[Syllable operating system family]

Welcome to Syllable

Thank you for installing Syllable, one of the most exciting Open Source Operating Systems today! Syllable has been in development for many years, and offers a compact, fast, well designed and easy to use operating system. Unlike many other open source operating systems, Syllable Desktop has only one goal: to be the best open source operating system on your desktop computer. For server purposes we offer a related but separate product: Syllable Server.

The software and files that are distributed with Syllable are released with multiple copyrights and licenses. The Copyrights document provides more information.

Syllable already offers Internet and multimedia capabilities and if you're interested in developing software for Syllable there is a unique and exciting design waiting for you.

Whatever you want to do, this short document is here to help you with your new Syllable installation and offers some pointers to further information.


1.          Setting Your Language and Keyboard
2.          Changing the Screen Resolution
3.          Configuring the Network
4.          Configuring Sound
5.          Accessing Storage Media
6.          Shutting Down and Restarting
7.          Software
7.2             Installing Native Graphical Software
7.3             Installing Non-Native or Non-Graphical Software
8.          Help and Support
8.1             The Manual Pages
8.2             The Community
8.2.1              Syllable.org
8.2.2              The AltME Communication System
8.2.3              Web Forums
8.2.4              Mailing Lists
9.          Developing for Syllable

1. Setting Your Language and Keyboard

The regular Syllable distributions are set to the English language and a United States keyboard. You can change the keyboard selection at the log-in screen. To change the keyboard settings after log-in, go to Preferences/Keyboard through the Syllable dock menu or by opening the Preferences window from the desktop. You can select a different keymap here or change some other configurations of the keyboard.

You can change the language by going to Preferences/Locale. There's a list of languages and countries that you can choose from. It's possible to choose multiple languages. If you do that, the translations of languages higher in the list will get priority over those lower in the list. If there are no translations available for a particular item in a program, the default English text will be used.

From now on, new programs will be started in the chosen translation. The desktop and the Syllable dock menu will be translated, as well, after you restart the system or log out and log back in.

2. Changing the Screen Resolution

Syllable has multiple “virtual desktops” that can be selected with the F1 ... F12 function keys in combination with the Alt key. They can have different screen resolutions, and this is used in the default installation to offer several preconfigured resolutions:

Refresh Rate
Alt-F1 800x600 16-bits 60 Hz
Alt-F2 640x480 32-bits 60 Hz
Alt-F3 800x600 32-bits 72 Hz
Alt-F4 1024x768 32-bits 72 Hz
Alt-F5 1024x768 32-bits 85 Hz
Alt-F6 1280x1024 32-bits 72 Hz
Alt-F7 1600x1200 32-bits 72 Hz

If your monitor doesn't support a particular resolution, you can quickly switch back to the previous setting.

Because these are virtual desktops, any windows that you have open will stay on the original desktop until you return to it. To take a window with you to a new desktop, you can hold its title bar with the mouse while switching desktops.

You can also change the screen resolution with the Screen Preferences applet that you can reach through the Syllable dock menu under Preferences/Screen or by opening the Preferences window from the desktop.

3. Configuring the Network

Syllable is configured by default to use Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) for finding a network connection. However, this is currently not reflected in the Network Preferences. Although after start-up you will get a dialog saying that the network configuration has changed and needs to be set, after closing this dialog the network will be found automatically by DHCP in most cases. To get rid of this message, or to set a Static network configuration, go to Preferences/Network through the Syllable dock menu or by opening the Preferences window from the desktop, and configure the network explicitly. (If no network interfaces are shown in this window, Syllable didn't recognise any network chips in your computer.) Note that you need to set the gateway to your main (or only) network interface, and that you need to click the Apply buttons to save changes.

4. Configuring Sound

Sound is not enabled yet when you first start Syllable. To configure it, go to the Media Settings on the desktop. (You can also reach this through the Syllable dock menu under Preferences/Audio & Video or by opening the Preferences window from the desktop.) First, you have to choose the Default Audio Output from a drop-down list. (Options are shown together with the name of your audio chip. If the list is empty, Syllable didn't recognise any audio chips in your computer.) Normally, you would choose the Media Server option. However, this method is currently likely to interfere with video playback. For better video playback, set audio output directly to OSS. Click the Apply button to save the change.

