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Chimera on Mac OS X using X windows

Chimera versions are available for X windows and for native Aqua windows. We recommend the X windows version because of the many problems with the current port of the Aqua Tk window toolkit that Chimera uses.


To run the X windows version of Chimera you must have an X server installed and running. We recommend Apple's X server. The Apple web site only has the X server for Mac OS 10.3 at this time (Nov 6, 2003). The older X server for Mac OS 10.2 was removed from Apple's web site and we do not know if a new version for 10.2 will be provided.

Chimera runs on Mac OS 10.2 (Jaguar) and 10.3 (Panther) but not on older versions of Mac OS.


To install Chimera, open the disk image file you downloaded. This will put the Chimera application on your desktop. This may have happened automatically when you downloaded.

If more than one person will be using Chimera, the Applications folder is a good place to put it. Moving it to that folder requires administrator privileges. If it is only for your use, putting it in your home Applications folder or leaving it on the desktop are reasonable choices.


To deinstall Chimera, drag it to the trash.

Starting Chimera from the command-line

The usual method of starting Chimera is by double clicking the icon. If you wish to run it from the command-line use the following executable. The DISPLAY environment variable must be set and the X server must be running for Chimera to start.

Problems Downloading Chimera

If, in response to clicking the download link, your browser returns an error saying that access is denied then you may be behind a firewall that disallows outgoing http connections to ports other than port 80 (the download link goes to port 8000). You need to either access the download link from a machine that is outside your firewall, or have your firewall administrator temporarily allows connections to port 8000. As a last resort, you can send mail to us identifying yourself, saying you agree to the license terms, and specifying what platform you need Chimera for, and we will send you the installer for that platform in a few days. It will be sent as a mail attachment, so your mailer will need to be able to accept large attachments.

Problems with the X windows version of Chimera

Problems with Older Mac Systems

These problems are bugs in Mac OS 10.2.x or Apple's X server beta 3 version. They have been fixed in Mac OS 10.3 with Apple's 1.0 X server.

Which X server to use

We use Apple's X server (version 1.0) for Mac OS 10.3 (Panther). It is reliable and provides hardware OpenGL acceleration. It comes with Mac OS 10.3 as an optional component and is started using /Applications/Utilities/X11.

On Mac OS 10.2 we use Apple's X server beta 3 release. This X server performed well but Apple has removed it from their web site and says it is no longer available.

On Mac OS 10.2 you can use the XFree86 X server. An installer for the Mac is available from the XonX project. The XFree86 X server for the Mac is sometimes called XDarwin and there is an XDarwin web site that provides some useful information but makes it difficult to download the free copy, perhaps to encourage CD sales. The Apple X server is also built from XFree86 code but includes the (proprietary) Quartz window manager. We have used the OroborOSX window manager with XFree86 to give the X windows similar appearance and behaviour as Aqua windows. You should use XFree86 4.3.0 or more recent since earlier versions did not support hardware accelerated OpenGL (3D graphics). Accelerated OpenGL greatly speeds up rotating and moving large molecules in Chimera.

The commercial XTools X server (August 2002) from Tenon has hardware OpenGL acceleration but did not work adequately for Chimera. Menus sometimes appear behind windows. Some Chimera windows may resize to be tiny. Numerous OpenGL error message are generated.

The commercial eXodus X 8.0.2b server (August 2002) has hardware OpenGL acceleration but was unable to run Chimera version 1 build 1602.

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