Can I use tty to call Media Player and watch a video? Or run a browser in it? Since tty is just a virtual terminal.

  • You can only if you have a X server running. – Weijun Zhou Jan 16 '18 at 6:50
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    @WeijunZhou That's not true. There are solutions working directly on the framebuffer. – Philippos Jan 16 '18 at 7:20
  • Based on a hunch I would guess the asker means can you run applications by themselves without a desktop environment which you can of course. If you mean without X yes you can using the frame buffer directly. Applications like Kodi do this. With that information you can probably ask a more specfic question to what you were wondering. – jdwolf Jan 16 '18 at 9:36

Regarding the question in the title: Between your OS and the DE there is another layer, typically X11 (what happened to Wayland?). The OS offers the framebuffer, a device file more or less representing the active video RAM. The X11 layer offers virtual display areas to applications (typically "windows") and composes the complete screen out of that (probably using the GPU of the system). Upon this you can use a desktop environment, doing all that window handling, decorations, global menus and stuff.

Most graphical application require X11 to run, but if you just want to watch videos, there are solutions with just the framebuffer, see here for example.

To run a graphical web browser on the framebuffer, see some projects and workarounds in these answers. It's old, so find out which projects are still active.


You can use TTY for that ONLY for special programs built for that.

  1. programs that work directly on frame-buffer (fbdev)
  2. programs that use ASCII display only even for semi-graphical
  3. programs that use standard old VGA/VESA hardware mode directly drawing their own display from 0x13 interruption...

for example lynx browser can be used (no images, no video, no CSS, no Flash and so on...) but works perfectly for all the rest. mplayer can use framebuffer to run videos, for example... but 99% you won't ever find quite modern programs work without XWindows.

  • Not true unless you have a very narrow definition of "programs". Nowadays the majority of linux programs run on embedded devices, where you typically avoid using X11. It's easy to develop a Qt application working directly on the framebuffer, for example. – Philippos Jan 16 '18 at 11:27
  • we are not talking about programs running in X but in ttys – francois P Feb 3 '18 at 12:37
  • Exactly. And I'm telling you that the majority of modern linux programs runs without X. Your statement is just true for modern desktop applications, which is just a small fraction of the whole picture. – Philippos Feb 5 '18 at 7:19
  • I think you talk of services & server applications end-user applications for tty ..in particular ... on real physical ones like ibm 3151 or dec vt320 are really rare... so yes depending on what we call applications or distinct utilities / tools / system & applications ... we might be right or not :) – francois P Feb 6 '18 at 7:57
  • Actually I was thinking about end-user applications running on your washing machine, your car entertainment system, your copy machine, your navigation system and so on. Lots of those devices have an embedded linux inside nowadays, but the GUI is done on the framebuffer directly. I admit, I would not call those "tty application", but end-user software withour X11. (-: – Philippos Feb 6 '18 at 9:14

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