Then click the Stream Volumes button to bring up the audio mixer window. The first tab panel is the mixer for hardware channels. You may have to increase the levels of Volume (line out) and PCM (software-generated audio) here to get a satisfactory volume level. The second panel is the software mixer where audio streams from separate applications are shown. Note that the Master volume in the software mixer is limited by the Volume and PCM levels in the hardware mixer. Close the mixer and Media Preferences windows before starting any multimedia applications.

To adjust the volume afterwards, there's a Volume icon on the desktop that will give you immediate access to the mixer. Please note that Syllable currently doesn't remember the volume level settings after a restart, so you may have to enter the mixer panel again.

5. Accessing Storage Media

Syllable can access extra partitions you may have on your hard drive, or external media such as USB memory sticks and equivalent storage in MP3 players and some photo cameras and printers. External media usually come in FAT (Windows) format. They usually have only one partition or none. Syllable can both read from and write to them. Disk partitions may also be formatted as BFS (BeOS), NTFS (Windows) or Ext2/Ext3 (Linux). Syllable can currently not write to NTFS and Ext2/3 formats, only read from them.

Before you can access extra media, you need to mount them. You can do this by opening the Disks icon on the desktop. Then click with the right mouse button in the background of the Disks window. Select the Mount option from the pop-up menu to get a list of available partitions and choose one to mount. A mounted partition will appear as an extra icon in the Disks window, from where you can open it to browse its files. In the file system, the extra partition is mounted in the root of all files (/), under a subdirectory with the name of the partition (or /no name/ if it doesn't have one).

Please note that mounted media need to be unmounted again before you can safely remove external media such as a memory stick. You can do this by right-clicking on its icon in the Disks window and selecting the Unmount option from the menu that pops up. All storage media will be unmounted automatically when you shut down or restart Syllable.

6. Shutting Down and Restarting

The system can be Shut Down or Restarted by choosing the Quit option from the Syllable menu in the dock (normally in the top left). Any open applications will get the opportunity to shut down orderly, but sometimes an application can prevent the system from shutting down. If this happens, you can force the system to restart by pressing the Control, Alt and Delete keys simultaneously. This will force applications to close, but will still orderly shut down the system, such as safely unmounting all mounted storage media.

Don't turn the power off without shutting down first. Even though Syllable has a journaling file system that tries hard to prevent damage to data, data can still be lost. In extreme cases, Syllable can loose the ability to operate. (If that happens, the live CD can be used to try to rescue files from a Syllable partition.)

7. Software

Syllable is designed as a modern desktop operating system, and has a unique design which makes managing software easy.

We separate software for Syllable into two categories. Software which has been written for Syllable, using methods unique to Syllable, is known as “native” software. Syllable is also capable of running software which has been designed for more traditional Unix style operating systems such as Linux, which is known as “non-native” software.

Because non-native software cannot take full advantage of the advanced features Syllable offers, installing such software differs from the way in which you install native Syllable software. Instructions on how to install both native and non-native software for Syllable are described below. You should choose the correct method depending on the type of software you are installing.



This place on the Syllable website is the starting point for finding additional software. Here you can find software developed for Syllable, from simple shell scripts to complete applications and games.

7.2 Installing Native Graphical Software

Graphical applications which have been written for Syllable can be installed anywhere you wish, although the usual location is in the /Applications/ directory. Most applications come as a single archive, which can be unpacked wherever you wish to install the software. Syllable uses the Zip archive format. To install a package you can open a terminal window by starting the Terminal application. For example, if we wanted to install the Webster web browser, enter this command in the terminal window:
unzip Webster-alpha1.application -d /Applications

Uninstalling native software is equally simple. Just delete the application directory:
rm -r /Applications/Webster
Or delete the Webster folder by using the graphical file browser.

