Ubuntu 20.04 GUI installation

The purpose of this tutorial is to install a desktop environment GUI on Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa, whether you already have a GUI installed and wish to use a different desktop environment, or if you are only using the command line and would like access to a GUI. You can also use these instructions to install a GUI on Ubuntu Server 20.04, which doesn’t have a desktop environment installed by default. Follow along with our instructions below to install a GUI on Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa Server and Desktop.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • How to install tasksel
  • How to select GUI from tasksel tasks
  • How to install GUI
  • How to login to newly installed GUI
Install GUI on Ubuntu Server 20.04
Install GUI on Ubuntu Server 20.04

Software Requirements and Conventions Used

Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Installed or upgraded Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa
Software tasksel
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
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

Ubuntu 20.04 Install GUI step by step instructions

There are numerous ways to install a GUI on Ubuntu 20.04. One of the easiest ways is with a tool called tasksel, which streamlines the process for us by automatically installing the correct window manager and other package dependencies.

  1. Start off by opening a terminal updating the apt package index and installing the tasksel tool with these Linux commands.
    $ sudo apt update
    $ sudo apt install tasksel
  2. Next, select the GUI you wish to install. The below table shows main desktop environments available for installation via tasksel:
    Main available Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) installations using tasksel’s tasks
    Task Description
    kubuntu-desktop Kubuntu desktop ( KDE Desktop )
    lubuntu-desktop Lubuntu Desktop ( LXQt desktop )
    ubuntu-budgie-desktop Ubuntu Budgie desktop
    ubuntu-desktop Ubuntu desktop ( default GNOME )
    ubuntu-desktop-minimal Ubuntu minimal desktop ( default GNOME )
    ubuntu-mate-desktop Ubuntu MATE desktop
    ubuntustudio-desktop Ubuntu Studio desktop ( Xfce-based desktop )
    ubuntustudio-desktop-core Ubuntu Studio minimal DE installation ( Xfce-based desktop )
    xubuntu-desktop Xubuntu desktop ( Xfce desktop )

    To list all of the GUIs available for selection, execute the below command:

    $ tasksel --list-tasks

  3. Once you have selected the GUI you wish to install on Ubuntu, execute the following tasksel command. As an example, we will install the default Ubuntu desktop environment, which is GNOME. But you may change this command to match your own selection.
    $ sudo tasksel install ubuntu-desktop
  4. tasksel will now begin to download and install all of the packages required for the desktop environment you have chosen. Depending on which GUI is being installed, you may be prompted during installation on whether or not you wish to change the default window manager for the system.

    Prompt from tasksel to change the default window manager
    Prompt from tasksel to change the default window manager
  5. After installation, reboot your system.
    $ reboot
  6. At this point, the GUI should start. You may need to select your desired desktop flavor on the login page before you login. In case the GUI is not starting at all, make sure your system boots into the graphical target. To do so execute:
    $ sudo systemctl set-default graphical.target

Installed GUI on Ubuntu 20.04

Installed GUI on Ubuntu 20.04


In this tutorial, you saw how to install a variety of different desktop environments on Ubuntu 20.04 Server and Desktop. This is made easier by the tasksel command, so that we don’t need individual instructions for each GUI available. If you decide to switch GUIs again in the future, these same instructions can be used.