Install the Pixel Desktop on Raspbian Stretch Lite. 10 essential software for the Raspberry Pi 3

If you regret having opted for the Lite version of Raspbian, here is a quick tutorial that explains how to manually install the Pixel desktop. No need to burn a new SD card for your Raspberry Pi.. Some commands in the Terminal are enough to install the Pixel graphical desktop on Raspbian Stretch Lite. We will also see how to install the main software needed to get started with the Raspberry Pi 3. Synaptic Package Manager, VNC, VLC Player, Deluge BitTorrent client, LibreOffice, Mathematica, Wolfram Alfa, Thonny Python, Node-RED, Scratch 2, Arduino IDE.

Manually install the Pixel desktop on Raspbian Lite

There are many conversations on the official forum of the foundation like this one. To make the article about the Waveshare 7 ” touch screen test, I used the Jeedom SD card which is based on Jessie Lite. Obviously, when it was necessary to test the tactile part of the screen, I did not have a graphical desktop: -?

Only one command is required to install the Pixel desktop. Log in to your Raspberry Pi. Start by updating the distribution

Then, run this command that will install X11 (the Linux GUI) and the PIXEL Desktop.

At the end of the installation, reboot the system with the sudo reboot command. Raspbian launches directly on Pixel and asks you to connect.

login raspbian pixel installation jessie lite

10 programs to install on your Raspberry Pi in priority

Manually installing the Pixel Graphics Desktop does not mean that all pre-installed software on the Desktop Image will be installed as well. In fact, there is really only the Pixel desk that is installed. If you need other software, you will have to install them one by one manually. Here is a list of 10 essential software to install on your Raspberry Pi.

Chromium internet browser

Before you start, the first thing to do is to update the distribution to the most recent version. Run the following commands and restart. The up-to-date distribution will allow (in addition to improvements under the hood such as better management of Bluetooth) to install the Open Source Chromium web browser (be careful not to be confused with the Google Chrome browser). Htop system tool and links to the MagPi and other resources for the Raspberry Pi.

Then, here are some commands found on the internet to install the various pre-installed software on the Stretch Desktop image.

Synaptic Package Manager Package Manager

If you are not used to the Terminal, I advise you to install the Synaptic package manager. This is the equivalent of Windows and macOS Stores. Most of the software available for the Raspberry Pi can be installed from this manager. The latter is accessible from the shortcut added in the Preferences menu.

To install it, run the sudo apt-get install synaptic  command from the Terminal.

raspbian install synaptic package manager

Configure VNC on Raspbian

VNC allows access to Raspbian’s graphical desktop from another computer and tablet. Open the Terminal and run raspi-config with the sudo raspi-config  command. Select Option 5 (Interfacing Option)

activate vnc raspbian raspberry pi

Then P3 VNC

activate vnc raspbian raspberry pi

The first time you activate VNC on the Raspbian distribution, you have to install all the necessary packages.

Accept the installation (O key) of the new packages. Raspbian takes care of everything, including installing the VNC server’s autostart script when the system boots.


Now, go to the RealVNC site to retrieve the VNC viewer that matches your system.

telecharger realvnc vnc

Install and launch VNC Viewer on your computer.

In the address bar, enter the IP address of the Raspberry Pi (ifconfig command to find it) and confirm by pressing the Enter key on the keyboard. It is not necessary to specify port (5900) unless it has been manually changed.

adresse ip raspberry pi realvnc vnc viewer client

In the window that appears, enter your username and password.

connexion raspbian raspberrypi realvnc vnc

RealVNC informs you that the connection is not secure (it does not matter if you connect to the Raspberry Pi from a local network). Accept

realvnc alerte securite raspbian non securise

Here you are on your Raspberry Pi: D. There is nothing more to configure. VNC starts automatically when the system starts! Here, my Raspberry Pi 3 test that also runs a Jeedom home automation server.

VLC Player

The famous media player has obviously been adapted to Raspberry Pi. VLC is available from Synaptic or from the command line ( sudo apt install vlc ). Version 2.2.7 does not launch on Raspbian Strech.

The BitTorrent client Deluge

The Raspberry Pi is a mini PC that consumes very little. If you have files (legal) to download, the Raspberry Pi 3 is a good alternative. This will save you from running your PC for many hours or investing in expensive NAS. Deluge can be installed from Synaptic or from the command line ( sudo apt install deluge ). Deluge comes to stay in the Internet menu

install deluge bittorrent raspbian raspberry pi

The Thonny Python Code Editor (for Python 3)

Thonny Python is a simple and effective code editor for programming in Python. It is now integrated by default into the Raspbian Stretch distribution. Python 3 is also installed at the same time from the Thonny Python code editor. Thonny Python comes in the programming menu.

thonny python install raspbian

Mathematica and the Wolfram Alfa language

From the terminal, the wolfram and mathematica commands are used to launch the software.


Node-RED installs very easily with a single command in the Terminal. To learn more, read this tutorial.

To go further, here are the latest tutorials on Node-RED

Scratch 2

Run this command from the Terminal to install Scratch 2 on Raspbian. A shortcut to easily launch Scratch 2 is automatically added to the Programming menu.

raspbian install scratch 2 manually

Libre Office

The Raspberry Pi 3 is powerful enough to serve as an office extension. Free Office (new name for Open Office) is very easy to install from Synaptic. Start Synaptic from the shortcut in the Preferences menu. Do a search on the keyword “libreoffice” or “libre office”.

install libreoffice raspbian raspberry pi

In the list that appears, click on the freeoffice package and choose the Select option for installation. Accept all packages and dependencies that must be installed at the same time.

install libreoffice select package

Launch the installation by clicking Apply

 installation libreoffice raspbian

You can install LibreOffice on the command line by running this command from the terminal sudo apt-get install libreoffice .

libreoffice raspbian raspberry pi vnc

Arduino IDE

Just like Libre Office, you can install the Arduino IDE using Synaptic. A shortcut is added in the programming menu. However, I advise you to follow this tutorial that explains how to install the official version of the code editor. You will be sure to have the latest version of it. Indeed, the version number (here 2: 1.0.5) does not correspond to the official numbering. I have not found an explanation for the difference (if anyone can enlighten us?). Maybe the foundation does not publish updates on Linux repositories.

ide arduino install raspbian raspberry pi

With the Arduino IDE, you will be able to program a large number of development boards. All the official maps developed by the foundation, but also the ESP8266 WiF modules or the new ESP32s that also include Bluetooth LE communication. To learn more, you can start by reading some articles:

Here are also some projects that may interest you

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