I'm sure I read somewhere that the RPi can be used without a mouse, but is this 100% true?

(I am planning on using debian.)

To what extent can I control it without a mouse? Will I be able to do everything with just a keyboard, or are there some features or applications I would need a mouse for?

  • 4
    Of course you could just do everything through the command line.
    – Jivings
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 18:38

4 Answers 4


What do you want to do with the RPi?

You can run it with only a text console, and then you don't need a mouse, even if you still can use one. Just log in with the command sshor use the computer without installing or starting any X11 server or xdm program that starts a X11 server on your computer, like xdm, gdm or kdm does. You can still reach the computer and start GUI programs that show the result on your computer. Just connect with ssh -X computername and start xterm, emacs or firefox. Don't forget to start them in back ground by adding a &-character efter the commands.

If you want a GUI (Graphical User Interface) running on the screen of the Pi, then it depends on which graphical environment you use. There are lots of different Window Managers that you can install and some are very easy to use without a mouse, while others are harder to use.

But most window managers have good support of keyboard short cuts defined. And as Adam Honoré wrote, you can use the keyboard arrows to simulate a mouse device.

The graphical interface is much more flexible in the X Window environment, which you usually have on Linux machines, compared with what you have on MS Windows machines, and even Mac OS X (even though you can run X11 on Mac OSX).


Like in windows, you can do (almost) everything without a mouse. If you really need a mouse, you can enable mouse control on the numpad.

  • 1
    Thanks. Can you give a bit more detail about numpad mouse control?
    – ACarter
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 16:47
  • @ACarter - Check out Maria Zverina's answer. Feel free to comment if you can confirm which option works for distributions you have access to right now.
    – Mark Booth
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 12:02
  • @Mark, I would do, but I still have ~two weeks to wait until delivery...
    – ACarter
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 12:15
  • Unlike Windows, you can do everything without a mouse. Be default, you boot into a command line, which allows you to do anything the GUI can do, but with a larger learning curve in exchange for speed and a very low resource footprint (Raspbian only uses 19 megabytes of RAM at the beginning of a CLI session and takes less time to start up then some graphical IDEs that I have used).
    – fouric
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 5:56

From memory you can switch the numpad mouse control with Ctrl+Shift+NumLock or Shift+NumLock depending on the distro. Not in front of my RPi so can't verify right now.


That depends on what you plan on doing.

  • Stick with no X server at all, and use only the command line. This will allow you to do practically anything you could do on a normal server. You could host websites via Apache, files via samba/nfs and other things this way. You can also control the GPIO pins if you want to interact with the real world.
  • You could use a tiling window manager, such as xmonad or awesome, which are designed to be controlled by only the keyboard. Firefox can be set up via pentadactyl to use vim like controls for virtually anything. Many other applications can also be controlled fairly well using the keyboard, but sometimes you will get stuck without a mouse.
  • If you would like to serve up media, XBMC can be controlled via a web interface or apps for various smart phones.
  • One other option is to run an emulator. These don't need a mouse either.

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