Software components

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The default system software for the XO laptop includes child-friendly Activities, the Sugar user interface, and many other software components built on top of a modified Fedora Linux kernel. This page enumerates some of them, the diagram below shows how they fit together.

Note: Sugar Labs and the Fedora-OLPC special interest group have assumed most of the development of the Sugar learning platform. See those links and Future releases for more information.

Almost all the software is free/open source that users can inspect and modify.

Alternatively, versions of Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, and other Linux distributions have been developed that run cleanly on the XO.

  • For activities, collections, and other software that you can download to your XO, see Activities


There are three types of applications distributed with the base system: tools for exploring, expressing, and collaborating. Applications that have been (or are being) built for the laptop are called activities and the Activities page has a list of them..

Tools for exploring

  • Browse, a web browser built on the Firefox engine;
  • Read, a simple document viewer accessed through Browse, based on Evince (including the ability to view PDF files);
  • News Reader, an RSS (“really simple syndication”) subscription reader (PenguinTV);
  • multimedia playback using gstreamer (the Real Networks Helix™ platform has been ported to the laptop and is available for download but is not part of the base distribution);
  • OpenDocument Viewer to read documents in OpenDocument format, a highly-compressed format that is a fully open international standard (ISO 26300);
  • The Opera web browser and the Real Networks Helix™ platform have been ported to the laptop and are available for download but not part of the standard distribution.
  • Measure, a tool for exploring the physical world by measuring DC and AC voltages, observing them on a oscilloscope-like interface, being able to watch waveforms in frequency domain (spectrum analyzer), logging data at a specified time interval, and drawing the graph of logged data;
  • Distance, aka Acoustic Tape Measure, measures the distance between two XO laptops.

Tools for communicating

  • Chat and serverless instant messenger;
  • Video Chat (under development);
  • a VoIP client (under development);
  • Email through the web-based Gmail service;
  • Native email client (under development).

Online Applications

  • Google Docs (spreadsheet and word processor) work flawlessly from the XO browser. In addition, they are also shareable applications.
  • Apple Web Apps, although designed for the iPhone, work well for the XO. You access them from your Browser. In many cases just zoom into the page to fill the screen.
  • ALEKS (adaptive self-paced learning system) See ALEKS for information on getting ALEKS running on an XO
  • Drupal explains how to install the Drupal community content management system on your XO
  • THE ALAS PROJECT (Advanced Language Acquisition Software) is a free online program for teaching English to speakers of Spanish, and Spanish to speakers of English, through sister schools in the U.S. and Latin America. The program is designed to run on the XO laptop.

Shared Applications

All applications share a common data store accessible through the Journal. Several applications, including reading, writing, recording and browsing, allow for child-to-child and teacher-to-child collaboration to varying extents through the network. See Activity sharing and Collaboration Tutorial.


See Category:Network.

The specifications for the wireless networking interface include:

  • Ability to act as a mesh point when laptop's main CPU is off;
  • Support for asymmetric links/paths;
  • Incremental releases—mesh networking is available immediately on XO; Upgrades will continue to improve functionality and adherence with standards;
  • Simultaneously acts as a mesh point and an infrastructure node.
  • Standards Compliance: follow 802.11s draft when possible.

See Network principles.

Power Management

Lots of effort has gone into conserving power on the XO, by careful management at the hardware, OS, and user levels of software. See Power management overview for more information.

School server

The XO school Server, or XS, is software for a resource-rich peer to the laptop, which provides additional storage, and Internet access.

Additional software projects

Please see the Activities page for a more complete list of activities being developed for the laptop. Below is just a sampling.

  • Measure oscillocope
  • OLPCities, a virtual world programming environment
  • FACIL, a webpage editor developed to be used by children. (In English at EASE)
  • Musical Editor, a music composition toolkit
  • Paint, a shared graphics space
  • Tux Paint, a paint program with extreme ease-of-use
  • Block Party, a Tetris-like game that exploits the mesh
  • Develop, an activity editor

Builds, images, and schedules

OLPC regularly compiles and assembles "builds" of the OLPC software listed here for development. This process creates software images to which XO users can upgrade their XO, and OS "images" of the bundled software that users on other computers can download and run by Emulating the XO.

These builds progress towards various official releases of the OLPC software. See Releases for the high-level schedule of releases.

See also