startx - Man Page

initialize an X session

Examples (TL;DR)


startx [ [ client ] options ... ] [ -- [ server ] [ display ] options ... ]


The startx script is a front end to xinit(1) that provides a somewhat nicer user interface for running a single session of the X Window System.  It is often run with no arguments.

Arguments immediately following the startx command are used to start a client in the same manner as xinit(1). The special argument '--' marks the end of client arguments and the beginning of server options. It may be convenient to specify server options with startx to change on a per-session basis the default color depth, the server's notion of the number of dots-per-inch the display device presents, or take advantage of a different server layout, as permitted by the Xorg(1) server and specified in the xorg.conf(5) configuration.  Some examples of specifying server arguments follow; consult the manual page for your X server to determine which arguments are legal.

startx -- -depth 16

startx -- -dpi 100

startx -- -layout Multihead

To determine the client to run, startx looks for the following files, in order:





If command line client options are given, they override this behavior and revert to the xinit(1) behavior. To determine the server to run, startx first looks for a file called .xserverrc in the user's home directory.  If that is not found, it uses the file xserverrc in the xinit library directory. If command line server options are given, they override this behavior and revert to the xinit(1) behavior.  Users rarely need to provide a .xserverrc file. See the xinit(1) manual page for more details on the arguments.

The system-wide xinitrc and xserverrc files are found in the /etc/X11/xinit directory.

The .xinitrc is typically a shell script which starts many clients according to the user's preference.  When this shell script exits, startx kills the server and performs any other session shutdown needed. Most of the clients started by .xinitrc should be run in the background.  The last client should run in the foreground; when it exits, the session will exit.  People often choose a session manager, window manager, or xterm as the ''magic'' client.


Below is a sample .xinitrc that starts several applications and leaves the window manager running as the ''last'' application.  Assuming that the window manager has been configured properly, the user then chooses the ''Exit'' menu item to shut down X.

xrdb -load $HOME/.Xresources
xsetroot -solid gray &
xbiff -geometry -430+5 &
oclock -geometry 75x75-0-0 &
xload -geometry -80-0 &
xterm -geometry +0+60 -ls &
xterm -geometry +0-100 &
xconsole -geometry -0+0 -fn 5x7 &
exec twm

Environment Variables


This variable gets set to the name of the display to which clients should connect.  Note that this gets set, not read.


This variable, if not already defined, gets set to $(HOME)/.Xauthority. This is to prevent the X server, if not given the -auth argument, from automatically setting up insecure host-based authentication for the local host.  See the Xserver(1) and Xsecurity(7) manual pages for more information on X client/server authentication.



Client to run.  Typically a shell script which runs many programs in the background.


Server to run.  The default is X.


Client to run if the user has no .xinitrc file.


Server to run if the user has no .xserverrc file.

See Also

xinit(1), X(7), Xserver(1), Xorg(1), xorg.conf(5)

Referenced By

configuration.nix(5), startlxqt(1), x11vnc(1), xauth(1), xdesktopwaves(1), xinit(1), Xserver(1).

xinit 1.4.0 X Version 11