Petition to Open Source CDE and Motif


"As a user - or former or potential user - of the Common Desktop Environment (CDE) I believe there would be a benefit to releasing the source code to CDE and the Motif library under an OSI approved licence. I humbly request that you, The Open Group, investigate this possibility and use your best efforts to accomplish this goal."

Update 26 October 2012

Petition goals complete.

Motif, from version 2.1 to the new bug fix release 2.3.4 has been released under the GNU LGPL.

Motif is available from the new Motif Sourceforge page, and support and information available from a revamped Motif portal on ICS's webpages.

Many thanks to all the people who've supported this over the years, by signing this petition (many years ago!) you helped set all of this in motion.

Update 6 August 2012

Good things come to those who wait.

Our efforts have finally been successful. CDE is now available under the GNU LGPL from SourceForge, come and join us to help with this project in the future.

But what about Motif? Whilst not quite ready yet The Open Group and ICS (the maintainers of OpenMotif) are actively working on this and will have an annoucnement on this very soon.

Update 26 June 2007

I have recently been in discussions with The Open Group after they have had a chance to review the petition. They have been generally positive and would be willing to support both an Open Source CDE and Motif if a couple of practical issues can be resolved.

CDE, The Open Group is investigating whether they own the complete rights to release CDE as Open Source. If they can release it, they will.

Motif brings The Open Group a sizable income in licensing revenue and since they operate as a non-profit, would cause some difficulty if it suddenly went away. The Open Group are willing to Open Source it provided they can make up that revenue in the short term. Without doing so The Open Group's management can be held accountable by its 300+ members for not acting in their best interests.

Several different ways are being investigated to find this revenue but if you, personally or on behalf of a company, would be interested in financially sponsoring this project, it might help make up any shortfall. Please get in touch if you could help out in this way.

I will keep you informed when more information comes in, and I thank you for signing the petition, your support has been persuasive.

Update 6 March 2007

Today I sent two copies of the petition to the CEO and Chairman of The Open Group, with over 1200 signatures, let's hope it's received warmly. I will keep you informed of any reply that I get.

I'd like to thank everyone for the signatures and support, if anyone hasn't yet signed, please feel free to do so as I shall keep the petition open for anyone that has missed it so far.

Background to the petition

I was involved in an email exchange with a staff member at The Open Group, in which it was suggested that if there was a large enough demand from the CDE market, that it might be possible to Open Source CDE.

This petition has been created to try and determine if an Open Source CDE is of interest to other people.

What is CDE?

CDE, the Common Desktop Environment, is a GUI for UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems; it comes with selection of support applications that integrate well with the desktop. It was developed by The Open Group and used by several of their members as the desktop on their UNIX operating systems. For further information you can read The Open Group's pages on CDE. CDE Data Sheet, FAQ.

What is Motif?

Motif, is the building block of the Common Desktop Environment, it is a GUI widget library for X Windows. The applications of CDE are written using this library. For further information check The Open Group's pages on Motif. Motif Data Sheet FAQ

The Open Group previously released the source to Motif under a non Open Source license under the label OpenMotif, that has caused some problems for some people, not least because it wasn't allowed to be distributed to all operating systems. OpenMotif has had several enhancements that it would be nice to make available to all Motif users.

Before OpenMotif was released, a mainly compatible library called LessTif, was produced under a full open license, it carried on after the release of OpenMotif to provide a fully Open Source alternative.

The Motif API is used by many third party projects too, DDD and nedit amongst many others. As seen on this LessTif compatability list.

Why Open Source CDE?

There are probably many reasons to Open Source CDE, here are a few.

  1. Continuance

    CDE was once the standard desktop on a range of commercial UNIX distributions. In recent years with the advent of alternate desktop software CDE has become less important for these distributions. If you wish to use CDE on these platforms in future, open sourcing it is one way to ensure this.

  2. Portability

    CDE is already a highly portable desktop system, running under many different operating systems, and many processors but if it has not been ported to your OS then an Open Source license would allow an interested party to try. Generally the requirements seem to be a UNIX or UNIX-like operating system with the X Window System.

  3. The usual Open Source benefits

    The Open Source model has many benefits for experienced users, the ability to modify the code to match your exact needs for example. You can learn more about Open Source software by reading the Open Source Definition at the OSI (Open Source Initiative).

What can I do?

If you feel that an Open Source CDE would be of use to you, please read and sign this petition. It will be sent to The Open Group for their consideration.

Sign the petition

I want to do more

If you would be interested in helping out with any CDE development should CDE be made Open Source, please free free to contact me. All sorts of skills would be useful on a project like this, from programming and testing to promoting and administration.

My apologies to visually impaired readers, I can no longer keep my email address in plain text due to massive ammounts of spam :( You can use the 'contact me' page on and it will reach me.

Press coverage and other publicity

News websites

Mailing lists, Newsgroups and Forums


For further information I can be contacted via email.

My apologies to visually impaired readers, I can no longer keep my email address in plain text due to massive ammounts of spam :( You can use the 'contact me' page on and it will reach me.