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(Out of date)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




Instructions (for v0.7 onwards)


Once you have downloaded the binary package, all you have to do is double-click it and Stuffit Expander should expand the archive for you (your web browser may have done this automatically when you downloaded it). You should now find you have a folder called "OroborOSX-Folder" (you can drag this folder to wherever you want to use it -but see the note about the Terminal bug which applies to versions before 0.8 preview).

If you are using one of the version 0.8 releases, the OroborOSX-Folder will contain the application, a README file (which you should read...), a version HISTORY file, and a LICENSE file.

[If you are using versions before 0.8 preview, you will find a README file (which you should still read... :-), the OroborOSX application, a "Launch Menu Items" folder (not in the v0.75 alpha 4 releases), and a couple of scripts: one which tweaks the XDarwin application so you can use window interleaving, and another to switch it off again (should you ever need to...)]

Please read the README file so that you understand what will happen when you use these scripts!

To run OroborOSX as your window manager, all you have to do is double-click the OroborOSX application. This will launch XDarwin, if it is not already running (-and I recommend you launch XDarwin using OroborOSX) - it does not use the standard xinitrc file to run X11 apps on startup (but see the section below about using xinitrc). The versions from v0.75a1 onwards do allow configuration of the "Launch" menu, and also the items that are started when OroborOSX is launched (the default StartupItems file provided in the download will start one xterm and one xeyes).

Please remember: if you are using versions before 0.8 preview, make sure you run the Uninterleaving script if you want to use XDarwin without OroborOSX! -If you do not do this, you will find that XDarwin does not have a menu bar, nor will its icon appear in the Dock.

Using Your xinitrc File:

As noted above, OroborOSX does not execute the standard xinitrc when it starts up. However, you can easily run your xinitrc manually by choosing the "Run xinitrc" item from the "Launch" menu. Note that you should edit your xinitrc file so that it does not try to run another window manager. -You should comment out (by putting a hash character at the start) the line that contains your current window manager (eg: twm, vtwm, enlightenment, oroborus, etc).

[However, from version v0.75a1 onwards you can easily execute your xinitrc file when you start up OroborOSX: just edit the StartupItems file and put in a line which says simply "Run xinitrc".]

Since OroborOSX, by default, completely ignores your xinitrc file, it is possible to start X11 in two different ways - one is the 'usual' way for Unix, which is via the 'startx' command (or double-click on XDarwin) so it runs your xinitrc which starts the window manager of your choice. The other is through OroborOSX, which will start XDarwin in rootless mode, and can be totally separate from your xinitrc file. If you have the v0.8 releases, it uses its own modified version of XDarwin, so you do not have to run the UninterleaveX11/InterleaveX11 scripts each time you want to swap between the two setups.

If you have not created your own .xinitrc file (in your home directory), you are still using the default 'system-wide' one which is located in directory /etc/X11/xinit (but it is called "xinitrc" - without the preceding dot). You can copy this into your home directory, and then rename it with a preceding dot after you have commented out the "twm &" line.

Using OroborOSX:

This version of OroborOSX is not designed to be run in conjunction with a desktop manager (such as gnome or kde), but instead in rootless X11 along with the standard Mac OS X desktop.

As much as possible, I have attempted to make the X11 windows look and act like the windows in the rest of Mac OS X. For example: window titlebars have red, yellow and green buttons in the top-left, which show "x - +" when the cursor goes near them -even the buttons of background windows will 'light up'; a window will not process a click unless it is frontmost -it will only be brought in front.

'Iconisation' of X11 windows is achieved by clicking the yellow button, just as with a normal Mac OS X window. As of version 0.8 preview, it will go into the Dock if you have selected that option from the Options menu. If not, it will slide to the top-left of the screen as a 'bar'. (See the screenshot -and note that the position of the iconbars can be changed using the "Options" menu.)

The iconbars also hide themselves so that they take up even less space - just a small tab remains. When the cursor moves over an iconbar tab, all of the iconbars reappear again, and will disappear back to the tabs about a second after the cursor leaves the iconbars. Clicking on a iconbar will restore the window. Version 0.8 releases allow you to switch off this behaviour, and have iconbars remain visible at all times.

Double-clicking on the title bar of a window will window-shade it, just like with Classic Mac OS [but not OS X :-( ].

You should be able to start up X11 in rootless mode just by double-clicking on the OroborOSX application. This will also start up XDarwin, if necessary. (I recommend that you start up XDarwin via OroborOSX, rather than starting XDarwin first.)

Differences between OroborOSX windows and OS X windows

There are some aspects of OroborOSX windows that are slightly different to those of Mac OS X. -Check out the screenshot to see if you can find them...

  • OroborOSX windows can be moved so they extend off the top edge of the screen. (OS X windows cannot be moved above the menu bar.)
  • OroborOSX windows have an extra section of frame along the bottom for dragging. (Useful for windows that have gone off the top as above!)
  • OroborOSX windows have a triangular-shaped resize region.
  • OroborOSX windows will windowshade when double-clicking on the title-bar (this is a feature! -sorely missing from OS X, IMHO...)
  • OroborOSX windows can be slow to resize (large ones are slower than in Apple's X11). This is largely due to the XDarwin implementation for dealing with shaped X11 windows in an OS X framework. Hopefully it can be fixed sometime in the future. (Though, I have been informed it is quite hard to work around what XFree86 expects...)
  • OroborOSX windows will have menus in 'the wrong place' -since X11 never expects a menubar to be up at the top (unfortunately... anyone got any clever ideas how to fix this one...?)
  • OroborOSX windows are not actually OroborOSX windows at all (!), but belong to XDarwin (X11 effectively), and therefore the widgets and controls (etc.) in the window content will take on the usual 'drab grey' of X11 windows (unfortunately, again) -now if only there were some decent Aqua-like themes for some of these...

Contact Info:

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

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

Adrian Umpleby