xrdb - X server resource database utility
xrdb [-option ...] [filename]
Xrdb is used to get or set the contents of the RESOURCE_MANAGER property on the root win-
dow of screen 0, or the SCREEN_RESOURCES property on the root window of any or all
screens, or everything combined. You would normally run this program from your X startup
Most X clients use the RESOURCE_MANAGER and SCREEN_RESOURCES properties to get user pref-
erences about color, fonts, and so on for applications. Having this information in the
server (where it is available to all clients) instead of on disk, solves the problem in
previous versions of X that required you to maintain defaults files on every machine that
you might use. It also allows for dynamic changing of defaults without editing files.
The RESOURCE_MANAGER property is used for resources that apply to all screens of the dis-
play. The SCREEN_RESOURCES property on each screen specifies additional (or overriding)
resources to be used for that screen. (When there is only one screen, SCREEN_RESOURCES is
normally not used, all resources are just placed in the RESOURCE_MANAGER property.)
The file specified by filename (or the contents from standard input if - or no filename is
given) is optionally passed through the C preprocessor with the following symbols defined,
based on the capabilities of the server being used:
the hostname portion of the display to which you are connected.
the SERVERHOST hostname string turned into a legal identifier. For example, "my-
dpy.lcs.mit.edu" becomes SRVR_my_dpy_lcs_mit_edu.
the same as SERVERHOST.
the number of the display on the server host.
the name of the host on which xrdb is running.
the CLIENTHOST hostname string turned into a legal identifier. For example,
"expo.lcs.mit.edu" becomes CLNT_expo_lcs_mit_edu.
the vendor release number for the server. The interpretation of this number will
vary depending on VENDOR.
the X protocol minor version supported by this server (currently 0).
the X protocol major version supported by this server (should always be 11).
a string literal specifying the vendor of the server.
the VENDOR name string turned into a legal identifier. For example, "MIT X Con-
sortium" becomes VNDR_MIT_X_Consortium.
A symbol is defined for each protocol extension supported by the server. Each
extension string name is turned into a legal identifier. For example, "X3D-PEX"
the total number of screens.
the number of the current screen (from zero).
the number of significant bits in an RGB color specification. This is the log
base 2 of the number of distinct shades of each primary that the hardware can gen-
erate. Note that it usually is not related to PLANES.
one of StaticGray, GrayScale, StaticColor, PseudoColor, TrueColor, DirectColor.
This is the visual class of the root window.
the visual class of the root window in a form you can #ifdef on. The value is the
numeric id of the visual.
COLOR defined only if CLASS is one of StaticColor, PseudoColor, TrueColor, or Direct-
A symbol is defined for each visual supported for the screen. The symbol includes
the class of the visual and its depth; the value is the numeric id of the visual.
(If more than one visual has the same class and depth, the numeric id of the first
one reported by the server is used.)
the height of the root window in pixels.
the width of the root window in pixels.
the number of bit planes (the depth) of the root window.
the x resolution of the screen in pixels per meter.
the y resolution of the screen in pixels per meter.
SRVR_name, CLNT_name, VNDR_name, and EXT_name identifiers are formed by changing all char-
acters other than letters and digits into underscores (_).
Lines that begin with an exclamation mark (!) are ignored and may be used as comments.
Note that since xrdb can read from standard input, it can be used to the change the con-
tents of properties directly from a terminal or from a shell script.
xrdb program accepts the following options:
-help This option (or any unsupported option) will cause a brief description of the
allowable options and parameters to be printed.
This option specifies the X server to be used; see X(7x). It also specifies the
screen to use for the -screen option, and it specifies the screen from which pre-
processor symbols are derived for the -global option.
-all This option indicates that operation should be performed on the screen-independent
resource property (RESOURCE_MANAGER), as well as the screen-specific property
(SCREEN_RESOURCES) on every screen of the display. For example, when used in con-
junction with -query, the contents of all properties are output. For -load,
-override and -merge, the input file is processed once for each screen. The
resources which occur in common in the output for every screen are collected, and
these are applied as the screen-independent resources. The remaining resources
are applied for each individual per-screen property. This the default mode of
-global This option indicates that the operation should only be performed on the screen-
independent RESOURCE_MANAGER property.
-screen This option indicates that the operation should only be performed on the
SCREEN_RESOURCES property of the default screen of the display.
This option indicates that the operation should be performed on the
SCREEN_RESOURCES property of each screen of the display. For -load, -override and
-merge, the input file is processed for each screen.
-n This option indicates that changes to the specified properties (when used with
-load, -override or -merge) or to the resource file (when used with -edit) should
be shown on the standard output, but should not be performed.
-quiet This option indicates that warning about duplicate entries should not be dis-
This option specifies the pathname of the C preprocessor program to be used.
Although xrdb was designed to use CPP, any program that acts as a filter and
accepts the -D, -I, and -U options may be used.
-nocpp This option indicates that xrdb should not run the input file through a preproces-
sor before loading it into properties.
This option indicates that the symbols that are defined for the preprocessor
should be printed onto the standard output.
-query This option indicates that the current contents of the specified properties should
be printed onto the standard output. Note that since preprocessor commands in the
input resource file are part of the input file, not part of the property, they
won't appear in the output from this option. The -edit option can be used to
merge the contents of properties back into the input resource file without damag-
ing preprocessor commands.
-load This option indicates that the input should be loaded as the new value of the
specified properties, replacing whatever was there (i.e. the old contents are
removed). This is the default action.
This option indicates that the input should be added to, instead of replacing, the
current contents of the specified properties. New entries override previous
-merge This option indicates that the input should be merged and lexicographically sorted
with, instead of replacing, the current contents of the specified properties.
-remove This option indicates that the specified properties should be removed from the
-retain This option indicates that the server should be instructed not to reset if xrdb is
the first client. This never be necessary under normal conditions, since xdm and
xinit always act as the first client.
This option indicates that the contents of the specified properties should be
edited into the given file, replacing any values already listed there. This
allows you to put changes that you have made to your defaults back into your
resource file, preserving any comments or preprocessor lines.
This option specifies a suffix to be appended to the filename used with -edit to
generate a backup file.
This option is passed through to the preprocessor and is used to define symbols
for use with conditionals such as
-Uname This option is passed through to the preprocessor and is used to remove any defi-
nitions of this symbol.
This option is passed through to the preprocessor and is used to specify a direc-
tory to search for files that are referenced with #include.
Generalizes ~/.Xdefaults files.
X(7x), Xlib Resource Manager documentation, Xt resource documentation
DISPLAY to figure out which display to use.
The default for no arguments should be to query, not to overwrite, so that it is consis-
tent with other programs.
Bob Scheifler, Phil Karlton, rewritten from the original by Jim Gettys
X Version 11 Release 6.6 XRDB(1)