Customize TerpConnect Application Defaults

This page is based on Dotfiles (AC-16) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It has been modified to reflect the TerpConnect computer system environment. These files should not be removed from your account unless you know what you are doing.


The set of files used to describe session initialization procedures and store user customizations are commonly referred to as "dotfiles". These files can be used to customize screen appearance, shell behavior, program specifications and aspects of your TerpConnect session.


A shell, a command interpreter, tries to make sense of what you type and relay that to the operating system. A shell is automatically started in each xterm window that is created. Basically, whatever you enter at an xterm is read and interpreted by the shell and then passed along to the operating system to be executed.

There are a lot of customizations that can be made to the shell; aliases to shorten commonly used commands are just the most common. The shell finds the locations of programs, interprets expansions (ex ls *.exe), substitutes values of shell and environment variables and interprets aliases.

As you probably have already figured out, you can have multiple copies of the shell running at any given time. Some programs, such as xterms, start them. Every time a shell is started, associated customization files are read. The default shell is tcsh, c-shell, but there are other shells that exist that you can use instead.


Most dotfiles are text files, although some exist in other formats. Dotfiles generally contain one command per line and are stored in your home directory. Dotfiles usually have names that begin with a period, hence the name dotfiles. You are given some dotfiles that are necessary for you to be able to log in when you get your account.

You may not have even noticed the dotfiles in your account because files that begin with a dot are not listed when the command ls is issued. To view dotfile enter the command ls -a. You may have more or fewer dotfiles in your account than this example shows. It all depends on what programs you have used and what, if any, customizations you have made to them. Many programs create dotfiles to store information and preferences.

z:~: cd

z:~: ls -a

..history.rnlast   .xsession
...hushlogin .rnsoft.xsession-errors
.Xauthority .kermrc  .sshMail
.dashmenurc .newsrc.tinwelcome
.fvwm2rc .reqrc.xserverrc 


What Happens by Default When I Log In to a Workstation?

Some of the files mentioned are not in your home directory. The files are located in a central location for updates at a future date without you having to make changes to your dotfiles each time there is a slight modifications to the system.
You enter your username and password.

Xlogin gets Kerberos tickets and the following files are called/used in this sequence. Click the links for documents describing the files in more detail.


• ~/.xsession-> ~/.xinitrc- .xsession is a soft link to ~/.xinitrc


° /etc/glue/hostinfo/userinfo.tcsh

° ~/.cshrc


♦ /local/lib/init/environment.tcsh

~/.environment if it exists

~/.path if it exists

~/.cshrc.mine if it exists

~/.aliases if it exists

xrdb - merge /local/lib/init/Xdefaults

xrdb -merge ~/.Xdefaults if it exists

Window manager(FWVM2) is called using

~/.fwvm2rc (if it exists)

/local/lib/init/fvwm2rc otherwise

~/.startup.X if it exists

♦ /usr/local/scripts/glueannounce

♦ runs /usr/local/bin/dash

♦ which references ~/.dashmenurc

♦ /local/lib/init/dashmenu.setup

♦ ~/.dashmenu.setup if it exists

♦ /local/lib/init/dashmenu.root

♦ /local/lib/init/dashmenu.logins

♦ /local/lib/init/dashmenu.tap

♦ ~/.dashmenu.lastword if it exists

♦/usr/local/bin/session_gate -logout

Destroy your Kerberos tickets, detach your home directory. The Kerberos system authenticates individual users in a network environment.

Xlogin restarts.

Please see How to Customize Your TerpConnect UNIX Login Session for more information.