I use GNU Screen for terminal multiplexing, and I was wondering if a similar solution existed for desktop environments. This is not the same concept as locking the screen, or logging out of the desktop. But to truly suspend, and then resume the X server at a later time without loss of data.

Also, I am not using Gnome or KDE, neither am I using a login manager.

Desired Behaviour

1) Login via the console.

2) Run startx.

3) Launch Firefox, Terminal, etc.

4) Suspend current X session; user is returned back to the console.

5) Resume previous X session; user is returned back to desktop environment.

Note: all previously running applications should still be present.


Ctrl+Z is used to suspend a job in the terminal. This is used in conjunction with fg to resume the process.

The kill command can also send signals to a running process, e.g. -STOP, -CONT, among others.

  • I would also like some functionality like this. Does connecting to another tty satisfy you? Pressing Ctrl-Alt-F2 should provide you with a second login console, in which you can do whatever you like. If it is important to you that the X server running on tty1 is really paused, you can pause it with killall -TSTP X or similar, and resume it with killall -CONT X. Similarly you can just pause your window manager if you prefer. Sep 27, 2020 at 21:23
  • A warning: Do not switch back to tty1 while the X server is paused. I don't know exactly why, but this freezes my console. My guess is that X is still set up to swallow all input, but can't process it because the process is paused. If you pause and then continue, though, I experienced no problems. However, if it is important to you that you are attached to tty1, I don't know how to do that! If not, I can turn these comments into an answer. Sep 27, 2020 at 21:25
  • I know I can switch to another TTY, but I would really like to be able to suspend the graphical session.
    – oxr463
    Sep 28, 2020 at 12:07
  • Does suspending the graphical session from another terminal not work for you either? (I appreciate that the ideal is some functionality similar to ctrl-z, but I'm not sure how to get that). Sep 28, 2020 at 13:10
  • 1
    You may find this discussion helpful: forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic-p-8505598.html Sep 29, 2020 at 8:48

1 Answer 1


Maybe xpra is a solution for you? It works like screen for X connections.

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