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The Python X Library

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The main part of the code is

Copyright (C) 2000-2002  Peter Liljenberg

Some contributed code is copyrighted by the contributors, in these cases that is indicated in the source files in question.

The Python X Library is released under LGPL v2.1 or later (since 2016), see the file LICENSE for details. 0.15rc1 and before were released under GPL v2.


The Python X Library requires Python 2.7 or newer. It has been tested to various extents with Python 2.7 and 3.3 through 3.6.

The Python X Library will only work on systems that have an X server installed, such as most Linux distros, but will not work on Windows or MacOS.


The Python Xlib uses the standard setuptools package, to install run this command:

python install

See the command help for details: python install -h.

Alternatively, you can run programs from the distribution directory, or change the module path in programs.

There's a simple example program, implemented twice using both the high-level interface and the low-level protocol.


The Python X Library is intended to be a fully functional X client library for Python programs. It is written entirely in Python, in contrast to earlier X libraries for Python (the ancient X extension and the newer plxlib) which were interfaces to the C Xlib.

This is possible to do since X client programs communicate with the X server via the X protocol. The communication takes place over TCP/IP, Unix sockets, DECnet or any other streaming network protocol. The C Xlib is merely an interface to this protocol, providing functions suitable for a C environment.

There are three advantages of implementing a pure Python library:

  • Integration: The library can make use of the wonderful object system in Python, providing an easy-to-use class hierarchy.
  • Portability: The library will be usable on (almost) any computer which have Python installed. A C interface could be problematic to port to non-Unix systems, such as MS Windows or OpenVMS.
  • Maintainability: It is much easier to develop and debug native Python modules than modules written in C.


The reference manual is not finished by far, but is probably still useful. It can be browsed online.

There are also some example programs and, of course, the standard X11 documentation applies.

Project status

The low-level protocol is complete, implementing client-side X11R6. The high-level object oriented interface is also fully functional. It is possible to write client applications with the library. Currently, the only real application using Python Xlib is the window manager PLWM, starting with version 2.0.

There is a resource database implementation, ICCCM support and a framework for adding X extension code. Several extensions have been implemented (RECORD, SHAPE, Xinerama, Composite, RANDR, DAMAGE, Generic Event, SECURITY, XFIXES, XInput, XTEST, NV-CONTROL, DPMS and XRes); patches for additions are very welcome.

There are most likely still bugs, but the library is at least stable enough to run PLWM. A continuously bigger part of the library is covered by regression tests, improving stability.

The documentation is still quite rudimentary, but should be of some help for people programming with the Xlib. X beginners should first find some general texts on X. A very good starting point is

See the file TODO for a detailed list of what is missing, approximately ordered by importance.