I'm an experienced Linux user, I've run it as my primary OS for about 6 years and feel confident about configuring most aspects of the OS.

Except X.

I can nearly always do what I want with X, I can fumble my way around xorg.conf files and get the correct drivers and resolutions. But I never feel like I understand it, I'm constantly confused by the various terminology and versions (xorg, X11, X, DRI, ...) and unless I use a heavy desktop manager like Gnome/KDE I'm always having trouble with font types and sizes.

I tried to use the Xorg Wiki to improve my knowledge but found it hard to navigate, aimed at developers rather than users, and felt it assumed a higher amount of understanding then I have.

So if you've made it this far :) My question is are there any good advanced user guides on X? Preferably explaining the architecture, configuration files, font settings, etc.

I'm also interested if other Linux Superusers are confused about X?

5 Answers 5


Good old Wikipedia might well help. Outside of that I'd just read through as many manpages as possible for all the configuration files and programs. I've found Xs documentation is best in its manpages.

Personally I don't see the need to understand X any more than I feel the need to understand what my graphics card is doing. I've written bits of code using the X libs and I was happy enough just understanding that small part of the windowing system. For what it's worth KDE/GNOME are pretty far from heavy on modern hardware too but if you find them too much then try XFCE for fonts.


O'Reilly books used to be the canonical source of X information, but their original X series hasn't been updated since X11R5 in the early 90's. The one recent X book they've published is fairly good and covers X11R7/Xorg: X Power Tools


X bothers the heck out me any time I run into an issue with it. Especially with Ubuntu 9.04 upgrade since I've got an Intel on-board video chip...

But what I've found to be fairly helpful for research outside of this site is the Xorg.conf manual pages. Pretty extensive, so make sure you take the afternoon off before diving in.

man xorg.conf

My superuser reference for Linux has always been the Linux Documentation Project.


X configuration can be quite confusing, with commands like

setenv DISPLAY hp:0.1

this might be a bit out of date but this linux X window Guide looks to be fairly comprehensive.

  • Link does not work for me. Commented Aug 3, 2010 at 16:20
  • yeah the site has gone away, I have updated it to the version at the internet archive. Commented Aug 10, 2010 at 12:04

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