Objective

Ubuntu server GUI does not come installed by default on Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver. However, this does not mean that desktop environment cannot be installed on your server.

This guide will provide you with an information on how to install GUI on your Ubuntu server 18.04.

Operating System and Software Versions

  • Operating System: - Ubuntu Server 18.04 Bionic

Requirements

Privileged access to your Ubuntu System as root or via sudo command is required.

Difficulty

EASY

Conventions

  • # - requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
  • $ - requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Introduction

Select GUI for your server

First, make a selection of which GUI you wish to install on your server. When making a choice about which GUI to install consider your server's resources. Perhaps, you do not want to run the default Ubuntu GNOME desktop or the KDE plasma environment. Both desktop environments might please you aesthetically, but both GUI's will consume much of your server's resources.

There is a number of GUI environments which can be installed on your server. The Lubuntu desktop is perhaps the most lightweight GUI you can have installed on your Ubuntu server.

Next in line is the Xfce4 GUI followed by the Mate desktop and so on. The easiest way to install GUI on your Ubuntu server is by using the tasksel command. Start by listing all the tasks:
$ tasksel --list-task
When it comes to GUI for the Ubuntu server you perhaps may want to stick with the desktop core task installations only, simply because they are tailored to put the minimum pressure on your server's resources. Select the desktop GUI task name and install it using the tasksel command with the following syntax:
$ sudo tasksel install GUI-TASK-NAME

Select a Display Manager

Furthermore, take some time to choose a display manager. All of the tasksel's core desktop installation tasks include installation of some sort of lightweight display manager.

However, if you decide to install GUI on your Ubuntu server using apt directly, make sure to choose some low profile DM like for example slim, xdm or lightdm as GDM3 is simply an overkill in this case.


Instructions

Below are some examples of GUI installation on Ubuntu server 18.04.

Mate Core Server Desktop

To install the Mate desktop environment on your Ubuntu server execute:
$ sudo tasksel install ubuntu-mate-core
Once the GUI installation is finished start your display manager using the below command or simply restart your Ubuntu server if that is an option:
$ sudo service lightdm start
install ubuntu server GUI - Mate core
Mate Ubuntu server GUI on Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver

Lubuntu Core Server Desktop

Lubuntu core could be the most resource lightweight GUI for your Ubuntu 18.04 server. Lubuntu is based on the LXDE desktop environment. To begin the installation execute the following linux command:
$ sudo tasksel install lubuntu-core
Once the lubuntu-core GUI is installed start the display manager by using the below command or simply restart your Ubuntu server if that is an option:
$ sudo service lightdm start
install ubuntu server GUI- Lubuntu core
Lubuntu Ubuntu server GUI on Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver


Xubuntu Server Core Desktop

Xubuntu core is a sin-off of the Xfce4 desktop environment. To begin the installation execute the following linux command:
$ sudo tasksel install xubuntu-core
After this GUI is installed start the display manager by using the below command or simply restart your Ubuntu server if that is an option:
$ sudo service lightdm start
install ubuntu server GUI - Xubuntu core
Xubuntu Ubuntu server GUI on Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver

Xfce Desktop

It is also possible to install GUI on your Ubuntu server directly. The following linux command will install xfce4 GUI along with slim, a simple display manager.
$ sudo apt install xfce4 slim
After this GUI is installed start the display manager by using the below command or simply restart your Ubuntu server if that is an option:
$ sudo service slim start
install ubuntu server GUI - xfce4 core
xfce4 Ubuntu server GUI on Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver

Conclusion

So many choices of GUI's for your Ubuntu server! Pick wisely, the bigger the better, does not necessary apply in this case. I have deliberately avoided KDE and GNOME graphical user interfaces. The reason being is that they are perhaps the least suited graphical user interfaces for any server. However, if you feel to install KDE on your Ubuntu 18.04 server you can do it by:
$ sudo tasksel kubuntu-desktop
If GNOME is what you are after enter:
$ sudo tasksel ubuntu-desktop
ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A LINUX JOB?
Submit your RESUME or create a JOB ALERT on LinuxCareers.com job portal.
DO YOU NEED ADDITIONAL HELP?
Get extra help by visiting our LINUX FORUM or simply use comments below.