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Dec 1, 2007
Dec 10, 2016
Nov 29, 2002

Twin - a Textmode WINdow environment, by Massimiliano Ghilardi

Version 0.8.1

Twin is a windowing environment with mouse support, window manager, terminal emulator and networked clients, all inside a text display.

It supports a variety of displays:

  • plain text terminals (any termcap/ncurses compatible terminal, Linux console, twin's own terminal emulator);
  • X11, where it can be used as a multi-window xterm;
  • itself (you can display a twin on another twin);
  • twdisplay, a general network-transparent display client, used to attach/detach more displays on-the-fly.

Currently, twin is tested on Linux (i386, x86_64, ARM, ARM64, PowerPC, Alpha, Sparc), on Mac OS X (x86_64) and on FreeBSD (i386, x86_64). I had yet no chance to seriously test it on other systems.


Tutorial A quite complete tour of twin features: the user interface, how to use twin clients, compression, attaching/detaching displays, fonts. It also contains installation instructions and some caveats for system administrators.

COPYING License: twin server and clients are GPL'ed software.

COPYING.LIB Library license: the libraries libtutf, libtw, libTT are LGPL'ed software.

INSTALL Quick compile/install guide.

system.twinrc A detailed example of ~/.twinrc look-n-feel configuration file.

The following documentation is useful mostly to developers:

Configure Description of twin configuration options with the meaning of every single one.

README.git Hints to build twin from GIT repository.

README.porting Tips and warnings to compile twin on unsupported OSes.

libtw.txt reference API for programmers who want to write twin clients (INCOMPLETE).

libtw++.txt reference API for programmers who want to write twin C++ clients (INCOMPLETE).

Getting twin

Since you are reading this README, you probably already have it, anyway twin can be downloaded from

Building and installing twin

For detailed instructions about compiling and installing twin, see sections 3 and 4 of the file docs/Tutorial

For the impatient, it basically reduces to


then run as root

  make install

on Linux, also remember to run as root:


on FreeBSD instead, remember to run as root:

  ldconfig -R

To compile twin you need the following programs installed on your system:

  • a Bourne-shell or compatible (for example bash, dash, ash...)

  • make (most variants are supported: GNU make, BSD make...)

  • an ANSI C compiler (for example gcc or clang)

Note: it is STRONGLY recommended to install at least the following packages before compiling twin (the exact names depend on the operating system or Linux distribution):

  • x11-dev - may be named x11-devel, libx11-dev ...
  • xft-dev - may be named xft-devel, libxft-dev ...
  • ncurses-dev - may be named ncurses-devel, libncurses-dev ...
  • zlib-dev - may be named zlib1g-dev, zlib-devel, libzlib-dev ...

On Linux, it is STRONGLY recommended to also install the following package before compiling twin:

  • gpm-dev - may be named gpm-devel, libgpm-dev ...

For a discussion about MANUALLY configuring twin (almost never necessary), see the file docs/Configure. -- WARNING: if you manually enable options that were disabled by `./configure', build will almost certainly fail! --

Other topics:

See the rest of the documentation, starting from the Tutorial


Massimiliano Ghilardi


Text mode window environment. A "retro" program for embedded or remote systems, that doubles as X11 terminal and text-mode equivalent of VNC server




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