Replace Thunar and Xfdesktop with Nautilus in Xfce

Thunar is File manager by default that Xfce, which to be simple and light, lacks some options that have Nautilus y Dolphin for example.

The following article explains how to use Nautilus guidance on Manage the Desktop and the folders even when we use Xfce and I took it from a post in the Ubuntu forums. I just tried this method on the laptop of a friend who uses Xubuntu 10.04 but it must be valid for any other distribution. Go for it!!!

Disabling the Xfce Desktop

The first thing we will do is disable all the elements of Xfdesktop, that is, from the desk of Xfce. For this we go to Menu »Preferences» Desktop. Once there we follow the following steps:

<° - In the Background (Background) we disable the wallpaper. For them we modify the following options:

  • Image: None
  • Colors: Solid color and we choose the Black.

<° - In the Menus we disable all the options that appear there.

<° - In the Icons we disable the icons in the options Appearance.

Installing Nautilus

Later we must install Nautilus. To try to install as few dependencies as possible in Ubuntu / Debian we open a terminal and put:

$ sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends nautilus

Later we launched Nautilus with [Alt] + [F2] writing as is logical: Nautilus without the quotes.

Nautilus as default File Manager

Now to do what Nautilus please start next see us join our session and replace Thunar y Xfdesktop we have to go to Menu »Preferences» Session and Start and we go to the tab Session. There we must leave only that we need to start when we enter Xfce.

Normally the following processes would have to be left:

  • xfwm4
  • xfce4-panel
  • xfce4-settings-helper
  • Nautilus

If there is something else open, we close it and then save with the button: Save Session.

This will be enough for the next time we start, Nautilus manage our desktop and be who opens the folders. Now, there are a couple of extra things to do, one that comes in the original tutorial and one that I added later.

Managing the wallpaper with Nitrogen

If we try to change the wallpaper using the option Change the Desktop Background with Right Click nothing will happen. This is because that option calls gnome-appearance-properties which is included in the package gnome-control-center.

We could install this package, but that entails a number of dependencies on Gnome that we will not need, so we will make use of Nitrogen a very simple program for Manage wallpapers en Gnome. So we install it and run it with this command:

sudo apt-get install nitrogen && nitrogen

Once the application is launched we will only have to configure in which folders the images we want are located.

Image taken from

Normally we could use:

  • / usr / share / xfce4 / backdrops
  • / usr / share / backgrounds

Setting Nitrogen it's very simple, so I don't think I need to explain how to add or remove folders with images. For what Nitrogen be launched when we try to change the wallpaper, we have to create as root a file inside / usr / bin with the name: gnome-appearance-properties which should have this inside:

[code] dir = »ltr»> function –show-page = background

"$ 1"

exit 0

[/ Code]

Then we give it execution permissions:

$ sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/gnome-appearance-properties

And ready. Every time we click on Change the Desktop Background it will come out Nitrogen 😀

Activate folders in Nautilus.

Now in Xubuntu next Menu we have the plugin Places which executes Thunar instead of Nautilus. I couldn't immediately figure out how to change this, so what occurred to me was to put the Personal folder at Desktop.

To easily activate the folders we must install gconf-editor.

$ sudo aptitude install gconf-editor

Then with [Alt] + [F2] we execute it by typing «gconf-editor»Without the quotation marks. Then we will apps »nautilus» desktop and we activate the personal folder.

Ready, we close the session, we go back in and Voilá !!

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  1.   eltbo said

    Good guide for people unhappy with Thunar on Xfce ,,,, but what I am, I don't change Thunar for nothing. It's just what I need 🙂

    1.    elav <° Linux said

      I also like Thunar, it is a pity that it does not have tabs or it can be divided into TT panels

      1.    donmatas said

        Yes! it's terrible that I don't have eyelashes. Will someone be correcting that?

