A Unix-like (sometimes referred to as UN*X or *nix)
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), sch ...
is one that behaves in a manner similar to a
Unix Unix (; trademarked as UNIX) is a family of Computer multitasking, multitasking, multiuser computer operating systems that derive from the original AT&T Corporation, AT&T Unix, whose development started in the 1970s at the Bell Labs research ce ...
system, while not necessarily conforming to or being certified to any version of the Single UNIX Specification. A Unix-like application is one that behaves like the corresponding Unix command or shell. There is no standard for defining the term, and some difference of opinion is possible as to the degree to which a given operating system or application is "Unix-like". The term can include free and open-source operating systems inspired by Bell Labs' Unix or designed to emulate its features, commercial and proprietary work-alikes, and even versions based on the licensed UNIX source code (which may be sufficiently "Unix-like" to pass certification and bear the "UNIX" trademark).


The Open Group owns the
UNIX Unix (; trademarked as UNIX) is a family of Computer multitasking, multitasking, multiuser computer operating systems that derive from the original AT&T Corporation, AT&T Unix, whose development started in the 1970s at the Bell Labs research ce ...
trademark and administers the Single UNIX Specification, with the "UNIX" name being used as a
certification mark A certification mark (or conformity mark) on a commercial product indicates the existence of an accepted product standard or regulation Regulation is the management of complex systems according to a set of rules and trends. In systems theory ...
. They do not approve of the construction "Unix-like", and consider it a misuse of their trademark. Their guidelines require "UNIX" to be presented in uppercase or otherwise distinguished from the surrounding text, strongly encourage using it as a branding adjective for a generic word such as "system", and discourage its use in hyphenated phrases. Other parties frequently treat "Unix" as a genericized trademark. Some add a wildcard character to the name to make an abbreviation like "Un*x" or "*nix", since Unix-like systems often have Unix-like names such as AIX, A/UX, HP-UX, IRIX, Linux, Minix, Ultrix, Xenix, and XNU. These patterns do not literally match many system names, but are still generally recognized to refer to any UNIX system, descendant, or work-alike, even those with completely dissimilar names such as Darwin (operating system), Darwin/macOS, illumos/Solaris (operating system), Solaris or FreeBSD. In 2007, Wayne R. Gray sued to dispute the status of UNIX as a trademark, but lost his case, and lost again on appeal, with the court upholding the trademark and its ownership.


"Unix-like" systems started to appear in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many proprietary software, proprietary versions, such as Idris (operating system), Idris (1978), UNOS (operating system), UNOS (1982), Coherent (operating system), Coherent (1983), and UniFlex (1985), aimed to provide businesses with the functionality available to academic users of UNIX. When AT&T Corporation, AT&T allowed relatively inexpensive commercial binary sub-licensing of UNIX in 1979, a variety of proprietary systems were developed based on it, including AIX, HP-UX, IRIX, SunOS, Tru64 UNIX, Tru64, Ultrix, and Xenix. These largely displaced the proprietary clones. Growing incompatibility among these systems led to the creation of interoperability standards, including POSIX and the Single UNIX Specification. Various free, low-cost, and unrestricted substitutes for UNIX emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, including Berkeley Software Distribution, 4.4BSD, Linux, and Minix. Some of these have in turn been the basis for commercial "Unix-like" systems, such as BSD/OS and macOS. Several versions of (Mac) OS X/macOS running on Intel-based Mac computers have been certified under the Single UNIX Specification. The BSD variants are descendants of UNIX developed by the University of California at Berkeley with UNIX source code from Bell Labs. However, the BSD code base has evolved since then, replacing all of the AT&T code. Since the Berkeley Software Distribution, BSD variants are not certified as compliant with the Single UNIX Specification, they are referred to as "UNIX-like" rather than "UNIX".


Dennis Ritchie, one of the original creators of Unix, expressed his opinion that Unix-like systems such as Linux are ''de facto'' Unix systems. Eric S. Raymond and Rob Landley have suggested that there are three kinds of Unix-like systems:

Genetic UNIX

Those systems with a historical connection to the AT&T codebase. Most commercial UNIX systems fall into this category. So do the Berkeley Software Distribution, BSD systems, which are descendants of work done at the University of California, Berkeley in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some of these systems have no original AT&T code but can still trace their ancestry to AT&T designs.

Trademark or branded UNIX

These systemslargely commercial in naturehave been determined by the Open Group to meet the Single UNIX Specification and are allowed to carry the UNIX name. Most such systems are commercial derivatives of the System V code base in one form or another, although Apple macOS Mac OS X Leopard, 10.5 and later is a Berkeley Software Distribution, BSD variant that has been certified, EulerOS and Inspur K-UX are Linux distributions that have been certified, and a few other systems (such as IBM z/OS) earned the trademark through a POSIX compatibility layer and are not otherwise inherently Unix systems. Many ancient UNIX systems no longer meet this definition.

Functional UNIX

Broadly, any Unix-like system that behaves in a manner roughly consistent with the UNIX specification, including having a "Shell (computing), program which manages your login and command line interpreter, command line sessions"; more specifically, this can refer to systems such as Linux or Minix that behave similarly to a UNIX system but have no genetic or trademark connection to the AT&T code base. Most free/open-source implementations of the UNIX design, whether genetic UNIX or not, fall into the restricted definition of this third category due to the expense of obtaining Open Group certification, which costs thousands of dollars for commercial closed source systems. Around 2001, Linux was given the opportunity to get a certification including free help from the POSIX chair Andrew Josey for the symbolic price of one dollar. There have been some activities to make Linux POSIX-compliant, with Josey having prepared a list of differences between the POSIX standard and the Linux Standard Base specification, but in August 2005, this project was shut down because of missing interest at the LSB work group.

Compatibility layers

Some non-Unix-like operating systems provide a Unix-like compatibility layer, with varying degrees of Unix-like functionality. * IBM z/OS's UNIX System Services is sufficiently complete as to be certified as trademark UNIX. * Cygwin, MSYS, and MSYS2 each provide a GNU environment on top of the Microsoft Windows Windows API, user API, sufficient for most common Open-source software, open source software to be compiled and run. * The MKS Toolkit and UWIN are comprehensive interoperability tools which allow the porting of Unix programs to Windows. * Windows NT-type systems have a POSIX environmental subsystem. * Subsystem for Unix-based Applications (previously Interix) provides Unix-like functionality as a Windows NT Architecture of Windows NT, subsystem (discontinued). * Windows Subsystem for Linux provides a Linux-compatible kernel interface developed by Microsoft and containing no Linux code, with Ubuntu (operating system), Ubuntu user-mode Executable and Linkable Format, binaries running on top of it. Other means of Windows-Unix interoperability include: * The above Windows packages can be used with various X servers for Windows * Hummingbird Connectivity provides several ways for Windows machines to connect to Unix and Linux machines, from terminal emulators to X clients and servers, and others * The Windows Resource Kits for versions of Windows NT include a Bourne Shell, some command-line tools, and a version of Perl * Hamilton C shell is a version of csh written specifically for Windows.

See also

* Berkeley Software Distribution * Linux distribution * List of Linux distributions * List of Unix commands * List of operating systems


External links

Unix-like Definition
by The Linux Information Project (LINFO)
UNIX history
a history time line graph of most UNIX and Unix-like systems by Éric Lévénez * {{DEFAULTSORT:Unix-Like Unix Unix variants, Operating system families