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freedesktop.org is a site designed to promote interoperability between desktop environments which use The X Window System. It exists to promote discussion and define common standards, and also to host projects which promote these. Havoc Pennington is the main guy behind freedesktop.org. Red Hat own the domain.

Some of the notable standards it has defined so far include:

  • Xdnd, a common drag and drop specification for Gtk+ and Qt.
  • Startup notification, so an environment can monitor how an application is starting up.
  • A system tray standard. You can now use your GNOME system tray applets under KDE and vice versa.
  • A common standard for where and how to store things on your desktop.
  • XBEL, an XML standard for storing browser bookmarks.
  • Cut and Paste in X, which has long been a gripe with X :)
They also have some pretty cool software:
  • pkg-config is a system for automatically finding information about installed libraries and dealing with dependencies easily.
  • DBUS, a lightweight message bus system for notifying the user of system events.
  • Cairo, a vector graphics library.
  • Keith Packard's KDrive X server.
  • HAL, a Hardware Abstraction Layer, for dealing with configuring hardware.

Freedesktop.org has achieved limited success so far. Most of the successes have been fairly small (Xdnd and the common system tray system for example). A lot of the really big things arent finished yet. DBUS and Cairo in particular look like they're going to be pretty important.

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