Software components

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The default system software for the XO laptop includes child-friendly Activities, the Sugar user interface, the GNOME desktop, and many other software components built on top of a modified Fedora Linux. This page lists 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 and 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.

OLPC software details

Operating system

Programming environments

  • Python (Version 2.5); much of the Sugar UI is written in Python, as are many Activities
    • Pippy, an activity for exploring Python on the XO
  • Forth in Open Firmware, accessible from the 'ok' prompt if you get a Developer Key
  • JavaScript™[[1]]
  • Csound, music programming language
  • Etoys, an implementation of Squeak using Smalltalk, an object-based programming language
    • Please see Sugar Etoys for a detailed description of the Sugar implementation
  • Turtle Art, a graphical programming environment
  • Gnash, a free and open source browser plug-in for the Adobe Flash™ file format supporting vector and raster graphics, a scripting language called ActionScript™ and streaming of audio and video
  • Adobe's Flash Player, Java™ virtual machine, and players for other restricted formats can be added via Yum or Rpm install but are not part of the standard distribution.


This is a very incomplete list. You can consult an image's build log (for example the log for build 767) to see what packages it incorporates, or run rpm commands on an XO.

Users can install other libraries using yum or rpm.

User environment

  • Sugar graphical user interface, written in Python, on top of the X Window System and the Matchbox Window Manager.
    • Designed specifically for collaboration of users through network sharing of user activities (method calls and signals);
    • “Zooming” interface to network connectivity “spheres” - Neighborhood, collaborators (Groups), and local (Home);
    • Journal interface to storage of events, activities, objects (files);
  • ~800 MiB of flash storage space available for other software content.

Alternative user environments

  • WindowMaker_Interface An interface that has been around in Linux for many years. It runs on top on the X Windows system and was written in C++. WindowMaker is more of a standard laptop interface than you would see on any laptop. This interface is still in its infancy in the OLPC Laptop and Needs a lot of new community documentation and testing before it is used in class rooms. The only drawback for WindowMaker on the OLPC is that there is a bug in scrolling and refresh rate of the screen.
  • OpenBox A very small compact window manager written in C++. If you are looking into changing from Sugar to a more conventional windows manager this is the one you should use. It's fast, efficient and displays windows nicely. Works very well with abiword, firefox and gnome-terminal.
  • Xfce is a lightweight but powerful desktop environment that will work well on the XO. It aims to be fast and lightweight, while still being visually appealing and easy to use. Xfce is mainly used for its ability to run a modern desktop environment on relatively modest hardware, and therefor an excellent choice for the OLPC. It is based on the GTK+ 2 toolkit (as is GNOME). It uses the Xfwm window manager. Its configuration is entirely mouse-driven, and the configuration files are hidden from the casual user.

You can also run a completely different Linux distribution on the XO, see Category:Linux distributions.


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..

Application environment diagram

|           |             |                   |                  |
|           | Non-python  |   Sugar shell     |      Python      |
|           |   Sugar     | (Desktop window,  |       Sugar      |
|           | Activities  |      panel,       |     Activities   |
|  Regular  |  (Etoys,    |     journal)      |                  |
|     X     |  Simcity,   |                   |                  |
|    Apps   |    Mono     |--------------------------------------|
|           | activities, |      Sugar toolkit (python-only)     |
|           |    etc.)    |                                      |
|           |----------------------------------------------------|
|           |        DataStore        |         Presence         |
|           |         service         |         service          |
|                       Metacity window manager                  |
|                                                                |
|                   GNOME-ish Linux desktop                      |
|   X11, HAL, D-Bus, NetworkManager, GConf, Telepathy, etc       |
|                                                                |

from Tomeu Vizoso e-mail to devel

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 expressing

  • TamTam, a music synthesis and composition tool;
  • Etoys (see above);
  • a word processor based upon the Abiword project;
  • Record video, audio, and still-image capture and playback (a “video wiki” is under development);
  • Draw, a pixel-paint programming;
  • a journal;
  • MikMik, a wiki with WYSIWYG editing, using Crossmark (under development);
  • VIM and nano text editors.

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).

Other tools

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.


  • Numerous games, including variations of the “memory game”, strategy games, etc

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.

Running other Linux apps

You can install and run other Linux software by using yum or rpm in a Terminal Activity. By way of example, see the Skype page in the wiki.


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 XO-1/Software_specification (multiple sections) 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