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A sample Xterm, running the BASH shell, showing a list of /etc.
A sample xterm, running the BASH shell, showing a list of /etc.
Developer(s) Thomas Dickey
Stable release Patch #254 / 2010-1-6; 6 days ago[1]
Operating system X Window System
Type Terminal emulator
License MIT/X Consortium License

In computing, xterm is the standard terminal emulator for the X Window System. A user can have many different invocations of xterm running at once on the same display, each of which provides independent input/output for the process running in it (normally the process is a Unix shell).

xterm originated prior to the X Window System. It was originally written as a stand-alone terminal emulator for the VAXStation 100 (VS100) by Mark Vandevoorde, a student of Jim Gettys, in the summer of 1984, when work on X started. It rapidly became clear that it would be more useful as part of X than as a standalone program, so it was retargeted to X. As Gettys tells the story, "part of why xterm's internals are so horrifying is that it was originally intended that a single process be able to drive multiple VS100 displays."[2]

After many years as part of the X reference implementation, around 1996 the main line of development then shifted to XFree86 (which itself forked from X11R6.3), and xterm is presently maintained by Thomas Dickey.

Many xterm variants are also available.[3] Most terminal emulators for X started as variations on xterm.



As with most X applications, xterm can be customized via global X resources file (e.g. /usr/lib/X11/app-defaults/XTerm), per-user resource files (e.g. ~/XTerm; ~/.Xresources) or command-line arguments. Most of the command-line options correspond to resource settings, as noted in the manual page.

While the name of the program is xterm, the X resource class is XTerm. The uxterm script overrides this, using the UXTerm resource class.

Example showing xterm's toolbar.

xterm normally does not have a menu bar. To access xterm's three menus, users must hold the Control key and press the left, middle, or right mouse button. Support for a "toolbar" can be compiled-in, which invokes the same menus.


xterm added a few protocols that have been adapted by other terminal emulators, like the xterm mouse tracking and the xterm 256 colors protocol.[4]

See also


External links

This article was originally based on material from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, which is licensed under the GFDL.

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