X11 on Mac OS X From the Experts

By Blane Warrene

Apple has published an excellent guide to installing, configuring and running X11 on OS X at the Apple Developers Connection. The post includes excellent detail on getting the environment setup to your preference and also on working with remote servers.

There are some trade-offs considering the core Terminal in OS X has very nice integration with the GUI such as drag and drop. However, when you need an environment to run X11 apps – you cannot beat having the core BSD-Unix kernel of Darwin to run X11 on and still having immediate access to OS X.

One nice feature of X11 on the Mac is Finder integration – meaning if you double-click on an X11 app in OS X it will launch in X11.

  • If you have X11 running on another box you can always use the Mac VNC client (Chicken of the VNC) to control the X session. This is useful if you don’t wish to run X windows on your mac.

    I tried this over the weekend and it works like a charm.

    Chicken of the VNC here:


    And some useful VNC docs here:


  • Lucas — I just nabbed Chicken of the VNC and it is excellent. I tested it grabbing a remote Windows server and it behaved nicely. I like the mouse pointer tracker. Great tip!

Get the latest in Front-end, once a week, for free.