How to enable adding Files and Folders on desktop in elementary OS

Elementary OS doesn't allow icons on desktop. No worries, here is a solution!

Elementary OS doesn’t allow file manager to access desktop, and the reasoning behind this approach according to dev team is a clutter free desktop. While some may agree with desktop restriction, there are probably more people who are unhappy about it. Fortunately, there is a way to enable desktop icons and also the right-click context menu on desktop to access features such as creating ‘New Folder’, ‘Copy’, ‘Paste’, ‘Change desktop background’, and more. Let’s get started.

Enabling icons and Right-click context menu on Desktop

Step 1: Install Nautilus Dconf Tools

Launch ‘Terminal’ and enter these commands one-at-a-time to install the Nautilus Dconf tools. This utility gives plenty of options to tweak your elementary OS in addition to enabling access to desktop and enabling right-click context menu on desktop.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nautilus dconf-tools

Terminal elementary OS - apt get install
Terminal elementary OS – apt get install

Step 2: Configure Dconf

dconf-editor

In the left pane, click through Org > gnome > nautilus > desktop and configure the following:

  • home-icon-name: Home
  • home-icon-visible: check the box
  • network-icon-visible: check the box if you want this icon on desktop
  • trash-icon-visible: check the box
  • volumes-visible: check if you want all the hard disk partitions to show on desktop

dconf editor - nautilus
dconf editor – nautilus

Now let’s add the nautilus to startup:

click Org > pantheon > cerbere and add ‘nautilus -n‘ to monitored-processes.

dconf editor - pantheon - cerebere
dconf editor – pantheon – cerebere

Step 3: Launch Nautilus

Open ‘Terminal’ and type following command,

nautilus -n

Finally, go to dconf-tools again and Org > gnome > desktop > background and check the box ‘show-desktop-icons’ box.

dconf Editor - show desktop icons
dconf Editor – show desktop icons

You should now see icons on the desktop. You will also get the right-click context menu.

Elementary OS with right-click context menu on desktop
Elementary OS with right-click context menu on desktop

Kiran Kumar
Hi there! I'm Kiran Kumar, founder of FOSSLinux.com. I'm an avid Linux lover and enjoy hands-on with new promising distros. Currently, I'm using Ubuntu as a daily driver and run several other distros such as Fedora, Solus, Manjaro, Debian, and some new ones on my test PC and virtual machines. I have a day job as an Engineer, and this website is one of my favorite past time activities, especially during Winter ;). When I'm not writing for FOSSLinux, I'm seen biking and hiking on scenic trails. I hope you enjoy using this website as much as I do writing for it. Feedback from readers is something that inspires me to do more and spread Linux love!. If you find a time, drop me an email or feedback from the 'Contact' page. Or simply leave a comment below if you found this article useful. Have a good day!

9 COMMENTS

  1. This solution works only as long as the nautilus -n is active in the terminal. When you close the terminal it goes back to square one. Is there any other way to make it stay permanently?

  2. this works and works well. if it does not stay across reboot… reboot with nautilus -n in autoruns 😉 cerebre will only keep it running if it was started I think. But now… how to make Nautilus the default file manager. It does not even list it.

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