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X11 Configuration

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If X is misconfigured to correct the configuration can be a real chore. Usually you need to know all the hardware specifications for your monitor and video card, which isn't always easy to gather. Nowadays, though, your distribution's installation program is generally able to autodetect the hardware and find the right settings.

The configuration is stored the file /etc/X11/xorg.conf for the X.Org server.

The configuration file is divided into sections. For example, the Module section specifies the modules to be loaded when the X Window System starts up. There can be more than one of a particular section type. In this configuration are two InputDevice sections, one for the keyboard and one for the mouse. Each section has an Identifier, used to reference the section from another section.

At the top of the file, the ServerLayout section ties together Screen0, Mouse0, and Keyboard0 as the combination of hardware for the X server to manage. Then if you look at the end of the file, you can see that Screen0 comprises the combination of Videocard0 and Monitor0, thus tying everything together.


Old News ;-)

X11 Configuration Contributed by Christopher Shumway.

5.4.1 Before Starting

Before configuration of X11 the following information about the target system is needed:

The specifications for the monitor are used by X11 to determine the resolution and refresh rate to run at. These specifications can usually be obtained from the documentation that came with the monitor or from the manufacturer's website. There are two ranges of numbers that are needed, the horizontal scan rate and the vertical synchronization rate.

The video adapter's chipset defines what driver module X11 uses to talk to the graphics hardware. With most chipsets, this can be automatically determined, but it is still useful to know in case the automatic detection does not work correctly.

Video memory on the graphic adapter determines the resolution and color depth which the system can run at. This is important to know so the user knows the limitations of the system.

5.4.2 Configuring X11

Configuration of X11 is a multi-step process. The first step is to build an initial configuration file. As the super user, simply run:

# Xorg -configure

This will generate an X11 configuration skeleton file in the /root directory called (whether you su(1) or do a direct login affects the inherited supervisor $HOME directory variable). The X11 program will attempt to probe the graphics hardware on the system and write a configuration file to load the proper drivers for the detected hardware on the target system.

The next step is to test the existing configuration to verify that Xorg can work with the graphics hardware on the target system. To perform this task, type:

# Xorg -config

If a black and grey grid and an X mouse cursor appear, the configuration was successful. To exit the test, just press Ctrl+Alt+Backspace simultaneously.

Note: If the mouse does not work, you will need to first configure it before proceeding. See Section 2.10.10 in the FreeBSD install chapter.

Next, tune the configuration file to taste. Open the file in a text editor such as emacs(1) or ee(1). First, add the frequencies for the target system's monitor. These are usually expressed as a horizontal and vertical synchronization rate. These values are added to the file under the "Monitor" section:

Section "Monitor"
        Identifier   "Monitor0"
        VendorName   "Monitor Vendor"
        ModelName    "Monitor Model"
        HorizSync    30-107
        VertRefresh  48-120

The HorizSync and VertRefresh keywords may be missing in the configuration file. If they are, they need to be added, with the correct horizontal synchronization rate placed after the HorizSync keyword and the vertical synchronization rate after the VertRefresh keyword. In the example above the target monitor's rates were entered.

X allows DPMS (Energy Star) features to be used with capable monitors. The xset(1) program controls the time-outs and can force standby, suspend, or off modes. If you wish to enable DPMS features for your monitor, you must add the following line to the monitor section:

        Option       "DPMS"

While the configuration file is still open in an editor, select the default resolution and color depth desired. This is defined in the "Screen" section:

Section "Screen"
        Identifier "Screen0"
        Device     "Card0"
        Monitor    "Monitor0"
        DefaultDepth 24
        SubSection "Display"
                Viewport  0 0
                Depth     24
                Modes     "1024x768"

The DefaultDepth keyword describes the color depth to run at by default. This can be overridden with the -depth command line switch to Xorg(1). The Modes keyword describes the resolution to run at for the given color depth. Note that only VESA standard modes are supported as defined by the target system's graphics hardware. In the example above, the default color depth is twenty-four bits per pixel. At this color depth, the accepted resolution is 1024 by 768 pixels.

