STAR   Computing  

Windows Software Recommendations

Cygwin Tips and Tricks

Privacy and security notice  

To quote from the Cygwin website:  "Cygwin is a Linux-like environment for Windows."

The Linux-like nature is quite comprehensive...  You can *almost* forget that you are using a Windows OS -- most utilities and software that you are familiar with from your Linux experience are available in Cygwin.  For example, the Cygwin distribution has available an openssh client (and the server too, but I don't recommend you use it), PostScript and PDF viewers and editors, compression (eg. zip) utilities, software development tools and X Windows packages (more on X below). 

Using the Cygwin X server

An example of Cygwin's usefulness and cost-saving potential is the X server.  The Cygwin X server is, in most cases, easy and convenient to use in place of commercial X servers such as Hummingbird Exceed.  Here is the short version for those familiar with Cygwin installations:
  1. You need the xorg-x11-base and X-startup-scripts packages (and whatever dependencies they have, which the setup routine should solve for you).  You'll probably also want the xwinclip package.  All of these are in the X11 Category in the Cygwin Setup.
  2. Execute "startxwin.bat" (in <cygwin_root>/usr/X11R6/bin/).  That will start a stand-alone X Server and an xterm with a cygwin shell.   Edit this batch file as you see fit -- it includes documentation for a number of options. 
  3. If you are displaying windows from a remote session over ssh, be sure you have X tunneling enabled in your ssh client configuration.  Please do not try to open up your X server to the entire world with anything like "xhost +".  That is a *VERY BAD IDEA*.
  4. In light of step 3 above:  If you have a local firewall that asks about blocking access to the Xserver, you can usually block it without a problem -- if you have X forwarding enabled and working, then you are usually ok.  (If you believe a localhost-based firewall is interfering with X, try allowing only connections from the loopback/localhost address (
Long version:  Walkthrough of a Cygwin installation (MS Word doc).

Subsidiary recommendation:

There is a handy tool for initiating shell connections to remote hosts (such as via ssh) and starting the Cygwin X server called Mortens Cygwin X-Launcher.  Coming soon (?): screenshots of the X-Launcher configuration that are most likely to be useful...

Installation Tip:

A local Cygwin mirror is available at  This is quite handy for the cygwin installation and any subsequent use of the setup utility.  One potential catch for onsite users -- even if you intend to use the local mirror, you must still configure a BNL proxy server during Setup, as shown in  this walkthrough of a Cygwin installation (MS Word format).

Other local pages for Recommended Windows Software:

Security and software configuration specific to BNL
Utilities for security and performance
Productivity and software for various file formats
Networking software
Cygwin tips (this page)
Miscellaneous FAQs and Tips from the S&C Group

Please send comments, corrections and suggestions to Wayne Betts: wbetts {at}

Valid HTML 4.01!