XFree86 is a free open source implementation of the X Window System graphical interface (also called X11 ). It provides Unix and Unix-like operating systems on (Linux, GNU Hurd, BSD and its derivatives ) basic graphics functions. In the modular system architecture of a graphical operating system, it is located as a " utility " between the device-specific drivers and the graphical user interface (such as KDE or GNOME ) and makes this all the basic graphics functions such as drawing frames and windows available to the user interface or need the graphical application programs. By 2004, this service was encountered on almost any Linux or BSD system software.

XFree86 is not limited to specific operating systems. For example, it is also part of Cygwin, a system environment for NT -based Windows systems (NT to Vista) that allows easy porting of Linux programs to Windows. Also for OS / 2 and Mac OS X, there are ports, although Apple 's X11 server provides.

Meanwhile, new installations are rarely made ​​and existing XFree86 systems, replaced by other X - schemes, particularly by the X.Org server.


The XFree86 server communicates with the kernel (usually a Linux, BSD or UNIX kernel) to control input and output devices, but sometimes he also engages himself on keyboards and mice to. A basic, except for the graphics card. This is generally addressed by XFree86 directly, bypassing the kernel. For the vast majority of graphics cards in the last 15 years, brings with XFree86 own drivers. For many common cards, there are drivers from the manufacturer. It is also possible to let the XFree86 " Linux Frame Buffer" work ( a graphics area in the kernel ) to use a device driver for Linux.

On a typical POSIX system the XFree86 configuration files are in / etc/X11. The basic configuration is done in the XF86Config or XF86Config -4, which contains, among other settings for the monitor, keyboard, mouse and graphics card. For less experienced users there are programs ( graphical) that facilitate the configuration. Modern distributions also offer a semi-automatic detection of meaningful settings.

History and naming

The project was started in 1991 by David Wexelblat, Glenn Lai, David Dawes and Jim Tsillas that it went together, fix bugs in the source code of X11 X386 (written by Thomas Roell ). This version was originally called X386 1.2e. As newer versions of X386 were sold only commercially, the project developed independently and from then was renamed XFree86 what a pun is ( from X -three -86 was free X -86).

As of October 1, 2001 XFree86 supported the X11 specification R6.5.1 including the GLX and the X- rendering extensions.

Spin-offs from XFree86

In 2003, Keith Packard has been a recognized X Window System developer, excluded from the core team. He was accused of a conspiracy: Keith Packard have tried to split the XFree86 Project. He further work within the project, but try under the hand to win other developers for a new project initiated by him X - Server project. Packard denied this; However, through an e -mail correspondence could be proved that he had actually discussed with other developers through a split. Packard himself preferring nothing more to say about the operations. This led to the creation of Xwin, a forum for the improvement of X and specifically XFree86, which completely went up in freedesktop.org later. Keith Packard began, based on the X Window System and in cooperation with freedesktop.org, a brand new development project called Xserver. Xserver used Kdrives driver API model. The authors like to describe the project as the next X - server generation that follows a direction other than XFree86.

Later, however, noted the XFree86 core team that only a limited innovation prevailed. Among other things, this has been fixed to the structure of the project: The core team members were deliberately selected for their contributions and so remained a close, closed circle. Because of the almost progressive development of the X XFree86 core team then decided on 30 December 2003, the next day resolve itself.

After the dissolution of the core team, many developers joined forces with the old X.Org Foundation to convert this into an open source project, which should provide an implementation of a free X server in the future. In cooperation with freedesktop.org represents the new development team his project under the name of the X.Org server, based on a further development of XFree86 4.4 RC2.

Massive support got the new project, as the XFree86 project for a new license decided in January 2004 that brought a special advertising clause with it. Critics have suggested that XFree86 so going to non-free software. In any case, the license change was problematic. Many distributors rated this license as a GPL-incompatible and henceforth supported the secession, which was based on the XFree86 version 4.4 RC2 and was further developed in the old license.

The cleavage since developed under the umbrella of the X.Org Foundation their own X server, the X.Org server.

In addition to this project, there was at times an experimental branch of XFree86 code named Xouvert whose development was discontinued until further notice.

After the majority of the developers switched to X.Org, there were only slight progress in XFree86. The latest version ( 4.8.0 ) was released on December 15, 2008 the last code post has been maintained in the February 2009. Upon request, the last active developer Marc Aurele La France stated that the work on the project was stopped by now.