The X Window System
When thinking of the graphical user interface in Linux, people generally use terms such as “X Window System”, “Desktop Environment”, and “Window Manager”. Strictly speaking these three terms actually do not have the same meaning. So this article tries to clear the exact terminology as well as to provide a variety of tips regarding the usage of window managers within Windows.
While Linux is completely text-based, Microsoft Windows is based on a graphical user interface. This enables the operator to control the applications by clicking. Consequently every operation within Linux can easily be done without any graphical user interface. Because of the fact that Linux is text-based, the user has the possibility to run the graphical user interface on the top of it. In Unix the graphical user interface is known as ‘X Windows System’ or simply ‘X’ for short. Strictly speaking the X Windows System is responsible for the running of graphical applications on Linux. X, however, has to control the mouse, various monitor settings and the keyboard – in other words X is responsible for the hardware. The applications, however, do not have to care for the hardware. They just talk to X and inform it about the things they want to display. So X listens to the information the application gives and consequently tries to convert the application’s display commands into an ‘information’ that the hardware is able to display. It is obvious that X enables the graphical application to display their interface on the monitor screen. In spite of all it has to be taken into consideration that X is not responsible for the control of those windows where the respective applications are displayed.
Because of the fact that the X Window System only offers the place to put the windows on but does not control and check them, the user or operator is in need of additional software that cares for the handling of the windows. This important piece of software which is responsible for dealing with the windows is called ‘Window Manager’. Strictly speaking the window manager is characterized to be an X program itself. Furthermore it also requires the X Windows in order to work efficiently and take care of the windows. At this point it has to be stressed that there exists a variety of different window managers for Windows instead only for Linux which do provide everything you need in order to control the windows on your desktop. So just talk to a computer expert or a special window manager specialist who can support you in working correctly with window managers.
Please mind that a window manager only controls the way your whole desktop works. Strictly speaking a window manager is responsible for the look and acting of your windows. However, if you want some additional features or want the window manager itself to take care of your whole desktop environment, you will need a so-called desktop manager.