Xnest(1) General Commands Manual Xnest(1)
Xnest - a nested X server
Xnest [ options ]
Xnest is both an X client and an X server. Xnest is a client of the real server which manages windows and graphics requests on its behalf.
Xnest is a server to its own clients. Xnest manages windows and graphics requests on their behalf. To these clients, Xnest appears to be
a conventional server.
Xnest supports all standard options of the sample server implementation. For more details, please see Xserver(1). The following addi-
tional arguments are supported as well.
This option specifies the display name of the real server that Xnest should try to connect to. If it is not provided on the command
line, Xnest will read the DISPLAY environment variable in order to find out this information.
-sync This option tells Xnest to synchronize its window and graphics operations with the real server. This is a useful option for debug-
ging, but it will slow down Xnest's performance considerably. It should not be used unless absolutely necessary.
-full This option tells Xnest to utilize full regeneration of real server objects and reopen a new connection to the real server each time
the nested server regenerates. The sample server implementation regenerates all objects in the server when the last client of this
server terminates. When this happens, Xnest by default maintains the same top-level window and the same real server connection in
each new generation. If the user selects full regeneration, even the top-level window and the connection to the real server will be
regenerated for each server generation.
This option specifies the default visual class of the nested server. It is similar to the -cc option from the set of standard
options except that it will accept a string rather than a number for the visual class specification. The string must be one of the
following six values: StaticGray, GrayScale, StaticColor, PseudoColor, TrueColor, or DirectColor. If both the -class and -cc
options are specified, the last instance of either option takes precedence. The class of the default visual of the nested server
need not be the same as the class of the default visual of the real server, but it must be supported by the real server. Use xdpy-
info(1) to obtain a list of supported visual classes on the real server before starting Xnest. If the user chooses a static class,
all the colors in the default color map will be preallocated. If the user chooses a dynamic class, colors in the default color map
will be available to individual clients for allocation.
This option specifies the default visual depth of the nested server. The depth of the default visual of the nested server need not
be the same as the depth of the default visual of the real server, but it must be supported by the real server. Use xdpyinfo(1) to
obtain a list of supported visual depths on the real server before starting Xnest.
-sss This option tells Xnest to use the software screen saver. By default, Xnest will use the screen saver that corresponds to the hard-
ware screen saver in the real server. Of course, even this screen saver is software-generated since Xnest does not control any
actual hardware. However, it is treated as a hardware screen saver within the sample server code.
This option specifies the geometry parameters for the top-level Xnest window. See "GEOMETRY SPECIFICATIONS" in X(7) for a discusson
of this option's syntax. This window corresponds to the root window of the nested server. The width W and height H specified with
this option will be the maximum width and height of each top-level Xnest window. Xnest will allow the user to make any top-level
window smaller, but it will not actually change the size of the nested server root window. Xnest does not yet support the RANDR
extension for resizing, rotation, and reflection of the root window. If this option is not specified, Xnest will choose W and H to
be 3/4ths the dimensions of the root window of the real server.
This option specifies the border width of the top-level Xnest window. The integer parameter int must be positive. The default bor-
der width is 1.
This option specifies the name of the top-level Xnest window as string. The default value is the program name.
This option specifies the number of screens to create in the nested server. For each screen, Xnest will create a separate top-level
window. Each screen is referenced by the number after the dot in the client display name specification. For example, xterm -dis-
play :1.1 will open an xterm(1) client in the nested server with the display number :1 on the second screen. The number of screens
is limited by the hard-coded constant in the server sample code, which is usually 3.
This option tells Xnest to do its own color map installation by bypassing the real window manager. For it to work properly, the
user will probably have to temporarily quit the real window manager. By default, Xnest will keep the nested client window whose
color map should be installed in the real server in the WM_COLORMAP_WINDOWS property of the top-level Xnest window. If this color
map is of the same visual type as the root window of the nested server, Xnest will associate this color map with the top-level Xnest
window as well. Since this does not have to be the case, window managers should look primarily at the WM_COLORMAP_WINDOWS property
rather than the color map associated with the top-level Xnest window. Unfortunately, window managers are not very good at doing
that yet so this option might come in handy.
This option tells Xnest to use window_id as the root window instead of creating a window.
