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The RandR (Resize and Rotate)[1] X protocol extension and its CLI tool xrandr are used to manage screen resolutions, rotation and screens with multiply displays in X.

With version 1.4 support for multiply graphics cards was introduced, future versions (>1.5) will also support monitors attached via USB (this will probably be merged with xorg-server 1.13 with support for DisplayLink[2]).


The x11-apps/xrandr package can be installed with the following command:

root #emerge --ask x11-apps/xrandr
This tool should automatically install with most window managers since it is used to manage the displays.

GUI tools

There are several GUI tools to use xrandr. Here is a list of tools supported in Gentoo:


A common way to execute X related scripts is the use of ~/.xinitrc or ~/.xprofile files in a user's home directory. Put the line of code for xrandr in one of these files and it will be executed on every X startup to make settings permanent. For example, for i3:

FILE ~/.xinitrc
~/.screenlayout/two-displays.sh &
exec dbus-run-session i3


xrandr uses the monitors Extended Display Identification Data (EDID) to identify its capabilities. Faulty hardware might report wrong or bad EDIDs, in those cases it is still possible to use custom made setups by trial and error.

Some graphic drivers like the binary NVIDIA or AMD, may not support xrandr.

Screen query

Running xrandr without any arguments will list all available display output interfaces and display devices along with their current state and capabilities:

user $xrandr
Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1440 x 900, maximum 8192 x 8192
VGA-1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
LVDS-1 connected 1440x900+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 304mm x 190mm
   1440x900       60.1*+
   1024x768       60.0
   800x600        60.3
   640x480        59.9

A xrandr query result contains all available interfaces labeled as <interface_name>-<index>. Each shows its connection status and the reported screen modes. The connected device's current mode is hinted by *, the preferred mode is hinted by +.

The RandR naming scheme for common display interfaces:

Screen manipulation

It is possible to manipulate output interfaces discovered via a xrandr query. Examples of common tasks:

Set the primary display if more than one device is attached:

user $xrandr --output LVDS-1 --primary

Extend to an external display attached on a known interface (left-of, right-of, above, below, same-as):

user $xrandr --output DVI-1 --auto --left-of LVDS-1

Rotate a display (normal, left, right, inverted):

user $xrandr --output LVDS-1 --rotate left

Turn off the device:

user $xrandr --output LVDS-1 --off

Screen modes

A mode always consists of a resolution and a refresh-rate. With a xrandr query the hardware reports which modes are supported. It is possible to define own modes in case the hardware reports wrong information. To change the mode for an attached device:

user $xrandr --output LVDS-1 --mode 1024x768

It will use the highest refresh-rate in that mode, to also change the refresh-rate (in Hz):

user $xrandr --output LVDS-1 --mode 1024x768 --rate 75

The changes apply immediately and on the hardware listed above it might either produce an error or the screen goes blank, because 75Hz is not supported. This will last until the next session, using Ctrl+Alt+Backspace will terminate the session and restart X in case something goes wrong.

To add a 75Hz mode, the tool cvt (x11-libs/libxcvt) can be used to get a proper modeline:

user $cvt 1024 768 75

Everything after Modeline needs to be appended to the following command:

user $xrandr --newmode "1024x768_75.00" 109.00 1280 1368 1496 1712 1024 1027 1034 1063 -hsync +vsync

Running the query again should list the newly added mode.

Adding the mode manually does not make the display device work in the mode if it did not work before.

See also

  • Non root Xorg — describes how an unprivileged user can run Xorg without using suid.
  • Xorg — an open source implementation of the X server.
  • Xorg/Guide — explains what Xorg is, how to install it, and the various configuration options.
  • X server — the main component of the X Window system which abstracts the hardware and provides the foundation for most graphical user interfaces, like desktop environments or window managers, and their applications.

External resources