7.3 Installing Non-Native or Non-Graphical Software

Unix or POSIX style applications for Syllable usually come as a single archive which contains all of the files the application needs in one self contained distribution. Syllable favours the Zip archive format, but older software may still be distributed in GZiped TAr files.

To install a package, open a terminal window by starting the Terminal application, log in as the root (privileged) user, and unpack the archive with a command such as:
unzip gcc-4.1.2-1.i586.resource -d /resources
Then you must run the Syllable package manager tool to register the package with the system. For example, to install GCC, run:
package register gcc
This will create a series of symbolic links in various subdirectories of /resources/index/ to make it possible for the system to find executables and other files belonging to the package.

If you want to uninstall the package you must run the package manager again to allow Syllable to properly and cleanly update itself. For example, to uninstall GCC:
package unregister gcc
You can then delete the actual package directory itself:
rm -rf /resources/gcc

Please note that this way of installing software should only be used for command-line applications and applications that have been ported to Syllable from Unix and other OS's using a Unix like filesystem. Native applications should use the various mechanisms available in Syllable for making the application “position independent” so it can be installed anywhere. See the section
Installing Native Software for more information.

8. Help and Support

Syllable is an open source project, which also means it's a volunteer project. You'll find our small community of users and developers are friendly and helpful. If you have a question or need help using Syllable, the following resources may be useful. All of these links can also be found under the Help menu in your Webster browser Bookmarks.

8.1 The Manual Pages

You can read the available software manual pages with Webster, from your local Syllable installation, at


8.2 The Community

Syllable has a lively and vibrant community which has built up around it over the years. There are several websites which are dedicated to Syllable. There is also a special groupware system, with a chat section which is almost always busy and a great way to keep in touch with other Syllable users and developers.

8.2.1 Syllable.org


Syllable.org is the official website for Syllable. News and announcements are regularly posted. The Frequently Asked Questions can be found there.

8.2.2 The AltME Communication System

If there is one thing any serious Syllable user should do, it is subscribe to the Syllable space on the
AltME groupware system! Don't be put off by the groupware term; it's a very lightweight program. The chat section is busy, with an average of several messages a day. If you have a problem and need an answer quick, the AltME chat is the place to ask. Everyone is friendly and helpful, so please join in!

We are not only using this system for chat, but also for sharing our work files that don't belong in the Syllable source code repository. Among other things, we maintain the Syllable websites in AltME. Syllable is developed in here, so the core developers hang out here during their work.

To use AltME you need an account for our space, which you can request on our web forum.

8.2.3 Web Forums


The website forums are lively and full of useful information and interesting discussion. You can find both a quick answer or an in-depth discussion of your problem.

8.2.4 Mailing Lists


There are several Syllable mailing lists, which, however, have fallen into disuse one by one over the years. The above two were the most important ones. Communication has moved to AltME and our web forum, but you can still read the mailing lists for their historical archive.

9. Developing for Syllable

Syllable is still under heavy development, and there is plenty of opportunity for anybody who is interested in developing software for Syllable or working on Syllable itself.

Syllable is a POSIX compliant operating system, with large parts of POSIX 1, 2 and 4 available. Above the POSIX layer, Syllable has a unique set of C++ API's which provide utility classes, a Graphical User Interface, high level I/O and networking components which can all take advantage of the advanced design of Syllable.

The development toolchain is based on the usual GNU tools such as BinUtils, GCC 4 and Make. Several editors and IDE's are available for Syllable, which can be found on the Syllable software web pages.

Many POSIX, UNIX and Linux command-line applications can be easily ported to Syllable, but Syllable does not use X11 nor any X toolkits. Porting graphical applications from other platforms requires a native Syllable GUI to be written, unless they can make use of a cross-platform GUI that Syllable supports, such as SDL.

The majority of the Syllable kernel and POSIX systems are licensed under the GNU General Public Licence. The Syllable C++ libraries are licenced under the GNU Lesser General Public License.

The source code for Syllable is available via anonymous CVS at

    :pserver:[email protected]:/cvsroot/syllable.

You can also browse the CVS repository at


Copyright © 2002 - 2016 Syllable Project
All Rights Reserved