Application and service exporting
distrobox-export takes care of exporting an app a binary or a service from the container to the host.
The exported app will be easily available in your normal launcher and it will automatically be launched from the container it is exported from.
--app/-a: name of the application to export --bin/-b: absolute path of the binary to export --service/-s: name of the service to export --delete/-d: delete exported application or service --export-label/-el: label to add to exported application name. Defaults to (on \$container_name) --export-path/-ep: path where to export the binary --extra-flags/-ef: extra flags to add to the command --sudo/-S: specify if the exported item should be run as sudo --help/-h: show this message --verbose/-v: show more verbosity --version/-V: show version
You may want to install graphical applications or user services in your distrobox.
distrobox-export from inside the container will let you use them from the host itself.
distrobox-export --app mpv [--extra-flags "flags"] [--delete] [--sudo] distrobox-export --service syncthing [--extra-flags "flags"] [--delete] [--sudo] distrobox-export --bin /path/to/bin --export-path ~/.local/bin [--extra-flags "flags"] [--delete] [--sudo]
App export example
distrobox-export --app abiword
This tool will simply copy the original
.desktop files along with needed icons,
add the prefix
/usr/local/bin/distrobox-enter -n distrobox_name -e ... to the commands to run, and
save them in your home to be used directly from the host as a normal app.
Service export example
distrobox-export --service syncthing --extra-flags "--allow-newer-config" distrobox-export --service nginx --sudo
For services, it will similarly export the systemd unit inside the container to a
systemctl --user service, prefixing the various
ExecStart ExecStartPre ExecStartPost ExecReload ExecStop ExecStopPost with the
distrobox-enter command prefix.
The exported services will be available in the host’s user’s systemd session, so
systemctl --user status exported_service_name
will show the status of the service exported.
Binary export example
distrobox-export --bin /usr/bin/code --extra-flags "--foreground" --export-path $HOME/.local/bin
In the case of exporting binaries, you will have to specify where to export it
--export-path) and the tool will create a little wrapper script that will
distrobox-enter -e from the host, the desired binary.
This can be handy with the use of
direnv to have different versions of the same binary based on
env or project.
The exported binaries will be exported in the “–export-path” of choice as a wrapper script that acts naturally both on the host and in the container. Note that “–export-path” is NOT OPTIONAL, you have to explicitly set it.
You can specify additional flags to add to the command, for example if you want to export an electron app, you could add the “–foreground” flag to the command:
distrobox-export --app atom --extra-flags "--foreground" distrobox-export --bin /usr/bin/vim --export-path ~/.local/bin --extra-flags "-p" distrobox-export --service syncthing --extra-flags "-allow-newer-config"
This works for services, binaries, and apps. Extra flags are only used then the exported app, binary, or service is used from the host, using them inside the container will not include them.
The option “–delete” will un-export an app, binary, or service.
distrobox-export --app atom --delete distrobox-export --bin /usr/bin/vim --export-path ~/.local/bin --delete distrobox-export --service syncthing --delete distrobox-export --service nginx --delete
Run as root in the container
The option “–sudo” will launch the exported item as root inside the distrobox.
Exporting apps from rootful containers
It is worth noting that, when exporting any item - which includes graphical apps - from rootful
containers (created with
distrobox create --root), root privileges will be needed every time
the item is launched (in order to enter the rootful container), which, by default, is done
sudo (see docs for
distrobox-enter on how to customize that). However, for
graphical apps in specific, since they launch without a terminal, the usage of
might, at first, make it impossible to launch them.
To fix this without needing to customize the sudo program, one can define a global
SUDO_ASKPASS environment variable on their machine, which is a PATH to an executable
that is run by
sudo when no terminal is available (or when it is given the
-A option), and the output of that executable to stdout is used as the password input.
The executable is called as many times is needed for authentication as root to succeed
(unless a limit of amount of attempts is reached).
To do this, pick a program to ask the user for graphical password input. In this example,
we will use
zenity --password, which should be present for GNOME users (and can
also be installed in other DEs) - there are other options, such as
kdialog --password "Message" for KDE users.
Write the call to the desired program to a script file, for example to
/usr/bin/my-password-prompt (sample contents below):
#!/bin/sh zenity --password "Authentication as root is required"
(You may save the script under, for example,
~/.local/bin if you want to keep it
fully local to your user.)
Afterwards, make it executable (e.g. run
sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/my-password-prompt). Then,
make sure to set
"/usr/bin/my-password-prompt" (replace with your script’s path)
in a global profile file, so that it is picked up by sudo when running graphical apps (and, therefore,
sudo will run the script you created to ask for a password).
This is done with the shell line
You can do this for your user only by running the command below (replace the script path as needed):
echo 'export SUDO_ASKPASS="/usr/bin/my-password-prompt"' >> ~/.profile
Which appends the appropriate line to the end of your
~/.profile file, thus making the change
local to your user. Alternatively, to set it system-wide (for all users), you may create a file
/etc/profile.d/ (or equivalent for your system) with that line.
Now just log out and log back in, and graphical apps exported from rootful containers should now be properly asking for root’s password before launching (instead of not opening, if that was the case before).
Note you can use –app OR –bin OR –service but not together.
distrobox-export --service nginx --sudo
NOTE: some electron apps such as vscode and atom need additional flags to work from inside the
container, use the
--extra-flags option to provide a series of flags, for example:
distrobox-export --app atom --extra-flags "--foreground"