I am using Trisquel GNU/Linux-Libre which comes with Gnome3 Flashback Desktop Environment.

I know that I can run GUI application as root by sudo & gksudo but I want to know that How do I run GUI applications as root with the help of pkexec?

When I tries to run gedit (or any other application like:nautilus) by pkexec gedit then It prompts for password for authentication:-


After entering password it exit with error:-

$ pkexec gedit
error: XDG_RUNTIME_DIR not set in the environment.

(gedit:6135): Gtk-WARNING **: cannot open display:

So, It seems something is going wrong with display environment.

I've also tried with DISPLAY=:0 pkexec gedit but doesn't work.

Following information is available from man pkexec:-

The environment that PROGRAM will run it, will be set to a minimal known and safe environment in order to avoid injecting code through LD_LIBRARY_PATH or similar mechanisms. In addition the PKEXEC_UID environment variable is set to the user id of the process invoking pkexec. As a result, pkexec will not allow you to run X11 applications as another user since the $DISPLAY and $XAUTHORITY environment variables are not set. These two variables will be retained if the org.freedesktop.policykit.exec.allow_gui annotation on an action is set to a nonempty value; this is discouraged, though, and should only be used for legacy programs.

Now I don't know What to do in order to accomplish this.

Thus, Help me to find out How to run GUI applications as root by means of pkexec. Or Is this possible or not?

BTW, Inspired by gparted-pkexeccommand which works fine. How gparted use pkexec?


It can be done by adding custom actions to policykit. If you want to run gedit as root with pkexec you have to create new file /usr/share/polkit-1/actions/org.freedesktop.policykit.gedit.policy for example:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE policyconfig PUBLIC
 "-//freedesktop//DTD PolicyKit Policy Configuration 1.0//EN"
    <action id="org.freedesktop.policykit.pkexec.gedit">
    <description>Run gedit program</description>
    <message>Authentication is required to run the gedit</message>
    <annotate key="org.freedesktop.policykit.exec.path">/usr/bin/gedit</annotate>
    <annotate key="org.freedesktop.policykit.exec.allow_gui">true</annotate>

Finally pkexec gedit should work as expected.

Visit manpage or Reference Manual which explains it with EXAMPLE like:-

$ man pkexec | grep -i ^Example -A 60
       To specify what kind of authorization is needed to execute the program /usr/bin/pk-example-frobnicate as
       another user, simply write an action definition file like this

           <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
           <!DOCTYPE policyconfig PUBLIC
            "-//freedesktop//DTD PolicyKit Policy Configuration 1.0//EN"

             <vendor>Examples for the PolicyKit Project</vendor>

             <action id="org.freedesktop.policykit.example.pkexec.run-frobnicate">
               <description>Run the PolicyKit example program Frobnicate</description>
               <description xml:lang="da">Kør PolicyKit eksemplet Frobnicate</description>
               <message>Authentication is required to run the PolicyKit example program Frobnicate (user=$(user), program=$(program), command_line=$(command_line))</message>
               <message xml:lang="da">Autorisering er påkrævet for at afvikle PolicyKit eksemplet Frobnicate (user=$(user), program=$(program), command_line=$(command_line))</message>
               <annotate key="org.freedesktop.policykit.exec.path">/usr/bin/pk-example-frobnicate</annotate>


       and drop it in the /usr/share/polkit-1/actions directory under a suitable name (e.g. matching the namespace of
       the action). Note that in addition to specifying the program, the authentication message, description, icon
       and defaults can be specified. Note that occurences of the strings $(user), $(program) and $(command_line) in
       the message will be replaced with respectively the user (of the form "Real Name (username)" or just "username"
       if there is no real name for the username), the binary to execute (a fully-qualified path, e.g.
       "/usr/bin/pk-example-frobnicate") and the command-line, e.g. "pk-example-frobnicate foo bar". For example, for
       the action defined above, the following authentication dialog will be shown:


               |                     Authenticate                     [X] |
               |                                                          |
               |  [Icon]  Authentication is required to run the PolicyKit |
               |          example program Frobnicate                      |
               |                                                          |
               |          An application is attempting to perform an      |
               |          action that requires privileges. Authentication |
               |          is required to perform this action.             |
               |                                                          |
               |          Password: [__________________________________]  |
               |                                                          |
               | [V] Details:                                             |
               |  Command: /usr/bin/pk-example-frobnicate                 |
               |  Run As:  Super User (root)                              |
               |  Action:  org.fd.pk.example.pkexec.run-frobnicate        |
               |  Vendor:  Examples for the PolicyKit Project             |
               |                                                          |
               |                                  [Cancel] [Authenticate] |
| improve this answer | |
  • Yes, I finally found it in manpage (man pkexec) also! – Pandya May 13 '15 at 10:35
  • Can you help me at unix.stackexchange.com/q/204638/66803 ? – Pandya May 22 '15 at 9:23
  • @Pandya, the real error is "Refusing to render service to dead parents", there are some bug reports when i googled for it. For workaround you can create executable file in /usr/local/bin which contains something like: #! /bin/sh "pkexec" "nautilus" and run it with F7. I think it should work. – taliezin May 22 '15 at 11:24
  • 3
    I'm really disappointed that such a tool forced me to configure something outside /etc and more worst under /usr/share instead of /usr/local/share. – niels May 26 '18 at 9:18
  • 1
    Very complicated... this used to be very easy to do in the old days i.e. sudo gedit and you are done – user1754322 Apr 4 at 15:50

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