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XINIT(1) General Commands Manual XINIT(1)


xinit – X Window System initializer


xinit [ [ client ] options … ] [ — [ server ] [ display ] options
… ]


The xinit program is used to start the X Window System server and a
first client program on systems that are not using a display manager
such as xdm(1) or in environments that use multiple window systems.
When this first client exits, xinit will kill the X server and then

If no specific client program is given on the command line, xinit will
look for a file in the user’s home directory called .xinitrc to run as
a shell script to start up client programs. If no such file exists,
xinit will use the following as a default:

xterm -geometry +1+1 -n login -display :0

If no specific server program is given on the command line, xinit will
look for a file in the user’s home directory called .xserverrc to run
as a shell script to start up the server. If no such file exists,
xinit will use the following as a default:

X :0

Note that this assumes that there is a program named X in the current
search path. The site administrator should, therefore, make a link to
the appropriate type of server on the machine, or create a shell script
that runs xinit with the appropriate server.

Note, when using a .xserverrc script be sure to “exec” the real X
server. Failing to do this can make the X server slow to start and
exit. For example:

exec Xdisplaytype

An important point is that programs which are run by .xinitrc should be
run in the background if they do not exit right away, so that they
don’t prevent other programs from starting up. However, the last long-
lived program started (usually a window manager or terminal emulator)
should be left in the foreground so that the script won’t exit (which
indicates that the user is done and that xinit should exit).

An alternate client and/or server may be specified on the command line.
The desired client program and its arguments should be given as the
first command line arguments to xinit. To specify a particular server
command line, append a double dash (–) to the xinit command line
(after any client and arguments) followed by the desired server com‐

Both the client program name and the server program name must begin
with a slash (/) or a period (.). Otherwise, they are treated as an
arguments to be appended to their respective startup lines. This makes
it possible to add arguments (for example, foreground and background
colors) without having to retype the whole command line.

If an explicit server name is not given and the first argument follow‐
ing the double dash (–) is a colon followed by a digit, xinit will use
that number as the display number instead of zero. All remaining argu‐
ments are appended to the server command line.

Below are several examples of how command line arguments in xinit are

xinit This will start up a server named X and run the user’s .xini‐
trc, if it exists, or else start an xterm.

xinit — /usr/bin/Xvnc :1
This is how one could start a specific type of server on an
alternate display.

xinit -geometry =80×65+10+10 -fn 8×13 -j -fg white -bg navy
This will start up a server named X, and will append the given
arguments to the default xterm command. It will ignore .xini‐

xinit -e widgets — ./Xorg -l -c
This will use the command .Xorg -l -c to start the server and
will append the arguments -e widgets to the default xterm com‐

xinit /usr/ucb/rsh fasthost cpupig -display ws:1 — :1 -a 2 -t 5
This will start a server named X on display 1 with the argu‐
ments -a 2 -t 5. It will then start a remote shell on the
machine fasthost in which it will run the command cpupig,
telling it to display back on the local workstation.

Below is a sample .xinitrc that starts a clock, several terminals, and
leaves the window manager running as the “last” application. Assum‐
ing that the window manager has been configured properly, the user then
chooses the “Exit” menu item to shut down X.

xrdb -load $HOME/.Xresources
xsetroot -solid gray &
xclock -g 50×50-0+0 -bw 0 &
xload -g 50×50-50+0 -bw 0 &
xterm -g 80×24+0+0 &
xterm -g 80×24+0-0 &

Sites that want to create a common startup environment could simply
create a default .xinitrc that references a site-wide startup file:

. /etc/X11/xinit/site.xinitrc

Another approach is to write a script that starts xinit with a specific
shell script. Such scripts are usually named x11, xstart, or startx
and are a convenient way to provide a simple interface for novice

xinit /etc/X11/xinit/site.xinitrc — /usr/bin/X -br

DISPLAY This variable gets set to the name of the display to
which clients should connect.

XINITRC This variable specifies an init file containing shell
commands to start up the initial windows. By default,
.xinitrc in the home directory will be used.

.xinitrc default client script

xterm client to run if .xinitrc does not exist

.xserverrc default server script

X server to run if .xserverrc does not exist


X(7), startx(1), Xserver(1), Xorg(1), xorg.conf(5), xterm(1)


Bob Scheifler, MIT Laboratory for Computer Science

X Version 11 xinit 1.3.4 XINIT(1)