How do I run a program in the background of a shell, with the ability to close the shell while leaving the program running? Lets say my UI is having problems or for some reason, I need to boot up a program from the terminal window, say, nm-applet:


When it's started, it occupies the foreground of the terminal window.

Is there any simple way to run the program in the background without needing to leave the terminal open or have it occupy the whole terminal?

On that note, I did find a way to run programs from the terminal and have it allow for other inputs, by appending an ampersand (&) to the command as such:

nm-applet &

But this isn't much use as any processes started in the terminal are killed once the terminal is closed.                                                                        

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    nohup 'command' & This seems to work. Any problems with this?
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 0:11

10 Answers 10


I've recently come to like setsid. It starts off looking like you're just running something from the terminal but you can disconnect (close the terminal) and it just keeps going.

This is because the command actually forks out and while the input comes through to the current terminal, it's owned by a completely different parent (that remains alive after you close the terminal).

An example:

setsid gnome-calculator

I'm also quite partial to disown which can be used to separate a process from the current tree. You use it in conjunction with the backgrounding ampersand:

gnome-calculator & disown

I also just learnt about spawning subshells with parenthesis. This simple method works:

(gnome-calculator &)

And of course there's nohup as you mentioned. I'm not wild about nohup because it has a tendency to write to ~/nohup.out without me asking it to. If you rely on that, it might be for you.

nohup gnome-calculator

And for the longer-term processes, there are things like screen and other virtual terminal-muxers that keep sessions alive between connections. These probably don't really apply to you because you just want temporary access to the terminal output, but if you wanted to go back some time later and view the latest terminal activity, screen would probably be your best choice.

The internet is full of screen tutorials but here's a simple quick-start:

  • Oli, in the case of DISPLAY=:0 unity --replace which of the above would you use and why? Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 12:40
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    @nuttyaboutnatty wrap the whole lot in its own shell session: sh -c "sleep 10s && cvlc '/home/omm.ogg'" & disown. That's pretty much my solution for everything to make sure it forks out properly.
    – Oli
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 14:56
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    @nuttyaboutnatty That's what I mean but you wouldn't end up with two instances running because --replace does what it sounds like and actually ends the old instance. Running it the second time from within the xsession would end the copy bound to TTYn and would let you use that in the future if you needed it. There is probably a better way of doing it but just what comes to my mind each time I need it.
    – Oli
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 15:25
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    Perfect, the one that worked for me was the subshell '(gnome-calculator &)'. I use it to launch a mono console app in the background. With the other techniques, the mono app would crash instantly. Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 20:55
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    Note to future users: creation of nohup.out can be suppressed with redirecting both stdout and sterr to /dev/null like so: nohup firefox &> /dev/null & Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 18:13

Here's the two ways I'd go with. Firstly, not running it from a terminal; hit Alt+F2 to open the run dialog, and run it from there (without &).

From a terminal, run

nm-applet &

But do NOT close the terminal yourself. That is, do not hit the X-button to close, and do not use File -> Exit from its menubar. If you close the terminal that way, it will send a HUP (Hang UP) signal to the bash running within, which in turn will send the HUP signal to all its children (which is why nohup works in this case).

Instead, exit the shell by running exit or hitting Ctrl+D. bash will then disown its children, then exit, leaving the background processes still running. And when bash exits, the terminal has lost its child process, so it will close too.

Doing it all at once:

nm-applet & exit
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    That's amazing! Never knew that and you seem to be the only person to mention this. Definitly that's my favorite approach when in a Desktop Environment. Too bad I can't upvote more ;p
    – 7hi4g0
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 6:01
  • I tried this with a different application and it failed: matlab & exit Running as two separate commands worked well: matlab & exit
    – MattKelly
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 20:00
  • I was wondering why OP said closing the terminal caused his background programs to crash. I've never tried closing a terminal by the "x" button on the window. Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 12:51
  • the x button is kill it doesn't cleanly exit, the exit command does. you could remap the x button to a exit command instead...
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 7:35

As you pointed out, you can run

nohup nm-applet &  

to ignore the end signal when closing the terminal. No problem with that.

  • Any other alternatives? Just for knowings sake, not for anything else
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 0:38
  • At wikipedia ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nohup ) there is a suggestion to use echo command | at now which I couldn't get it to work.
    – desgua
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 0:45
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    I wonder how it works from a the UI when you double click an icon or program.
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 10:22
  • exec provides an alternative to nohup <command> & for running a process in the background and returning current shell prompt.
    – jsstuball
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 9:16

One thing that many other answers are missing is how to detach a running process that currently blocks the shell. In most terminals and shells, Ctrl+Z will halt the running process and bring you back to an input prompt. Then, you can issue


to send the running process into the background. Issue


instead to put the running process back into the foreground.

EDIT: More detail in this answer I discovered later.


Use (exec PROGRAM &> /dev/null & ) to allow PID of subshell to be taken over by PROGRAM. I've tested this approach multiple times with several different programs. Closing the original terminal has no affect on the newly-spawned program

Small demo:

$ # this is before running
$ (exec firefox &> /dev/null &)
$ # and look, we still in side the terminal and can continue working
  • Hmmm (exec firefox) hangs the terminal until I exit Firefox...and closing the terminal SIGHUPs the shell and the subshell
    – kos
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 11:48
  • I've edited my answer. Tested it with several other programs. I've not observed firefox or other program hanging the controlling terminal in this version Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 18:39
  • works well for me
    – Zanna
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 19:12
  • I don't believe that using bash's exec is necessary, it could be that you need the PID for some reason.
    – marinara
    Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 4:25

I can recommend the byobu terminal. You can easily detach your process by pressing the F6 key.


Although there are good answers above, I would like to give my 2 cents on how I use MATLAB in background.

sudo -b matlab

The -b tag of sudo can run applications in background. You can also close the terminal after executing this command.

Probably, unrelated but there is wonderful website that you can use to explain shell commands. http://explainshell.com/explain/8/sudo

  • Perfect for wireshark which needs sudo, thanks
    – myol
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 9:21

The modern and easy to use approach that allows managing multiple processes and has a nice terminal UI is hapless utility.

Install with pip install hapless (or python3 -m pip install hapless) and just run

$ hap run my-command  # e.g. hap run python my_long_running_script.py
$ hap status  # check all the launched processes

See docs for more info.


NOTE: I'm the author of this package.

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    This seems to be something you have developed, so please state that in your answer, other wise this is self-promotional spam. Also do this for your other answer, please.
    – muru
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 8:42

I dont know its the right way but i just start another session while leaving the previous one allone. For example i ran a simple web server on my raspberry. the web.py one. then i start a new session while leaving it alone. thats it. it also is wuite useful since you are still updated even though you are workin on the other session.

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    Welcome to Ask Ubuntu! I recommend editing this answer to expand it with specific details about how to do this. (See also How do I write a good answer? for general advice about what sorts of answers are considered most valuable on Ask Ubuntu.) Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 22:51

In case KDE is used, you can also use kstart, which will start your program detached from the terminal. It also makes sure that the KDE environment is correctly setup for the command. (See kstart.cpp source code for reference. As you see from there, it uses KProcess::startDetached, and KProcess is derived from QProcess, and startDetached starts a new process, and detaches from it.)

Similar is also kde-open or xdg-open or gnome-open.

  • As this stands, it looks almost more like a comment than an answer. Please edit to expand. Don't just give a one-liner; explain why you right, ideally with citations. Answers without explanation are subject to removal.
    – anonymous2
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 13:49

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