    2.    nonamed said

      what I like about nautilus is the integrated search, which thunar does not have

  2.   Carlos-Xfce said

    Thank you Elav for continuing to enrich all of us who love the Xfce desktop with your knowledge. I think the same as eltbo, who said above: I do not change Thunar for anything. I have found that it works much better than Nautilus (for me) and allows me to open folders in console mode. I would just add the panel split with F3 like Nautilus does, that's all I would ask Thunar to do.

  3.   Chango said

    I'm a fan of thunar too, and I use it on xfce 4.6.2, because my distro doesn't have 4.8 yet. I would only like two things: that thunar give me the information about the space that 4 or 5 files that have selected with the mouse are occupying (it only throws me what occupies the whole folder), and that there are more options for file permissions (such as the "open this folder as root" as has pcmanfm. Well, if anyone knows, tell me.

    1.    Santiago said

      But in Thunar you can add custom actions to do everything.
      You must go to Edit / Custom actions / Add, and there complete the following:

      Name: Open folder as root
      Description: Open folder in Thunar with root privileges
      Command: gksu thunar% d
      Icon at ease
      Appearance conditions tab:
      - File pattern: *
      - Appears if the selection contains: Only choose Directories.

      I hope you serve.

    2.    Santiago said

      I don't know if any section could be put together in the forum or somewhere to publish these configurations, since I have several custom actions that I have been collecting from different places, to resize images, see the disk size of several selected files, etc.


  4.   Giskard said

    This looks very interesting !!! I'm going to try it. I hadn't wanted to use Nautilus as a replacement for Thunar because of the poor performance, but maybe I installed the extra Gnome dependencies. I'm going to try Nitrogen to see how it goes.
    Thank you

  5.   Giskard said

    It didn't work for me 🙁
    I mean, it worked halfway. I couldn't get Nitrogen to show up with the script. I don't know if it will contain any errors.
    Another thing is that Thunar is still the default file manager. I changed it in the preferred apps part but it doesn't even use it like that.

    No way, to undo the changes 🙁

  6.   Eduardo said

    In Fedora 16, making Nautilus the default File Manager is very simple:
    Applications Menu> Settings> Preferred applications> in the Utilities tab we put nautilus in File Manager.
    With this you don't need to disable the desktop background or anything.

    But the problems that I find and surely would be solved if I knew what dependencies to install, are:
    * See thumbnails of PDFs and images, but not of videos.
    * I haven't focused on configuring Samba yet, but in Thunar sharing a directory was impossible.

    1.    Santiago said

      In debian there is a package called 'tumbler' that takes care of generating the views, I don't know if it works also for files:


  7.   Traveler said

    In my case as I only need tabs when I am going to work with two or more directories at the same time, or sometimes I need to get file links in dropbox, etc.

    I have created a custom option in Thunar, which is to open directory with Nautilus, using the command nautilus –no-desktop% d

    The –no-desktop thing so that it does not open processes that Nautilus manages by default on the Gnome desktop. In case the idea suits someone.

  8.   Zernad said

    Hi how are you, I was trying and I have almost everything done but it gives me a problem with the script you use for the wallpaper, the problem is the following:

    [user @ Host Downloads] $ ./gnome-appearance-properties
    ./gnome-appearance-properties: line 1: gt: command not found
    ./gnome-appearance-properties: line 6:: command not found

    Apparently I don't have the "gt" file or program that makes line 6 also give me an error, do you know what it can be ????

    By the way I use ArchLinux

    Thank you

  9.   Teniazo said

    Why can I no longer drag a window to the right edge and make it change work area? It's Xfce kind of thing, I guess.

    1.    Carlos said

      It's something like his way of working, it happens to me too

  10.   Ekaitz said

    Update the tutorial (s), because given the unfortunate tendency of (some) developers to gradually remove functionalities from the most common GNU programs, it is impossible to follow the instructions since the corresponding menu options have been eliminated.
    I also think that your "tutorials" in general should be a little more elaborate, avoiding the "güindosera" tendency of giving the typical recipe without explaining anything, at least a little or moderately in depth. But hey, as the «Basque» goes, maybe the success of your blog is based precisely on that ...