I'm trying to work on a computer remotely, but some of what I want to do involves calling GUI programs. I want them to open on the physical display of the remote laptop.

Essentially my question is how can I ssh into machine and open firefox or nautilus.

Whenever I try commands I get

server@hyrule:~$ gnome-terminal
Failed to parse arguments: Cannot open display:
server@hyrule:~$ firefox
Error: no display specified
server@hyrule:~$ nautilus
Could not parse arguments: Cannot open display:

I just want the session to be treated like its local.

  • I got it working with the 2 commands below. I make those into a bash file and made a cronjob, that won't work. Is there a reason for this?
    – wlraider70
    Dec 3, 2013 at 23:00

1 Answer 1


I do this daily by running

export DISPLAY=:0.0

before invoking the program itself. Note that if you're logged in as a different user locally vs. remotely, you may need to use xhost to allow the remote user permission to do this.

  • 1
    I just run export DISPLAY=:0 (or prepend a command with DISPLAY=:0). I've never needed the .0 on the end.
    – Oli
    Nov 26, 2013 at 10:01

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