I have Ubuntu installed on my computer, which is hooked up to my TV. I have tweaked some of Gnome's settings to make it easier to use from my couch (display larger fonts, increase the size of the mouse, etc), and it kind of works ok. But there are a few problems:

  1. A lot of windows that show up don't expect to have large font in them, so the contents get all garbled, and I have to resize the window (IF the window is resizable...)
  2. There are still some UI items that are really small, such as scrollbars, and I don't see any settings to make them larger. This would be my biggest complaint.

I already know about MythTV and Boxee, and that's not what I'm looking for. I am looking for a better way to use my PC from 10 feet away. I'm NOT looking for a way to turn my Linux box into a TV.

Are there any window managers out there that work better with 10-foot user interfaces? If not, are there any different themes I can use? Any more settings I can tweak?

EDIT: I am also trying to avoid reducing the resolution, because I still plan on watching hi-def videos on this thing.

  • I was about to start a similar question. Now, three years later, is there still no UI or Desktop Environment optimized for the use on a TV? Aug 19, 2014 at 7:04

4 Answers 4


Definitely you should try xbmc. It is what boxee was forked from. Its plugins allow you to do quite a lot, including for instance watching youtube.

To use a normal desktop from afar, you can increase the DPI setting of your wm (Gnome), but the best way I guess would be decreasing resolution. If you'd then like to watch videos from your filesystem, one way could be to have a second X server running, with xbmc only. Then you could easily switch between them using <Alt>+<Ctrl>+Fn key combinations. Another plus of that is that no popups from your running desktop would appear while watching video.

Once you have xbmc installed, to run it in a new X server, do the following:

  • switch to console with <Alt>+<Ctrl>+F1 (or ...F2 etc.)
  • log in and issue

    startx $(which xbmc) -- :1


Even you aren't still interested, somebody else might be ...

The Enlightenment window manager, since their big re-write (E17) and later (E18, E19), has UI scaling options; on the computer connected to my 1080p panel, I just set the scaling to 2x & it is very comfortable from a few metres away. I vaguely recall a crash in some resolution-dependent apps (like RDP equivalents), but I haven't had a crash with my current 1.5x scaling.

You can also drop down to lower-than-1080p resolutions without having to worry about hi-res videos. XBMC's resolution setting is independent of any window manager you might invoke it from, so you can leave its setting at 1080p, and your desktop's at a lower resolution.


I sit more than a meter away from my screen and I do Ctrl + for any document. Modify settings for Nautilus in Edit > Preferences. Modify system fonts in System > Preferences > Appearance.

I use 4 window managers but never tried changing font/size settings on them. But by default they display very small fonts and icons.


Despite I use Kodi (xbmc) most of the time, some times I switch to desktop. I use Gnome with TV a year something. I had Gnome 3.16 earlier. Generally Gnome (gnome-shell) nicely fit to bigger font scale factor (but why some window are not resizable! Why?!). Some GUI elements measures was hard-coded into css files and I had to edit manually to use easily from meters away.

Last days I have upgraded to Gnome 3.20 and they heavily change API (different names for properties or some config files even not existing any more). I don't have time to look deeper into it yet. For my experience Gnome is still the best DE to operate from coach.

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