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!

According to the dev team, elementary OS doesn’t allow file manager to access the desktop, and the reasoning behind this approach 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 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 and enable access to the desktop, and enabling the right-click context menu on the 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


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 the 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 the 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

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  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.

  3. nautilus has to be started differently now:
    nautilus-desktop –force -n
    remove files and everything works great.


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