The XSimbad interface: a new view on SIMBAD

and how to install it.

The XWindow user interface to SIMBAD, taking benefit of the X Window environment is available for distribution to all potential SIMBAD users working in a Unix environment. It operates on X-terminals or Workstations running OSF/Motif. Click here to see how the first screen looks like ...

XSimbad is available as a client package, that you can install on your own workstation or computer system, and which will manage the connection and interactivity with the SIMBAD server in Strasbourg. The functionalities provided to the SIMBAD users (such as query modes, sampling procedure, on-line help, etc.) are presented as buttons, menu-buttons, or pull-down menus, in a simple and self-explanatory way.

It is easy to install, and easy to use. If you work in a Unix environment, and have about 2 Mb disk space, just try it, now !

The interface has been designed in coordination with similar projects (databases and information systems) in Europe and in the U.S. in order to bring up the best solutions for the users from the whole astronomical community.

From SIMBAD to XSimbad

It is important to note that this interface constitutes an additional layer on top of the existing software (the SIMBAD application, running since July '90 under Unix, working with line-by-line commands) which will be maintained and will remain accessible to those who wish to keep their familiar environment, or simply don't have access to X-terminals.

The user will be asked to install a piece of software on his/her own workstation or computer system, in order to run the X Window interface locally, as a client program. The main reason for using a client program is to optimize the response time by transmitting only database queries through the network, and leaving the screen painting to the local computer.

The new interface (xsimbad version 1.1) gives access to all the data and almost all the functionalities of the SIMBAD astronomical database. However the procedure for creating new formats is not part of the X Window interface (new formats can still be created using the command line syntax, and used under the new interface). New functionalities will also be gradually added, some of them specific to this interface: namely, those which need graphical capabilities (sky plots, and visualization of spectra or images).

The SIMBAD users will be kept informed of the evolution of this project, which should help a wider users' community to access the SIMBAD data, and bring to the current users a number of sophisticated new tools for browsing, retrieving, or visualizing the data.

In this early stage of development, all your remarks, comments, suggestions are welcome (send mail to!

How to install X-SIMBAD

Note: this is now version 1.1 (available since 20 Jan 1995, 18:00). This includes the correction of a bug which prevented query from galactic coordinates in version 1.0.

The X-SIMBAD application can be fetched from the anonymous ftp space on the CDS archive server: ftp (directory pub/simbad).
You need about 2 Mb disk space for installing and running XSimbad.

You will have to choose the application corresponding to your machine:

SUN OS 4.1.3,
DEC Ultrix,
DEC Alpha,
are currently supported. Contact us if your system is not in this list.
When clicking on one of the lines above, you will fetch the corresponding compressed binary tar file; your Mosaic browser will probably uncompress it. It is suggested that you save it in the adequate directory under the name xsimbad.tar, and restore the full application by typing:
tar xvf xsimbad.tar
In summary: select the application corresponding to your machine, save it on your local disk (2 Mb needed), type xsimbad, that's all !

The package contains a README file with additional indications. It contains very simple instructions allowing, for instance, a system manager to install xsimbad in the directory containing local applications, and thus make it available to all local users.

If you have any problem in installing the package, drop us a mail.

For site installations, we have developed an authentication server. Please contact us for more information.


The X-SIMBAD interface has been developed by Isabelle Quatrehomme (software engineer), Daniel Egret, and Marc Wenger, together with the whole SIMBAD team, and especially Françoise Genova, whose numerous comments allowed major improvements for this first release.
Several groups of beta-testers have accepted to try the system in the early stages: thanks to all for their contributions !

If you do not have your personal account on SIMBAD yet, please address a request to the Director of the CDS, or by electronic mail to

Please use the following e-mail address if you want to leave a message:
E-mail: question@simbad.u-strasbg. fr