Using X windows applications remotely

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Using X Windows Applications Remotely

MacOs, Gnu/Linux and other Operating Systems which support X Windows

All you should need to know with these operating systems is how to tell ssh to tunnel X Windows connections back to your display. When you execute ssh give it the -X option to enable this. Unless your ssh client or the host you are connected to has X Windows tunneling disabled this should setup the remote host's environment and tunnel the necessary network connections to use X applications. To test this either run the application you are interested in or some other X Windows application

(xclock is a simple/widely available application).

When connecting to compute nodes of our Rocks clusters you may need to use the -Y flag instead of -X.

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Windows requires additional software to display X Windows applications. There are several X Windows display solutions available for Microsoft Windows, two covered here are Cygwin and Xming.



Once you have installed and gotten one of these packages working you will need an ssh client to connect to the remote host. If you are using Cygwin it also comes with an ssh client, or alternatively PuTTY is a freely available SSH client for Windows available at:


Cygwin is a Unix-like command-line interface and Environment for Microsoft Windows, which includes X-windows and multiple Unix utilities. Cygwin's installation can be more complicated but if you are interested in using some of the other code ported to Cygwin it may be of interest to you.

Cygwin is available free of charge from:

Using remote applications over ssh with Cygwin

There are instructions for doing this at:


Xming is an X Windows Server for Microsoft Windows, and has a freely available public domain version available. The installation is simple, and if all you are interested in is being able to display a client's windows, this is a simple solution.

The software and installation instructions are available here. And don't overlook installing the font's, they are a separate package.

Other Solutions

Another Idea to consider would be to use a Linux Live CD to boot from and use X windows natively. Most linux distributions have Live CD images available that can be used to boot a PC and run linux without replacing the installed operating system.

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