How to Remote Control Ubuntu from an Android Phone

Remote Control Ubuntu From Android

Android and Linux have a close and interesting relationship. In some ways, they’re at odds with each other, but in others, they complement each other perfectly. There are ways to share files, send links, even control your Linux PC from your Android device. Actually, there are more than a few, but one stands out.

KDE Connect is easily the best option to control your PC graphically. It enables you to use your phone as a trackpad and type on your phone’s digital keyboard. You can also send links, files, and notifications from your phone. KDE Connect even allows you to send text messages from your computer. In addition to all that, it has built in multimedia controls.

Install KDE Connect On Ubuntu

KDE Connect has become relatively popular over time, and you can find an updated version right in Ubuntu’s main repositories and easily install it with Apt. KDE Connect works with any desktop environment, too, so you’re not stuck running KDE if you don’t want to.

sudo apt install kdeconnect

Note: if you really don’t want to dig into KDE packages or would just rather have better integration with GNOME, you can opt for GSConnect, a GNOME Shell extension that implements the KDE Connect protocol, but for GNOME.

Install KDE Connect on Android

Find KDE Connect Android

KDE Connect is an open-source app, so you can find it both on the Google Play Store and F-Droid. Open your app store of choice, and use the search feature to locate “KDE Connect.” Typing that in to either app will get you to the right place.

Install KDE Connect on Android

Confirm the install, and wait for your device to download the app.

Connect to the App

KDE Connect Android

Open your KDE Connect app on Android. The app will open up to a screen that would show available devices. You probably won’t see any yet.

KDE Connect Settings Ubuntu

On your computer open your application browser. You’re looking for “KDE Connect Settings,” but if you can’t find those directly, look for the KDE Connect Indicator. Open what you find.

The settings will open up to a window with a listing of available devices on the left side, or a big blank box, depending. The right side of that window will be populated with available settings when you connect to your phone.

If you had to resort to the indicator, right-click on the icon in your action bar, and pick the configuration option. That will open the settings window.

KDE Connect Desktop Found

Back on the Android app, swipe down on the “KDE Connect Devices” screen. That will refresh the list. You should see your computer and username pop up. Tap on it and request pairing.

KDE Connect Request Pairing

When new notification pops up on your desktop for the pairing request, accept it.

KDE Connect Desktop Settings Ubuntu

You’ll notice the listing on your settings window change. The indicator next to your Android device’s name will turn green to show that it’s paired. Click on that listing to open up the settings on the right side of the window. Those settings allow you to set which features each device has access to on the other. When everything is to your liking, you can close the settings window.

Control Your Desktop

KDE Connect Android Trackpad

Turn your attention to the Android app. You’ll see a listing of the available actions you can do on your desktop. For remote controls, select “Remote input.” Your phone screen will shift, and a huge white space will occupy most of the screen area. That space is now a trackpad that you can use as a mouse for your computer. Try moving your finger around on the phone’s screen. You’ll see the cursor move around your screen.

With the cursor over something that you want to click, try tapping on the phone screen. That acts as a click.

To scroll, leave one finger down and swipe with the other. Your computer will treat it similarly to a mouse wheel.

KDE Connect Keyboard

Finally, and certainly not least of all, is the keyboard. Tap on the keyboard icon in the upper-right corner of the app screen. That will bring up your phone’s virtual keyboard. Typing on that keyboard will type on you computer the same as the physical keyboard connected to it. In fact, that last line was written that way. You can pull the keyboard down the way you normally would with your phone.

KDE Connect Multimedia Controls

If you move up a level, you can select the multimedia controls. The screen is pretty much what you’d expect. The app detects your media player and shows your current song’s album art towards the top of the screen. Below that are pause/play controls, buttons to skip ahead or jump back, and a volume slider. It’s fairly universal, and it’s much easier to control your multimedia that way than with the general controls.

With KDE Connect, you have complete control of your desktop from your Android phone. It’s an uncomplicated way to use your phone as intuitively as possible as a remote for your Linux PC. The combination of trackpad functionality, the virtual keyboard, and multimedia controls allow you to make the most of your phone’s capabilities, and that says nothing about all the excellent sharing capabilities that KDE Connect offers.

Nick Congleton
Nick Congleton

Nick is a freelance tech. journalist, Linux enthusiast, and a long time PC gamer.

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