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How to run a GUI application on HPC cluster systems?

Visualization is an integral part of scientific computing and data analysis workflows. The list of visualization software supported by HPC systems is available at HPC Software List.

To use a graphical interface on the HPC cluster systems, your connection needs to be set up for X11 forwarding over regular SSH tunnel, which will transmit the display from the cluster to your local machine.  

Servers that support graphical remote connection:

HPC system Server for grahical remote connection

To use X11 forwarding

In Windows:

  1. Download and install MobaXterm from this page.
  2. Open MobaXterm and open a New SSH session:
    • Remote host: hostname of server to be connected (e.g.
    • Port: 22
  3. Select "OK" to start the session

In Mac OS X:

According to, X11 is no longer included with Mac but X11 server and client libraries are available from the XQuartz project.

  1. Download and install XQuartz. Log out and log back in to reset some variables
  2. Open a terminal and connect with command : ssh -X [username]@[hostname]

In Linux:

Simply open a terminal and connect with command: ssh -X [username]@[hostname]


where hostname indicating the Linux server that you would like to connect to (e.g. After you have connected to the server, you can test if the X11 forwarding function or not by typing the command: xclock

A new windows of a small analog clock should appear if the X11 forwarding is successful. Then you can type the appropriate command to start the GUI software (e.g. matlab, molden, paraview).

Alternative Method

Using VNC via ssh tunneling

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