Is there a (more than a terminal) desktop environment/distro that can be run using only a keyboard - I have an old computer on which I cannot use a mouse - the PS/2 port is broken and it won't accept USB

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    "won't accept USB" What? Apr 15, 2012 at 1:28
  • It won't work with a USB mouse. Apr 15, 2012 at 1:29
  • I don't know why. Apr 15, 2012 at 1:29
  • Does it see the mouse? Apr 15, 2012 at 1:30
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    Virtually any desktop environment can be used without a mouse, and any setup with a tiling window manager will downright encourage it. Do you have any requirements that narrow it down a bit? Apr 15, 2012 at 1:51

3 Answers 3


I recommend using Xmonad with Dmenu, this works using shortcuts and is basically a window tiling system, it also has a very small footprint when it comes to resources, perfect for old machines.


Have you tried all the USB ports? Also, have you tried looking in the BIOS to see if it might be disapbled? If it has USB, it's hard to believe that all the ports are broken, although something may have blown it out in the past.

That said, I think you can do it, but it might be painful. It would depend on what system you're using. For mine (Ubuntu with Gnome), there is a setting under "Universal Access", in the tab "Pointing and Clicking", for "Mouse Keys" that enable you to use the keyboard.

I've head that X-Windows has a way using Ctrl-Shift-Numlock, but that doesn't do anything on my system.

I believe KDE has a setting under the mouse control panel called 'Move pointer with keyboard (using the num pad)’.

  • It will not be painful if you use an window manager designed for keyboard operation (e.g. ratpoison) and keyboard-driven apps.
    – Renan
    Apr 15, 2012 at 2:04
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    No, I use keyboard all the time for my server, but most people run things like web browsers, and that's what I was thinking about. I can't imagine doing much in the way of web browsing these days without a mouse. Apr 15, 2012 at 3:53
  • There are web browsers that can be used through the keyboard, e.g. uzbl.
    – Renan
    Apr 15, 2012 at 4:00
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    Sure, and I used to use Lynx in the early days of the web before graphical web browsers. It's worth bringing up, but don't be too surprised when most people look at you like you just stepped in a big pile of ... well, lets just say they may look at you strangely. Apr 15, 2012 at 4:10

You might want to take a look at ratpoison.

Ratpoison is a simple Window Manager with no fat library dependencies, no fancy graphics, no window decorations, and no rodent dependence. It is largely modelled after GNU Screen which has done wonders in the virtual terminal market.

Other tiling window-managers, like dwm, should do. However, if all you want is to run a bunch of tiled terminals, try dvtm (a console lookalike of dwm).

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