I'm using Elementary OS Freya (which is based on Ubuntu), with nautilus to manage the desktop.

Is there a way to force nautilus desktop icons to open files with another file manager (PCManFM in this case).

I have already set PCManFM as my default manager in settings, but because the desktop is using nautilus it opens them with nautilus.

1 Answer 1


One possible solution is to:

  1. Ditch nautilus from the desktop as well (you can keep it on your computer but set it not to manage your desktop).
    From terminal, goto gnome-tweak-tools and from the "desktop" menu, remove options for "have the file-manager manage the desktop".

  2. Let PCManFM manage the desktop as well. Here's how:

Source: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/PCManFM

The command to allow PCManFM to set wallpapers and enable the use of desktop icons is:

pcmanfm --desktop

The native desktop menu of the window manager will be replaced with that provided by PCManFM. However, it can easily be restored from the PCManFM menu itself by selecting Desktop preferences and then enabling the Right click shows WM menu option in the Desktop tab.

Desktop preferences:

If using the native desktop menu provided by a window manager, enter the following command to set or amend desktop preferences at any time:

$ pcmanfm --desktop-pref

It is worthwhile to consider adding this command to a keybind and/or the native desktop menu for easy access.

Creating new icons:

User content such as text files, documents, images and so forth can be dragged and dropped directly onto the desktop. To create shortcuts for applications it will be necessary to copy their .desktop files to the ~/Desktop directory itself. Do not drag and drop the files there as they will be moved completely. The syntax of the command to do so is:

cp /usr/share/applications/<name of application>.desktop ~/Desktop

For example - where installed - to create a desktop shortcut for lxterminal, the following command would be used:

cp /usr/share/applications/lxterminal.desktop ~/Desktop

For those who used the Xdg user directories program to create their $HOME directories no further configuration will be required.

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