Software terminal emulation under the X Window System

The graphical user interfaces of most Linux and Unix operating environments are built on the foundation of the X Window System, an open technology developed by a consortium of vendors and educational institutions and now administered by the X.Org section of the X/Open Group.

The basic xterm application of the X Window System does a decent emulation of a DEC VT102, and most variants can also emulate the Tektronix 4014 for vector-graphics display. As with most Unix things, basic documentation on xterm may be viewed by typing "man xterm" at the shell prompt (or look here).

Thomas Dickey has enhanced the original concept with an xterm version that supports ANSI/ISO color (including background-color erase) and most functions of the DEC VT220 terminal except for a handful (DECSTR, the KAM and SRM modes, the ones pertaining the doublesize and soft characters, and, of course, blink).

With the usual distributed xterm code, if you want such amenities as scrollbars for the window, you'll have to add some options into your ~/.Xdefaults file. Also, I've found that some users are unaware of the menu for selecting the screen font, which you can invoke by holding down the Control key and depressing the right mouse button (with the mouse cursor in the xterm window).

Information on the X Window System: X11R5, X11R6, etc.

Rudimentary Information on X Terminal hardware:

Note how an X terminal bears a strong resemblance to the recently proclaimed "Network Computer". If you need to know more about these, read the Network Computer Frequently Asked Questions document.

Various X Information on the Internet

Even if you using some other X-Windows-based terminal emulator, such as rxvt or Eterm, to enjoy the fullest set of features (such as color text), you may need to get and install Eric Raymond's global master terminfo database.

The comprehensive Motif/X Windows documentation published by O'Reilly and Associates is now available as a free download from Imperial Software Technology and directly from O'Reilly's "OpenBook" web site.

Instructions for using the DEC VXT 2000 windowing terminal may be found in the "system management" section of the on-line documentation (VAX CD-ROM 1 of 3) available at Acorn Software's site.


See also the local PC/Mac/WS-emulation page.

Links to vendor pages

(return to Video Terminal index page)

The miscellaneous information page covers many issues somehow related to information display, including character sets, fonts, codes, HTML, XML, Postscript, printing, data representation, and image conversion.
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Introductory material copyright © 1995
and archive contents collection copyright © 1995, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 Richard S. Shuford.

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