How can I view the desktop (rather than individual program windows) using X?

I've got the pi set up so that it doesn't boot into the desktop environment (CLI right now). On my Ubuntu destkop I connect to the pi using ssh -X ipaddress -l username and then I run startlxde.

When I do that, I don't get what I expect (a window opening up where I can view the entire raspi desktop). Instead I get the LXDE taskbar superimposed over the top of my Ubuntu desktop, covering things up.

Am I not understanding how X works or am I doing something wrong?

1 Answer 1


Not understanding how X works.
X is made up of many many components.
For Example -
the Window Manager manages window decorations, placements etc.
the X Server, which everything sits on top of

You can actually start the X server with no desktop environment, no window manager, and all you get is a grey screen with an X as a mouse cursor.

To have a separate X window within your already running X server, you can run a X-in-X server like Xephyr which can then run things on your Pi and display things in Xephyr, If you enable XDMCP on the Pi, then you can login in Xephyr as if you were on the Pi.

  • Thanks for the reply. I ended up using VNC instead because I already knew more about how that works. Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 3:03
  • Good decision :D
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 15:09

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