Copyright © 2012-2013,2014 by Thomas E. Dickey

Here is the latest version of this file.

In the beginning

There were X icons, but generally not closely associated with specific applications (aside from name) and except for commercial enterprises, not having a particular style.

Users would select icons that looked nice, and would (if so inclined) spend time customizing their X environment.

Not all window managers do anything with icons. Fvwm can display icons, but xterm's active icon feature is more useful than any of the predefined icons. Fvwm also is efficient, unlike the desktop environments.

I used fvwm as my default window manager for quite a while (until 2010, when it turned out that fvwm had no way to adjust to the different display sizes in my current environment). Other window managers (and desktops using them) were of interest only to investigate bugs in their interaction with xterm.

The pictures on this page show 48x48 icons (scaled to 144x144). At this time, those are still considered large icons. Perhaps in another ten years that will be the smallest size.

Adding a desktop-file

I noticed that Redhat's package for xterm had added a desktop-file, but (from bug-reports) there was no icon for it. So I added corresponding files in patch #226 (mid-2007).

Using one of the KDE or GNOME icons of course was out of the question due to licensing and reuse issues. The X sources did have an icon which was a good starting point:

X terminal icon

It is easily recognizable, and in contrast to the other icons is reasonably unambiguous. What it lacked was an explicit association with xterm. So I modified that:

XTerm icon

To complete the change, I added a colored icon:

XTerm color-icon

I created 32x32 and 48x48 xpm (X pixmap) files using gimp. At that time, the xpm files were sufficient. I chose the background to work with Redhat's muted (read "mud") backgrounds.

Given the large images which I provide here (scaled up from 48x48), you may be concerned about the low-resolution. But that was not an issue when I made these changes in 2007. Referring to a CentOS 4 system, I see that while I could add a small 16x16 icon to the GNOME panel, there was no provision for using the 48x48 icon on the desktop. That came later.

Redrawing the icons

The large image of a terminal-icon at the top of this page uses a non-transparent background. While it is suitable for the webpage, it is not a good choice for the desktop icons. That is because icons can be put onto the desktop, which can have a background image. The smaller icons can also be put into places where the filled background does not mesh with its surroundings.

The images at the top of the page also are not jagged. That is because I redrew the icons in svg format using inkscape in patch #281 (mid-2012). Here are the monochrome:

XTerm scalable monochome-icon

and colored icons:

XTerm scalable color-icon

There is no automatic way to translate the xpm file into svg. Or rather, there is—one can "always" import bitmaps into the scalable icon image. The result is often poor; although that did not stop some of the desktops from delivering icons done that way.

I chose to redraw the icons rather than tweaking bitmaps.

Redrawing the icons was only part of the process. The new icons are installed in different directories. Making the process work on several different platforms (I've about 40 virtual machines at hand) takes time.

Drawing a new icon

After completing patch #281, I worked on vile for a while. I was reminded at this point that I had neglected the window decoration icon of xterm. That is the small icon which appears at the upper left corner of the terminal window. Back in the day when one could count on all of the icons from the X distribution to be installed, one could also take for granted that the X icon would be available for this purpose.

Not so. Bring your own.

I found that scaling xterm's icon down for this size made it hard to distinguish. So I made a new icon, which is distinct. That is the "T" superimposed on an "X" which you see here:

MiniXTerm icon

I refer to it as the "mini" icon, since it is analogous to the mini-icon provided in vile.

I added images of xterm's new mini-icon, and an interim version of the #281 icon (with the same background as the pixmap icon) August 22, 2012 to my xterm pages after verifying that there was no pre-existing use.

I made all of xterm's icons available with patch #282. With this version, either icon can be configured for the desktop use.


Test your eyesight. From left to right, the icons described here are repeated as 48x48 images:

X terminal pixmap icon XTerm pixmap icon XTerm pixmap color-icon XTerm scalable icon XTerm scalable color-icon XTerm newer scalable color-icon