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Note:  This message provides some background info on the history of the being released with Mac OS X 10.5; it is mainly intended for developers and other curious parties.  

In a roughly chronological order, a brief history of Apple's

* Original 3rd-party implementation of X11 was a port of XFree86 from Linux; ran on Darwin, replaced Aqua (because it directly interfaced with the graphics hardware using IOKit)

* XonX project created to add official Darwin support to XFree86 codebase; this new, enhanced still took up the whole screen, but at least you could switch back and forth between X11 and the rest of OS X using a hotkey

* Apple takes code, forks it, and adds rootless support and better integration with Aqua apps, renames it and releases it as a "developer beta" for Jaguar.

* Both Apple and XFree86 continue development. continues to evolve, generally keeping feature parity with; Apple starts bundling with Mac OS X Panther as an optional install.  Apple pulls in updates from XFree86 for releases that shipped with Panther and Tiger;  XDarwin then incorporates many improvements from Apple's back into XFree86.

* Many users use because it is officially supported by Apple and features smoother integration with the rest of OS X; many other users continue to use because it's built out of the XFree86 source tree, meaning that it is updated along with the widely-used XFree86 codebase. also contains many interface "tweaks" not present in

* Time passes.  Bugs are found in, and the community occasionally responds by fixing them using the source code available from, and then compiling it  (for example, the yellow-cursor bug); however, there is no way to directly contribute patches back to As a result, some users pass around patched versions of, but there is no organized way to track (or find) these files.

* XFree86 underwent a licensing crisis and became defunct; more details on Wikipedia at For a variety of reasons, stewardship of the cross-platform X11 code shifted first to and later to   Objectively speaking, this series of events  "breathed life into" X11 -- more developers were given the ability to directly contribute code to X11, and an initiative was begun to "modularize" the X11 codebase.  Put simply, the open-source community overhauled the X11 code in a way that made it easier to update independent components.  The best comparison I can make is to fixing a poorly healed bone -- you have to break it again to fix it.  It's painful, but the end result is much better.  The end result was X11R7.0.  (Mac OS X 10.4 shipped with X11R6.6, IIRC.)

At this point, we got some outside help -- I direct you to this blog entry:

Peter O'Gorman gave Apple a set of patches that made the old XDarwin build in X11R7.0.  Torrey Lyons (the original maintainer of XDarwin) contributed a set of patches that brought XDarwin close to Apple's   The end result is the version of shipping with OS X 10.5.  

The maintainers expressed interest in hosting the code directly in the main source code repository.  That code is available in a branch at In the long run, we expect that this will allow for a much smoother development process for

Although the "new" lacks some features found in the old, and adds some new bugs, I sincerely believe that the new opportunity for community involvement in its development will result in a vastly improved

Ben Byer
CoreOS / BSD Technology Group, XDarwin maintainer

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