Finally, write the configuration file and test it using the test mode given above.

Note: One of the tools available to assist you during troubleshooting process are the X11 log files, which contain information on each device that the X11 server attaches to. Xorg log file names are in the format of /var/log/Xorg.0.log. The exact name of the log can vary from Xorg.0.log to Xorg.8.log and so forth.

If all is well, the configuration file needs to be installed in a common location where Xorg(1) can find it. This is typically /etc/X11/xorg.conf or /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf.

# cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf

The X11 configuration process is now complete. Xorg may be now started with the startx(1) utility. The X11 server may also be started with the use of xdm(1).

Note: There is also a graphical configuration tool, xorgcfg(1), which comes with the X11 distribution. It allows you to interactively define your configuration by choosing the appropriate drivers and settings. This program can be invoked from the console, by typing the command xorgcfg -textmode. For more details, refer to the xorgcfg(1) manual page.

Alternatively, there is also a tool called xorgconfig(1). This program is a console utility that is less user friendly, but it may work in situations where the other tools do not.

5.4.3 Advanced Configuration Topics Configuration with Intel® i810 Graphics Chipsets

Configuration with Intel® i810 integrated chipsets requires the agpgart AGP programming interface for X11 to drive the card. See the agp(4) driver manual page for more information.

This will allow configuration of the hardware as any other graphics board. Note on systems without the agp(4) driver compiled in the kernel, trying to load the module with kldload(8) will not work. This driver has to be in the kernel at boot time through being compiled in or using /boot/loader.conf. Adding a Widescreen Flatpanel to the Mix

This section assumes a bit of advanced configuration knowledge. If attempts to use the standard configuration tools above have not resulted in a working configuration, there is information enough in the log files to be of use in getting the setup working. Use of a text editor will be necessary.

Current widescreen (WSXGA, WSXGA+, WUXGA, WXGA, WXGA+, formats support 16:10 and 10:9 formats or aspect ratios that can be problematic. Examples of some common screen resolutions for 16:10 aspect ratios are:

At some point, it will be as easy as adding one of these resolutions as a possible Mode in the Section "Screen" as such:

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Screen0"
Device     "Card0"
Monitor    "Monitor0"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
    Viewport  0 0
    Depth     24
    Modes     "1680x1050"

Xorg is smart enough to pull the resolution information from the widescreen via I2C/DDC information so it knows what the monitor can handle as far as frequencies and resolutions.

If those ModeLines do not exist in the drivers, one might need to give Xorg a little hint. Using /var/log/Xorg.0.log one can extract enough information to manually create a ModeLine that will work. Simply look for information resembling this:

(II) MGA(0): Supported additional Video Mode:
(II) MGA(0): clock: 146.2 MHz   Image Size:  433 x 271 mm
(II) MGA(0): h_active: 1680  h_sync: 1784  h_sync_end 1960 h_blank_end 2240 h_border: 0
(II) MGA(0): v_active: 1050  v_sync: 1053  v_sync_end 1059 v_blanking: 1089 v_border: 0
(II) MGA(0): Ranges: V min: 48  V max: 85 Hz, H min: 30  H max: 94 kHz, PixClock max 170 MHz

This information is called EDID information. Creating a ModeLine from this is just a matter of putting the numbers in the correct order:

ModeLine <name> <clock> <4 horiz. timings> <4 vert. timings>

So that the ModeLine in Section "Monitor" for this example would look like this:

Section "Monitor"
Identifier      "Monitor1"
VendorName      "Bigname"
ModelName       "BestModel"
ModeLine        "1680x1050" 146.2 1680 1784 1960 2240 1050 1053 1059 1089
Option          "DPMS"

Now having completed these simple editing steps, X should start on your new widescreen monitor.


