distrobox-export - Man Page

Examples (TL;DR)


Application and binary exporting

distrobox-export takes care of exporting an app or a binary from the container to the host.

The exported app will be easily available in your normal launcher and it will automatically be launched from the container it is exported from.



--app/-a:       name of the application to export
--bin/-b:       absolute path of the binary to export
--delete/-d:        delete exported application or binary
--export-label/-el: label to add to exported application name.
            Use "none" to disable.
            Defaults to (on \$container_name)
--export-path/-ep:  path where to export the binary
--extra-flags/-ef:  extra flags to add to the command
--sudo/-S:      specify if the exported item should be run as sudo
--help/-h:      show this message
--verbose/-v:       show more verbosity
--version/-V:       show version

You may want to install graphical applications or CLI tools in your distrobox. Using distrobox-export from inside the container will let you use them from the host itself.


distrobox-export --app mpv [--extra-flags "flags"] [--delete] [--sudo]
distrobox-export --bin /path/to/bin [--export-path ~/.local/bin] [--extra-flags "flags"] [--delete] [--sudo]

App export example

distrobox-export --app abiword

This tool will simply copy the original .desktop files along with needed icons, add the prefix /usr/local/bin/distrobox-enter -n distrobox_name -e ... to the commands to run, and save them in your home to be used directly from the host as a normal app.

Binary export example

distrobox-export --bin /usr/bin/code --extra-flags "--foreground" --export-path $HOME/.local/bin

In the case of exporting binaries, you will have to specify where to export it (--export-path) and the tool will create a little wrapper script that will distrobox-enter -e from the host, the desired binary. This can be handy with the use of direnv to have different versions of the same binary based on your env or project.

The exported binaries will be exported in the “–export-path” of choice as a wrapper script that acts naturally both on the host and in the container.

Additional flags

You can specify additional flags to add to the command, for example if you want to export an electron app, you could add the “–foreground” flag to the command:

distrobox-export --app atom --extra-flags "--foreground"
distrobox-export --bin /usr/bin/vim --export-path ~/.local/bin --extra-flags "-p"

This works for binaries and apps. Extra flags are only used then the exported app or binary is used from the host, using them inside the container will not include them.


The option “–delete” will un-export an app or binary

distrobox-export --app atom --delete
distrobox-export --bin /usr/bin/vim --export-path ~/.local/bin --delete

Run as root in the container

The option “–sudo” will launch the exported item as root inside the distrobox.

Exporting apps from rootful containers

It is worth noting that, when exporting any item - which includes graphical apps - from rootful containers (created with distrobox create --root), root privileges will be needed every time the item is launched (in order to enter the rootful container), which, by default, is done using sudo (see docs for distrobox-enter on how to customize that). However, for graphical apps in specific, since they launch without a terminal, the usage of sudo might, at first, make it impossible to launch them.

To fix this without needing to customize the sudo program, one can define a global SUDO_ASKPASS environment variable on their machine, which is a PATH to an executable that is run by sudo when no terminal is available (or when it is given the --askpass or -A option), and the output of that executable to stdout is used as the password input. The executable is called as many times is needed for authentication as root to succeed (unless a limit of amount of attempts is reached).

To do this, pick a program to ask the user for graphical password input. In this example, we will use zenity --password, which should be present for GNOME users (and can also be installed in other DEs) - there are other options, such as kdialog --password "Message" for KDE users.

Write the call to the desired program to a script file, for example to /usr/bin/my-password-prompt (sample contents below):

zenity --password "Authentication as root is required"

(You may save the script under, for example, ~/.local/bin if you want to keep it fully local to your user.)

Afterwards, make it executable (e.g. run sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/my-password-prompt). Then, make sure to set SUDO_ASKPASS to "/usr/bin/my-password-prompt" (replace with your script’s path) in a global profile file, so that it is picked up by sudo when running graphical apps (and, therefore, sudo will run the script you created to ask for a password). This is done with the shell line export SUDO_ASKPASS="/path/to/script/goes/here". You can do this for your user only by running the command below (replace the script path as needed):

echo 'export SUDO_ASKPASS="/usr/bin/my-password-prompt"' >> ~/.profile

Which appends the appropriate line to the end of your ~/.profile file, thus making the change local to your user. Alternatively, to set it system-wide (for all users), you may create a file in /etc/profile.d/ (or equivalent for your system) with that line.

Now just log out and log back in, and graphical apps exported from rootful containers should now be properly asking for root’s password before launching (instead of not opening, if that was the case before).


Note you can use –app OR –bin but not together.

[IMAGE: app-export (https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/598882/144294795-c7785620-bf68-4d1b-b251-1e1f0a32a08d.png)]

NOTE: some electron apps such as vscode and atom need additional flags to work from inside the container, use the --extra-flags option to provide a series of flags, for example:

distrobox-export --app atom --extra-flags "--foreground"


Nov 2023 Distrobox User Manual