View graphical UNIX programs on your computer

View graphical UNIX programs on your computer

This article describes the steps necessary to install X server software on your home computer. This will enable you to display windows and graphics created by applications running on remote UNIX systems.

Windows X11 Forwarding

When you run an X server and an SSH client, you will launch programs from the SSH window and the X server will be display them See these instructions for information on downloading and installing SSH software.

Your Windows SSH client must be configured to forward X Window System communication from the machine you are connecting to to your PC's display. In putty, click on the plus sign to the left of "SSH" in the left hand pane, then click "X11" and check the box labelled "Enable X11 Forwarding".

Windows: Xming

Xming is the X Windows Software from X.Org ported to Microsoft Windows. It shares source code with Cygwin's X server (see below), but you do not need the full cygwin environment to run it. You can use this X server in much the same way you use eXceed, though it does not come with many of the features of eXceed. If, for some reason, eXceed becomes unavailable to you, try this software. It can be downloaded from

macOS XQuartz

XQuartz is an open source version of the application that used to come preinstalled on macOS.

Mac X11 Forwarding

For forwarding remote X sessions over ssh you can use either (also found in /Applications/Utilities) or xterm. If you are using the Mac OS X Terminal, you will need to set your DISPLAY variable. Enter this statement into the file ~/.bashrc:

if [ -z $DISPLAY ]; then export DISPLAY=:0.0; fi

and then start a new Terminal window. If you are using xterm, the variable should be set for you.

On the Mac you should also use the -X and -Y options:

ssh -X -Y username@hostname