The programs SaX2 and xorgconfig create the file xorg.conf, by default in /etc/X11. This is the primary configuration file for the X Window System. Find all the settings here concerning your graphics card, mouse, and monitor.

The following paragraphs describe the structure of the configuration file /etc/X11/xorg.conf. It consists of several sections, each one dealing with a certain aspect of the configuration. Each section starts with the keyword Section <designation> and ends with EndSection. The sections have the form:

Section designation
  entry 1
  entry 2
  entry n

The available section types are listed in Table 11.2, "Sections in /etc/X11/xorg.conf".

Table 11.2. Sections in /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Type Meaning
Files This section describes the paths used for fonts and the RGB color table.
ServerFlags General switches are set here.
InputDevice Input devices, like keyboards and special input devices (touchpads, joysticks, etc.), are configured in this section. Important parameters in this section are Driver and the options defining the Protocol and Device.
Monitor Describes the monitor used. The individual elements of this section are the name, which is referred to later in the Screen definition, the bandwidth, and the synchronization frequency limits (HorizSync and VertRefresh). Settings are given in MHz, kHz, and Hz. Normally, the server refuses any modeline that does not correspond with the specification of the monitor. This prevents too high frequencies from being sent to the monitor by accident.
Modes The modeline parameters are stored here for the specific screen resolutions. These parameters can be calculated by SaX2 on the basis of the values given by the user and normally do not need to be changed. Intervene manually at this point, if, for example, you want to connect a fixed frequency monitor. Find details of the meaning of individual number values in the HOWTO file /usr/share/doc/howto/en/XFree86-Video-Timings-HOWTO.gz.
Device This section defines a specific graphics card. It is referenced by its descriptive name.
Screen This section puts together a Monitor and a Device to form all the necessary settings for X.Org. In the Display subsection, specify the size of the virtual screen (Virtual), the ViewPort, and the Modes used with this screen.
ServerLayout This section defines the layout of a single or multihead configuration. This section binds the input devices InputDevice and the display devices Screen.

Monitor, Device, and Screen are explained in more detail below. Further information about the other sections can be found in the manual pages of X.Org and xorg.conf.

There can be several different Monitor and Device sections in xorg.conf. Even multiple Screen sections are possible. The following ServerLayout section determines which one is used.

11.2.1. Screen Section

First, take a closer look at the screen section, which combines a monitor with a device section and determines the resolution and color depth to use. A screen section might resemble Example 11.1, "Screen Section of the File /etc/X11/xorg.conf".

Example 11.1. Screen Section of the File /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Section "Screen"
  DefaultDepth  16
  SubSection "Display"
    Depth       16
    Modes       "1152x864" "1024x768" "800x600"
    Virtual     1152x864
  SubSection "Display"
    Depth       24
    Modes       "1280x1024"
  SubSection "Display"
    Depth       32
    Modes "640x480"
  SubSection "Display"
    Depth        8
    Modes       "1280x1024"
  Device        "Device[0]"
  Identifier    "Screen[0]"
  Monitor       "Monitor[0]"

The line Identifier (here Screen[0]) gives this section a defined name with which it can be uniquely referenced in the following ServerLayout section. The lines Device and Monitor specify the graphics card and the monitor that belong to this definition. These are just links to the Device and Monitor sections with their corresponding names or identifiers. These sections are discussed in detail below.

Use the DefaultDepth setting to select the color depth the server should use unless it is started with a specific color depth. There is a Display subsection for each color depth. The keyword Depth assigns the color depth valid for this subsection. Possible values for Depth are 8, 15, 16, and 24. Not all X server modules support all these values.

After the color depth, a list of resolutions is set in the Modes section. This list is checked by the X server from left to right. For each resolution, the X server searches for a suitable Modeline in the Modes section. The Modeline depends on the capability of both the monitor and the graphics card. The Monitor settings determine the resulting Modeline.