Starting up Xnest is just as simple as starting up xclock(1) from a terminal emulator. If a user wishes to run Xnest on the same worksta-
tion as the real server, it is important that the nested server is given its own listening socket address. Therefore, if there is a server
already running on the user's workstation, Xnest will have to be started up with a new display number. Since there is usually no more than
one server running on a workstation, specifying 'Xnest :1' on the command line will be sufficient for most users. For each server running
on the workstation, the display number needs to be incremented by one. Thus, if you wish to start another Xnest, you will need to type
'Xnest :2' on the command line.
To run clients in the nested server, each client needs to be given the same display number as the nested server. For example, 'xterm -dis-
play :1' will start up an xterm process in the first nested server and 'xterm -display :2' will start an xterm in the second nested server
from the example above. Additional clients can be started from these xterms in each nested server.
Xnest as a client
Xnest behaves and looks to the real server and other real clients as another real client. It is a rather demanding client, however, since
almost any window or graphics request from a nested client will result in a window or graphics request from Xnest to the real server.
Therefore, it is desirable that Xnest and the real server are on a local network, or even better, on the same machine. Xnest assumes that
the real server supports the SHAPE extension. There is no way to turn off this assumption dynamically. Xnest can be compiled without the
SHAPE extension built in, in which case the real server need not support it. Dynamic SHAPE extension selection support may be considered
in further development of Xnest.
Since Xnest need not use the same default visual as the the real server, the top-level window of the Xnest client always has its own color
map. This implies that other windows' colors will not be displayed properly while the keyboard or pointer focus is in the Xnest window,
unless the real server has support for more than one installed color map at any time. The color map associated with the top window of the
Xnest client need not be the appropriate color map that the nested server wants installed in the real server. In the case that a nested
client attempts to install a color map of a different visual from the default visual of the nested server, Xnest will put the top window of
this nested client and all other top windows of the nested clients that use the same color map into the WM_COLORMAP_WINDOWS property of the
top-level Xnest window on the real server. Thus, it is important that the real window manager that manages the Xnest top-level window
looks at the WM_COLORMAP_WINDOWS property rather than the color map associated with the top-level Xnest window. Since most window managers
don't yet appear to implement this convention properly, Xnest can optionally do direct installation of color maps into the real server
bypassing the real window manager. If the user chooses this option, it is usually necessary to temporarily disable the real window manager
since it will interfere with the Xnest scheme of color map installation.
Keyboard and pointer control procedures of the nested server change the keyboard and pointer control parameters of the real server. There-
fore, after Xnest is started up, it will change the keyboard and pointer controls of the real server to its own internal defaults.
Xnest as a server
Xnest as a server looks exactly like a real server to its own clients. For the clients, there is no way of telling if they are running on
a real or a nested server.
As already mentioned, Xnest is a very user-friendly server when it comes to customization. Xnest will pick up a number of command-line
arguments that can configure its default visual class and depth, number of screens, etc.
The only apparent intricacy from the users' perspective about using Xnest as a server is the selection of fonts. Xnest manages fonts by
loading them locally and then passing the font name to the real server and asking it to load that font remotely. This approach avoids the
overload of sending the glyph bits across the network for every text operation, although it is really a bug. The consequence of this
approach is that the user will have to worry about two different font paths -- a local one for the nested server and a remote one for the
real server -- since Xnest does not propagate its font path to the real server. The reason for this is because real and nested servers
need not run on the same file system which makes the two font paths mutually incompatible. Thus, if there is a font in the local font path
of the nested server, there is no guarantee that this font exists in the remote font path of the real server. The xlsfonts(1) client, if
run on the nested server, will list fonts in the local font path and, if run on the real server, will list fonts in the remote font path.
Before a font can be successfully opened by the nested server, it has to exist in local and remote font paths. It is the users' responsi-
bility to make sure that this is the case.
Make dynamic the requirement for the SHAPE extension in the real server, rather than having to recompile Xnest to turn this requirement on
Perhaps there should be a command-line option to tell Xnest to inherit the keyboard and pointer control parameters from the real server
rather than imposing its own.
Xnest should read a customization input file to provide even greater freedom and simplicity in selecting the desired layout.
There is no support for backing store and save unders, but this should also be considered.
The proper implementation of fonts should be moved into the os layer.
Doesn't run well on servers supporting different visual depths.
Still crashes randomly.
Probably has some memory leaks.
Davor Matic, MIT X Consortium
Xserver(1), xdpyinfo(1), X(7)
X Version 11 xorg-server 1.15.0 Xnest(1)