X resources

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Xresources is a user-level configuration dotfile, typically located at ~/.Xresources. It can be used to set X resources, which are configuration parameters for X client applications.

They can do many operations, including:

  • defining terminal colours
  • configuring terminal preferences
  • setting DPI, antialiasing, hinting and other X font settings
  • changing the Xcursor theme
  • theming xscreensaver
  • altering preferences on low-level X applications (xclock (xorg-xclock), xpdf, rxvt-unicode, etc.)


Install the xorg-xrdb package.


Load resource file

Resources are stored in the X server, so have to only be read once. They are also accessible to remote X11 clients (such as those forwarded over SSH).

Load a resource file (such as the conventional .Xresources), replacing any current settings:

$ xrdb ~/.Xresources

Load a resource file, and merge with the current settings:

$ xrdb -merge ~/.Xresources
  • Most Display managers will load the ~/.Xresources file on login.
  • The older ~/.Xdefaults file is read when an X11 program starts, but only if xrdb has not been used in the current session. [1]


If you are using a copy of the default xinitrc as your .xinitrc it already merges ~/.Xresources.

If you are using a custom .xinitrc add the following line:

[[ -f ~/.Xresources ]] && xrdb -merge -I$HOME ~/.Xresources
Warning: Never background the xrdb command within ~/.xinitrc. Otherwise, programs launched after xrdb may look for resources before it has finished loading them.

Default settings

To see the default settings for your installed X11 apps, look in /usr/share/X11/app-defaults/.

Detailed information on program-specific resources is usually provided in the man page for the program. xterm's man page is a good example, as it contains a list of X resources and their default values.

To see the current loaded resources:

xrdb -query -all

Xresources syntax

Basic syntax

The syntax of an Xresources file is as follows:

name.Class.resource: value

and here is a real world example:

xscreensaver.Dialog.headingFont: -*-fixed-bold-r-*-*-*-100-*-*-*-*-iso8859-1
The name of the application, such as xterm, xpdf, etc
The classification used to group resources together. Class names are typically uppercase.
The name of the resource whose value is to be changed. Resources are typically lowercase with uppercase concatenation.
The actual value of the resource. This can be 1 of 3 types:
  • Integer (whole numbers)
  • Boolean (true/false, yes/no, on/off)
  • String (a string of characters) (for example a word (white), a color (#ffffff), or a path (/usr/bin/firefox))
A dot (.) is used to signify each step down into the hierarchy — in the above example we start at name, then descend into Class, and finally into the resource itself. A colon (:) is used to separate the resource declaration from the actual value.

Wildcard matching

The asterisk can be used as a wildcard, making it easy to write a single rule that can be applied to many different applications or elements.

Using the previous example, if you want to apply the same font to all programs (not just XScreenSaver) that contain the class name Dialog which contains the resource name headingFont, you would write:

*Dialog.headingFont:     -*-fixed-bold-r-*-*-*-100-*-*-*-*-iso8859-1

If you want to apply this same rule to all programs that contain the resource headingFont, regardless of its class, you would write:

*headingFont:    -*-fixed-bold-r-*-*-*-100-*-*-*-*-iso8859-1


To add a comment to your Xresources file, simply prefix it with an exclamation mark (!), for example:

! The following rule will be ignored because it has been commented out
!Xft.antialias:        true

Include files

Note: You need to have a C preprocessor, such as GNU CPP, installed to use this functionality.

To use different files for each application, use #include in the main file. For example:

#include ".Xresources.d/xterm"
#include ".Xresources.d/rxvt-unicode"
#include ".Xresources.d/fonts"
#include ".Xresources.d/xscreensaver"

If files fail to load, specify the directory to xrdb with the -I parameter. For example:

xrdb -I$HOME ~/.Xresources

Sample usage

The following samples should provide a good understanding of how application settings can be modified using an Xresources file. See [2] for more examples. Refer to the man page of the application in question otherwise.

Terminal colors

See Color output in console#Terminal emulators.


See Cursor themes#X resources.


See Font configuration#Applications without fontconfig support.


See Xterm#Configuration.


See Rxvt-unicode#Configuration.


See Options in xpdf(1).


Parsing errors

Display managers such as GDM may use the --nocpp argument for xrdb.

See also