The first resolution found is the Default mode. With Ctrl-Alt-+ (on the number pad), switch to the next resolution in the list to the right. With Ctrl-Alt- (on the number pad), switch to the left. This enables you to vary the resolution while X is running.

The last line of the Display subsection with Depth 16 refers to the size of the virtual screen. The maximum possible size of a virtual screen depends on the amount of memory installed on the graphics card and the desired color depth, not on the maximum resolution of the monitor. Because modern graphics cards have a large amount of video memory, you can create very large virtual desktops. However, you may no longer be able to use 3D functionality if you fill most of the video memory with a virtual desktop. If the card has 16 MB video RAM, for example, the virtual screen can be up to 4096x4096 pixels in size at 8-bit color depth. Especially for accelerated cards, however, it is not recommended to use all your memory for the virtual screen, because this memory on the card is also used for several font and graphics caches.

11.2.2. Device Section

A device section describes a specific graphics card. You can have as many device entries in xorg.conf as you like, as long as their names are differentiated, using the keyword Identifier. As a rule-if you have more than one graphics card installed-the sections are simply numbered in order. The first one is called Device[0], the second one Device[1], and so on. The following file shows an excerpt from the Device section of a computer with a Matrox Millennium PCI graphics card:

Section "Device"
  BoardName     "MGA2064W"
  BusID         "0:19:0"
  Driver        "mga"
  Identifier    "Device[0]"
  VendorName    "Matrox"
  Option        "sw_cursor"

If you use SaX2 for configuring, the device section should look something like the above example. Both the Driver and BusID are dependent on the hardware installed in your computer and are detected by SaX2 automatically. The BusID defines the PCI or AGP slot in which the graphics card is installed. This matches the ID displayed by the command lspci. The X server needs details in decimal form, but lspci displays these in hexadecimal form.

Via the Driver parameter, specify the driver to use for this graphics card. If the card is a Matrox Millennium, the driver module is called mga. The X server then searches through the ModulePath defined in the Files section in the drivers subdirectory. In a standard installation, this is the directory /usr/X11R6/lib/modules/drivers. _drv.o is added to the name, so, in the case of the mga driver, the driver file mga_drv.o is loaded.

The behavior of the X server or of the driver can also be influenced through additional options. An example of this is the option sw_cursor, which is set in the device section. This deactivates the hardware mouse cursor and depicts the mouse cursor using software. Depending on the driver module, there are various options available, which can be found in the description files of the driver modules in the directory /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/doc. Generally valid options can also be found in the manual pages (man xorg.conf and man X.Org).

11.2.3. Monitor and Modes Section

Like the Device sections, the Monitor and Modes sections describe one monitor each. The configuration file /etc/X11/xorg.conf can contain as many Monitor sections as desired. The server layout section specifies which Monitor section is relevant.

Monitor definitions should only be set by experienced users. The modelines constitute an important part of the Monitor sections. Modelines set horizontal and vertical timings for the respective resolution. The monitor properties, especially the allowed frequencies, are stored in the Monitor section.

Unless you have an in-depth knowledge of monitor and graphics card functions, nothing should be changed in the modelines, because this could cause severe damage to your monitor.

Those who try to develop their own monitor descriptions should be very familiar with the documentation in /usr/X11/lib/X11/doc. The section covering the video modes deserves a special mention. It describes, in detail, how the hardware functions and how to create modelines.

Manual specification of modelines is rarely required today. If you are using a modern multisync monitor, the allowed frequencies and optimal resolutions can, as a rule, be read directly from the monitor by the X server via DDC, as described in the SaX2 configuration section. If this is not possible for some reason, use one of the VESA modes included in the X server. This will function with practically all graphics card and monitor combinations.

