS X 10.3 - see the themes page.)

Here's a more detailed list of new features for this version.

BTW - thanks to some of the guys over at BSD Mall for providing some much-needed help in getting this working correctly with OSX10.3.
OroborOSX is used in their Office Applications for Mac OS X 2.0 CD, so if you want a feature-full, ready-built Office suite for use on OSX (based around OpenOffice and gimp, along with extra features), go find out more...

If you are using Matlab, or you have issues with threading, or you want to use v0.9 final on top of a version of XFree86 before v4.3 (Apple's older X11 beta releases are based on v4.2), then you should read this page.

Please make sure you launch OroborOSX the first time as the same user that you used to download it -this ensures that the necessary internal archives are expanded, ready for use by any user.

Apple's X11 and XDarwin. What does Apple's own release of X11 mean for the XonX project (i.e. XDarwin/XFree86-for-OSX)? -A page of information is under construction. In the meantime, here's a few relevant links:

Problems running OroborOSX? - See the troubleshooting page and the forums.
In particular, read this list of useful tests that you can perform yourself to help diagnose any problems.
I also recommend you join the OroborOSX-Announce e-mail list to keep up to date with new versions, or any major bug or issue that may arise (like a change in the website address, which I hope will not happen again!)

Since OroborOSX includes its own modified version of the XDarwin application, the download size is about 2MBytes. Sorry about that :-(
Still, at least it's not the whole of XFree86 (at about 50MBytes... ;-)
(Remember: you still need to have a working installation of XFree86 or Apple's X11 before installing OroborOSX - it only has its own version of the XDarwin application, not the whole of XFree86.)

If you find any issues with this release, please send helpful bug reports to the Help forum (with any relevant console log output, if possible - note the new "Verbose Logging" item in the Help menu...) Thanks!

E-mail lists and forums! More themes!


OroborOSX is an X11 environment designed for use in rootless mode with XDarwin on Mac OS X. It is currently being used with Mac OS X from version 10.0.x to the latest 10.2.1.

It is based on oroborus version 1.14.0, an X11 window manager created by Ken Lynch (now maintained by Stefan Pfetzing). Oroborus, as a 'standard' window manager, can be compiled on practically any unix-based machine, and it also has its own website.

The aim of OroborOSX is to make X11 windows look, and ultimately behave, as closely as possible to 'native' OS X windows. Can you spot the differences in the (out-of-date!) screenshot on the right?

However, there is much more to a desktop than just its look... and OroborOSX is more than just an X11 window manager with 'Aqua-like' frames. It also attempts to make X11 act in a more 'Mac-like' way (whether you like it or not!)

Jonathan Tyzack has put together a gallery of screenshots showing some features of OroborOSX, alongside MacGimp and OpenOffice.

Here is a short list of some relevant features:

  • X11 windows are interleaved with Aqua windows (the usual rootless XDarwin implementation brings all X11 windows in front when one is clicked);
  • Clicking in a background window will only activate that window (rather than the click being sent through to make something else happen in that window);
  • A list of X11 windows is available from the OS X Dock icon (and the Window menu in OSX10.1);
  • New 'X11 application' icons can easily be created from the template script;
  • X11 applications can be launched from the "Launch" menu;
  • X11 applications can be launched by double-clicking on them;
  • Works with CodeTek Virtual Desktop (from v2.0 of CVD and v0.8.5 of OroborOSX);
  • Finder integration -drag and drop files onto the OroborOSX Dock icon to open with an X11 application (from v0.8.5);
  • Completely self-contained package -it is much more 'Mac-like' in that it does not interfere in any way with any 'unixy stuff', so you can use it safely with any software downloaded by fink, for example.

What's Needed

In order to use OroborOSX you will obviously need to have the X Windows system (XFree86 and the XDarwin application) already installed. The easiest way to do this is to go get the complete XFree86 4.2 package from XonX. It is a big download, but it is well worth it - especially since it also includes the "rootless patch", which is needed for the versions of OroborOSX before the latest 0.8 releases.
(See the Introduction to X11 on OS X for more info about this.)

I have compiled OroborOSX alongside XFree86 v4.1.0, and I suspect it links to some dynamic libraries. If so, you will need at least v4.1.0 installed (4.2 is fine) before you can run OroborOSX (or at least, you will need the relevant dynamic libraries).
(See the Installation Instructions for more information.)

I hope somebody somewhere finds this useful!

Contact Info:

I can be contacted as follows: adrian@ic.ac.uk

Web page: http://amcg.ese.ic.ac.uk/~adrian/

Adrian Umpleby