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Fix App Install Errors in Linux with X Libraries

written by: •edited by: Eric Stallsworth•updated: 7/30/2011

A key component of many Linux Ubuntu processes and third party apps are the X libraries. If they cannot be accessed, errors may occur forcing you to reload them. While this process requires use of the Terminal, it is remarkably simple.

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    One of the great things about Linux is its flexibility, something that makes it suitable for a wide range of tasks. This flexibility also means that if anything goes wrong or you need to make a change to the setup of your computer or server, it shouldn't take too long to implement.

    Among the most popular Linux distros is Ubuntu, a great alternative to Windows which comes equipped with its own friendly graphical user interface. A wealth of software is available for Ubuntu just as it is for other distros, either via the Ubuntu Software Center, the Synaptic Package Manager or through the Terminal.

    From time to time however, downloading and installing software isn't as easy as it should be. Applications might require access to particular software libraries and frameworks, and this is often the case if you receive error messages such as:

    error: Cannot find X11 library

    Thanks to the flexibility of Linux however, Ubuntu users can reload the x11 library (or any other) within a matter of minutes, enabling a quick resolution.

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    What Is an X Library?

    It's unfortunate that any libraries should become misplaced in this way, but thankfully they can be replaced, reloaded or reintroduced in such a way that your Ubuntu machine knows where to find them.

    Libraries are typically a collection of common software routines and modules used to create applications. Different libraries are used for different apps, although many apps take advantage of multiple libraries. At the same time, some libraries are perhaps not as commonly used as they might once have been, and this is why they might need to be reloaded from time to time.

    Receiving the error message above will result in you having to find and update the relevant X library (such as X11) for your Ubuntu system, although you should note that if the library is no longer available, such an update will not be possible (this is unusual, however).

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    Why X Libraries Might Need to be Reloaded

    We'll move onto reloading the X libraries in Ubuntu in a moment, but first a couple of thoughts on why they might need to be reloaded at all. Since libraries should be present at all times, there is a possibility that their absence could be due to an installation issue when Ubuntu was being setup on your computer.

    Alternatively, you might have recently updated your Ubuntu box, resulting in a change that was unforeseen, such as the X libraries being moved or renamed in some way. Clearly this isn't ideal, but it should be easy enough to resolve.

    Finally, the app you are attempting to install might be quite old and refer to obsolete libraries or those that have been renamed or have a new directory tree location.

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    Refreshing the Library

    Refreshing the Library with apt-get As with many tasks in Linux, it is relatively simple to update the X libraries. For instance, you can install or reload the X11 libraries with a single command.

    Begin by opening Applications > Accessories > Terminal, and typing the following:

    sudo apt-get install libx11-dev

    Press Enter when you're done – this command will require the administrator password in order for it to be applied. It uses the apt-get tool which will only install libraries for your version of Linux, thereby avoiding compatibility problems.

    Over the minutes that follow you will be able to watch the Terminal window update as the libraries in question are downloaded and installed, and in no time at all the process will be complete.

    When the Terminal windows stops updating, you will be able to begin using the software or service that required the installation of the library in the first place!

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    Enhanced Control via the Terminal

    As you can see, adding a library to Ubuntu is quickly and easily achieved via the Terminal. This makes the addition of such background data very simple and prevents errors from occurring – for instance, a desktop installation wizard could result in the library being installed into a location where many applications that you install later on would not be likely to check.

    Admittedly, the Terminal can appear imposing and intimidating for beginners, but remember that all Linux users were beginners at one point. While the pleasing interface of a mouse controlled, icon-driven GUI isn't available with the Terminal, greater control over the apps you install is.

    The beauty of Linux Ubuntu and the command line interface of the Terminal is the ease with which a reload of the X libraries can be applied without any complicated configuration, instructions for where to save the data, etc.

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    Author's own experience.

    Screenshot provided by author.