11.3. Installing and Configuring Fonts

The installation of additional fonts in SUSE LINUX is very easy. Simply copy the fonts to any directory located in the X11 font path (see Section 11.3.2, "X11 Core Fonts"). To enable use of the fonts with the new xft font rendering system, the installation directory should be a subdirectory of the directories configured in /etc/fonts/fonts.conf (see Section 11.3.1, "Xft").

The font files can be copied manually (as root) to a suitable directory, such as /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype. Alternatively, the task can be performed with the KDE font installer in the KDE Control Center. The result is the same.

Instead of copying the actual fonts, you can also create symbolic links. For example, you may want to do this if you have licensed fonts on a mounted Windows partition and want to use them. Subsequently, run SuSEconfig --module fonts.

SuSEconfig --module fonts executes the script /usr/sbin/fonts-config, which handles the configuration of the fonts. To see what this script does, refer to the manual page of the script (man fonts-config).

The procedure is the same for bitmap fonts, TrueType and OpenType fonts, and Type1 (PostScript) fonts. All these font types can be installed in any directory. Only CID-keyed fonts require a slightly different procedure. For this, see Section 11.3.3, "CID-Keyed Fonts".

X.Org contains two completely different font systems: the old X11 core font system and the newly designed Xft and fontconfig system. The following sections briefly describe these two systems.

11.3.1. Xft

From the outset, the programmers of Xft made sure that scalable fonts including antialiasing are supported well. If Xft is used, the fonts are rendered by the application using the fonts, not by the X server as in the X11 core font system. In this way, the respective application has access to the actual font files and full control of how the glyphs are rendered. This constitutes the basis for the correct display of text in a number of languages. Direct access to the font files is very useful for embedding fonts for printing to make sure that the printout looks the same as the screen output.

In SUSE LINUX, the two desktop environments KDE and GNOME, Mozilla, and many other applications already use Xft by default. Xft is already used by more applications than the old X11 core font system.

Xft uses the fontconfig library for finding fonts and influencing how they are rendered. The properties of fontconfig are controlled by the global configuration file /etc/fonts/fonts.conf and the user-specific configuration file ~/.fonts.conf. Each of these fontconfig configuration files must begin with

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE fontconfig SYSTEM "fonts.dtd">

and end with


To add directories to search for fonts, append lines such as the following:


However, this is usually not necessary. By default, the user-specific directory ~/.fonts is already entered in /etc/fonts/fonts.conf. Accordingly, all you need to do to install additional fonts is to copy them to ~/.fonts.

You can also insert rules that influence the appearance of the fonts. For example, enter

<match target="font">
 <edit name="antialias" mode="assign">

to disable antialiasing for all fonts or

<match target="font">
 <test name="family">
  <string>Luxi Mono</string>
  <string>Luxi Sans</string>
 <edit name="antialias" mode="assign">

to disable antialiasing for specific fonts.

By default, most applications use the font names sans-serif (or the equivalent sans), serif, or monospace. These are not real fonts but only aliases that are resolved to a suitable font, depending on the language setting.

Users can easily add rules to ~/.fonts.conf to resolve these aliases to their favorite fonts:


Because nearly all applications use these aliases by default, this affects almost the entire system. Thus, you can easily use your favorite fonts almost everywhere without having to modify the font settings in the individual applications.

Use the command fc-list to find out which fonts are installed and available for use. For instance, the command fc-list "" returns a list of all fonts. To find out which of the available scalable fonts (:outline=true) contain all glyphs required for Hebrew (:lang=he), their font names (family), their style (style), their weight (weight), and the name of the files containing the fonts, enter the following command:

    fc-list ":lang=he:outline=true" family style weight file

The output of this command could appear as follows:

