I'd like to use Nautilus as default in XFCE instead of Thunar, but how can I remove full Thunar? I have already typed

sudo apt-get remove thunar gvfs-backends

But I still have problems because if I click on a folder in the desktop Thunar starts. Can someone help me?

Thank you.

3 Answers 3

  1. Try running exo-preferred-applications from the terminal(Ctrl+Alt+t ). You should see an option to change your file manager on the 2nd tab named "Utilities".

    Change the File Manager option to "Nautilus".

  2. Using xdg-mime, You could also run the following command to determine your current default file manager:

    • xdg-mime query default inode/directory

    • In your case, this should return thunar.desktop as a result.

    • In order to change this, run:

    • xdg-mime default nautilus.desktop inode/directory application

  3. You can edit the file ~/.local/share/applications/mimeapps.list
    • look for the line containing inode/directory=thunar.desktop;
    • change it to read inode/directory=nautilus.desktop;
  • 1
    1) worked very well for me. i did no t need to use 2) or 3)
    – Dee
    Apr 3, 2013 at 9:22
  • It is possible that you also will need to perform a similar edit of /usr/share/applications/mimeinfo.cache under administrative rights. There remains one caveat. Links on the desktop will continue to open with Thunar. (Thunar cannot be uninstalled because of other dependant packages.) It seems that this behaviour for opening desktop links is hard-wired in XFCE 4.8. Aug 3, 2013 at 11:24
  • @Serge - No problem here (4.10), this answer works perfectly. However, I created a custom launcher using nautilus --no-desktop, as I don't want Nautilus to manage the desktop, so it still uses the default desktop and works fine.
    – Wilf
    Nov 11, 2014 at 23:23
  • 1.+2. worked for me for PCmanFM in ubuntu/XFCE, using cmanfm.desktop in the command you gave in 2. Jul 22, 2017 at 21:11
  • Thunar still has the desktop. How to let Nautilus have it?
    – user32012
    Nov 29, 2017 at 13:46

The reason Thunar starts by default in xfce is because xfce comes out of the box already in agreement with Thunar as it's default file manager. This dependency is not written in mimetype, but rather as a dbus service.

You can test this yourself by starting this command in a new terminal:

dbus-monitor --session interface=org.freedesktop.FileManager1

In a new terminal, open a file with this command (replace /home/user/folder/or/file.ext with an actual file or folder path):

dbus-send --session --print-reply --dest=org.freedesktop.FileManager1 --type=method_call /org/freedesktop/FileManager1 org.freedesktop.FileManager1.ShowItems array:string:"file:///home/user/folder/or/file.ext" string:""

In the first terminal, you will see that the request is processed by dbus and Thunar might open.

Some briefing

Linux has no real concept of a "default" file manager - no, that's a Windows artifact - or "default" handler of mimetypes for that matter. It is really all about how your system is configured. It just picks the nearest available thing and keeps chugging...

Mimetypes are great and work about 90% of the time, but many modern applications are beginning to shift to using dbus and only fallback to mimetype-based filtering if dbus fails to find an appropriate file manager.

More concretely, there exists a dbus interface called org.freedesktop.FileManager1 which any dbus-aware app can implement and register. Now whenever an application which makes use of dbus wants to open a file, they simply send a message to dbus to invoke a method on the service which implements that interface. The dbus service will completely bypass whatever mimetypes you have set in place and instead invoke the first service it finds that implements org.freedesktop.FileManager1.


For many of us, it may be impossible to simply uninstall Thunar, so I propose two ways of dealing with this annoyance:

  1. The first way is to simply tell dbus to block all attempts made to use org.freedesktop.FileManager1. Your applications will now be forced to use mimetypes. The way to do that is to create a file called /etc/dbus-1/session-local.conf, with the content:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE busconfig PUBLIC "-//freedesktop//DTD D-Bus Bus Configuration 1.0//EN"

  <policy context="default">
    <!-- Block all usage of org.freedesktop.FileManager1 for opening files -->
    <deny send_interface="org.freedesktop.FileManager1" send_destination="org.freedesktop.FileManager1"/>

Now reload dbus with:

dbus-send --session --print-reply --dest=org.freedesktop.DBus --type=method_call /org/freedesktop/DBus org.freedesktop.DBus.ReloadConfig

After reloading dbus, every application will now be forced to either use mimetypes or fail to open a particular file.

  1. The second option is less dramatic.

Instead of blocking all org.freedesktop.FileManager1 calls, you may find that your preferred file manager implements the org.freedesktop.FileManager1 interface already and you want to force xfce to use that.

You can do this by creating a symlink from that service (in /usr/share/dbus-1/services) to $XDG_DATA_HOME/dbus-1/services/org.freedesktop.FileManager1. (XDG_DATA_HOME usually defaults to ~/.local/share)

Indeed Nautilus implements this interface. See my answer here.

Now, your favourite file manager will be used instead of the default one in xfce.

Hope that helps. Happy configuring!


  • 1
    Thank you very much! Solution 1 did the trick for launching the GTK2 SpaceFM tabbed file manager when opening downloads in Vivaldi under Xubuntu 20.04 LTS. Feb 12, 2021 at 11:15
  • 1
    I love you. This has been bugging me for AGES with KDE Plasma on Fedora... Chrome, VS Code, etc were all opening Elementary file explorer while I wanted Dolphin... Dec 21, 2022 at 10:01

Try to look at this similar question of turning your default file-manager into Nautilus:


You should be able to remove Thunar completely by running following command:

 sudo apt-get purge thunar*

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .