File manager functionality

This article outlines the additional software packages necessary to expand the features and functionality of file managers, particularly where using a window manager such as Openbox. The ability to access partitions and removable media without a password - if affected - has also been provided.


Note: When installed, the software packages listed below will automatically be sourced by all installed - and capable - file managers, and within all desktop environments and/or window managers.

A file manager alone will not provide the features and functionality that users of full desktop environments such as Xfce or KDE will be accustomed to. This is because additional software packages will be required to enable a given file manager to:

  • Display and access other partitions
  • Display, mount, and access removable media (e.g. USB sticks, optical discs, and digital cameras)
  • Enable networking / shared networks with other installed operating systems
  • Enable thumbnailing
  • Archive and extract compressed files
  • Automatically mount removable media

When a file manager has been installed as part of a full desktop environment, most of these packages will usually have been installed automatically. Consequently, where a file manager has been installed for a standalone window manager then - as is the case with the window manager itself - only a basic foundation will be provided. The user must then determine the nature and extent of the features and functionality to be added.

Additional features

Particularly where using - or intending to use - a lightweight environment, it should be noted that more file manager features and functions will usually mean the use of more memory. See also udisks.


  • The Gnome virtual filesystem (gvfs) provides mounting and trash functionality. GVFS uses udisks2 for mounting functionality and is the recommended solution for most file managers.

Folders used by GVFS:

  • /usr/lib/ contains files, where refers to the various supported file system types.
  • contains mount rules for GVFS. To use one's own rules, create .

Additional packages for installation usually follows the gvfs-* pattern, for example:

  • gvfs-mtp: media players and mobile devices that use MTP
  • gvfs-gphoto2: digital cameras and mobile devices that use PTP
  • : Apple mobile devices

File manager daemon

The first option is to simply autostart or run the installed file manager in daemon mode (i.e. as a background process). For example, when using PCManFM in Openbox, the following command would be added to the file:

pcmanfm -d &

It will also be necessary to configure the file manager itself in respect to volume management (e.g. what it will do and what applications will be launched when certain file types are detected upon mounting).


Another option is to install a separate mount application. The advantages of using this are:

  • Less memory may be required to run as a background / daemon process than a file manager
  • It is not file manager specific, allowing them to be freely added, removed, and switched
  • gvfs may not have to be installed for mounting, lessening memory use.


  • : Bluetooth device mounting and file transfers (see Bluetooth)
  • : Windows File and printer sharing for Non-KDE desktops (see Samba)
  • : Windows File and printer sharing for KDE (see Samba#KDE)
  • : FUSE client based on the SSH File Transfer Protocol

Windows access

If using , to access Windows/Cifs/Samba file shares first open the file manager, and enter the following into the path name, changing and share_name as appropriate:


Apple access

AFP support is included in gvfs. To access AFP files first open the file manager, and enter the following into the path name, changing and share_name as appropriate:


sftp access

SFTP support is also included in gvfs. To access folders via sftp, open the file manager, and enter the following into the path name, changing user@server_name and as appropriate:


Thumbnail previews

Some file managers may not support thumbnailing, even when the packages listed have been installed. Check the documentation for the relevant file manager.

You may not see thumbnails for remote storage, including MTP. Check your file manager's settings, e.g. for Thunar one has to set "Show thumbnails: always".

File managers other than Dolphin and Konqueror

These packages apply to most file managers, such as PCManFM, SpaceFM, Thunar and . The exceptions are Dolphin and Konqueror, used in the KDE desktop environment.

  • : Image files. This must also be installed to expand thumbnailing capabilities to other file types in some cases.
  • : images
  • : Adobe files
  • : Video files
  • freetype2: Font files
  • : files
  • raw-thumbnailerAUR: files
  • : Video files and tagged audio files (GNOME Files, and Caja only)
  • or : files
  • : and ebook files
  • mcomixAUR: comicbook archives
  • : folder thumbnailer
  • F3DAUR: 3D files, including glTF, stl, step, ply, obj, fbx.

Dolphin and Konqueror (KDE)

See Dolphin#File previews.

Use PCManFM to get thumbnails for other file types

PCManFM supports image thumbnails out of the box. However, in order to view thumbnails of other file types, PCManFM uses the information provided in the files located at . The packages which provide a thumbnailer usually add the corresponding .thumbnail file at . For example, in order to get thumbnails for OpenDocument files, you may install from the official repositories. For video files' thumbnails, the package is required. For PDF files, you may install from the official repositories, which provides and the corresponding file at . However, if you prefer not to install , you can also replicate the functionality of using 's command. This is accomplished by creating a new file with the .thumbnailer extension (e.g.: imagemagick-pdf.thumbnailer) at with the following content:

  [Thumbnailer Entry]
  Exec=convert %i[0] -background "#FFFFFF" -flatten -thumbnail %s %o

Following this example, you can specify custom thumbnailers by creating your own .thumbnail files. Keep in mind that refers to the input file (the file which will have its thumbnail made), to the output file (the thumbnail image) and to the size of the thumbnail. These parameters will be automatically substituted with the corresponding data and passed to the thumbnailer program by PCManFM.

Archive files

To extract compressed files such as tarballs (.tar and ) within a file manager, it will first be necessary to install a GUI archiver such as . See List of applications/Utilities#Archiving and compression tools for further information. An additional package such as must also be installed to support the use of zipped files. Once an archiver has been installed, files in the file manager may consequently be right-clicked to be archived or extracted.

Archive files are mounted under folder /run/user/$(id -u)/gvfs/ with automatically created mount point that contains full path to the file in its name where all are replaced with and replaced with hex codes.

Example of path to the mounted archive

/run/user/$(id -u)/gvfs/

NTFS read/write support

See the NTFS-3G article.

Desktop notifications

Some file managers make use of desktop notifications to confirm various events and statuses like mounting, unmounting and ejection of removable media.

Enable Trash functionality on different filesystems (external drives)

Make trash directories .Trash-<uid> for each users on the top level of filesystems:

For example (mount point: /media/sdc1, uid: 1000, gid: 1000):

# mkdir /media/sdc1/.Trash-1000

and them:

# chown 1000:1000 /media/sdc1/.Trash-1000


"Not Authorized" when attempting to mount drives

File managers using udisks require a polkit authentication agent. See polkit#Authentication agents.

Password required to access partitions

The need to enter a password to access other partitions or mounted removable media will likely be due to the default permission settings of udisks2. More specifically, permission may be set to the root account only, not the user account. See Udisks#Configuration for details.

Directories are not opened in the file manager

You may find that an application that is not a file manager, Audacious or Visual Studio Code for example, is set as the default application for opening directories — an application that specifies that it can handle the MIME type in its desktop entry can become the default. You can query the default application for opening directories with the following command:

$ xdg-mime query default inode/directory

To ensure that directories are opened in the file manager, run the following command:

$ xdg-mime default my_file_manager.desktop inode/directory

where is the desktop entry for your file manager — org.gnome.Nautilus.desktop for example.


Some other applications instead use the D-Bus protocol (e.g. Firefox). The following shows a list of currently installed services supporting this protocol:

$ grep -R FileManager1 /usr/share/dbus-1/services

To change what file manager is opened, copy the file to . Additionally, before the changes become active, kill the program currently implementing the D-Bus service.

This article is issued from Archlinux. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.