/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeSansBold.ttf: FreeSans:style=Bold:weight=200
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeMonoBoldOblique.ttf: FreeMono:style=BoldOblique:weight=200
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeSerif.ttf: FreeSerif:style=Medium:weight=80
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeSerifBoldItalic.ttf: FreeSerif:style=BoldItalic:weight=200
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeSansOblique.ttf: FreeSans:style=Oblique:weight=80
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeSerifItalic.ttf: FreeSerif:style=Italic:weight=80
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeMonoOblique.ttf: FreeMono:style=Oblique:weight=80
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeMono.ttf: FreeMono:style=Medium:weight=80
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeSans.ttf: FreeSans:style=Medium:weight=80
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeSerifBold.ttf: FreeSerif:style=Bold:weight=200
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeSansBoldOblique.ttf: FreeSans:style=BoldOblique:weight=200
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype/FreeMonoBold.ttf: FreeMono:style=Bold:weight=200

Important parameters that can be queried with fc-list:

Parameter Meaning and Possible Values
family Name of the font family, for example, FreeSans.
foundry The manufacturer of the font, for example, urw.
style The font style, such as Medium, Regular, Bold, Italic, Heavy.
lang The language that the font supports, for example, de for German, ja for Japanese, zh-TW for traditional Chinese, or zh-CN for simplified Chinese.
weight The font weight, such as 80 for regular, 200 for bold.
slant The slant, usually 0 for none and 100 for italic.
file The name of the file containing the font.
outline true for outline fonts, false for other fonts.
scalable true for scalable fonts, false for other fonts.
bitmap true for bitmap fonts, false for other fonts.
pixelsize Font size in pixels. In connection with fc-list, this option only makes sense for bitmap fonts.

X11 Core Fonts

Today, the X11 core font system supports not only bitmap fonts but also scalable fonts, like Type1 fonts, TrueType and OpenType fonts, and CID-keyed fonts. Unicode fonts have also been supported for quite some time. In 1987, the X11 core font system was originally developed for X11R1 for the purpose of processing monochrome bitmap fonts. All extensions mentioned above were added later.

Scalable fonts are only supported without antialiasing and subpixel rendering and the loading of large scalable fonts with glyphs for many languages may take a long time. The use of Unicode fonts may also be slow and requires more memory.

The X11 core font system has a few inherent weaknesses. It is outdated and can no longer be extended in a meaningful fashion. Although it must be retained for reasons of backward compatibility, the more modern Xft and fontconfig system should be used if at all possible.

For its operation, the X server needs to know what fonts it has available and where in the system it can find them. This is handled by a FontPath variable, which contains the path to all valid system font directories. In each of these directories, a file named fonts.dir lists the available fonts in this directory. The FontPath is generated by the X server at start-up. It searches for a valid fonts.dir file in each of the FontPath entries in the configuration file /etc/X11/xorg.conf. These entries are found in the Files section. Display the actual FontPath with xset q. This path may also be changed at runtime with xset. To add an additional path, use xset +fp <path>. To remove an unwanted path, use xset -fp <path>.

If the X server is already active, newly installed fonts in mounted directories can be made available with the command xset fp rehash. This command is executed by SuSEconfig --module fonts. Because the command xset needs access to the running X server, this only works if SuSEconfig --module fonts is started from a shell that has access to the running X server. The easiest way to achieve this is to assume root permissions by entering su and the root password. su transfers the access permissions of the user who started the X server to the root shell. To check if the fonts were installed correctly and are available by way of the X11 core font system, use the command xlsfonts to list all available fonts.

By default, SUSE LINUX uses UTF-8 locales. Therefore, Unicode fonts should be preferred (font names ending with iso10646-1 in xlsfonts output). All available Unicode fonts can be listed with xlsfonts | grep iso10646-1. Nearly all Unicode fonts available in SUSE LINUX contain at least the glyphs needed for European languages (formerly encoded as iso-8859-*).

CID-Keyed Fonts

In contrast to the other font types, you cannot simply install CID-keyed fonts in just any directory. CID-keyed fonts must be installed in /usr/share/ghostscript/Resource/CIDFont. This is not relevant for Xft and fontconfig, but it is necessary for Ghostscript and the X11 core font system.

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Last modified: March 12, 2019