Files on the desktop

So, after 18 years GNOME finally has thumbnails in file chooser, so when files will in desktop?
I think if GtkGridView allowed to implement thumbnails in file chooser, so implement files on the desktop is also possible :thinking:

Install the Desktop Icons extension. If you mean “by default”, the answer is: not in the foreseeable future.

There is nothing shared between the compositor (which is the component rendering the desktop) and the file GTK file selection dialog.

I don’t like Desktop Icons extension, it is implemented strangely and feels alien.

Not showing files on the desktop prevents users from overpopulating it and then having difficulties finding their files.

Why do you want files on desktop?

nemo-desktop (part of nemo) provides real desktop icons experience. Use that.

I’m using my desktop as a workbench, there I put files that I will use soon, for example, I export on desktop some videos or images, and later I upload it.
Also, I put some files on the desktop to not forget about it the next day.

I agree that the desktop can be used for this.

For example, KDE has the folder view widget which can contain files and folders (Folder View). Several can be added with different folders.


  • Have app grid on desktop (I think Endless OS does), but customizable (like in Android), and ability to add file folders.
  • Or just have an app for that.

Any modification to the shell to add traditional desktop icons is probably going to feel strange, the rest of the shell is not designed to match that workflow.

The app grid approach may work, but that would be another extension someone would have to work on. And in any case it is not going to be quite the same as a Windows-style desktop with icons.

Still, I do not understand, GNOME has a desktop, but it isn’t desktop, it’s wall, this wall can be wallpapered and that’s it.

By this logic, GNOME’s desktop/wall should have widgets (like stikers, paintings, cloak, posters and other things that people pin on the wall).

I remember about this mockup, perhaps in the future there will be desktop widgets in GNOME.

So thus, with the help of widgets it will be possible to implement adding files to the desktop.

What’s the point of having active content on a surface that is going to be covered by application windows most of the time you spend in a session?

The answer is: there’s little point. Which is why the desktop icons were dropped with GNOME 3.0, 11 years ago. Some downstreams want to keep them alive, which is why the Desktop Icons extension exists.


It is unclear to me what is the functional difference on a desktop between “desktop widgets” and normal apps that hide the decorations. That seems like a feature that only makes sense on mobile where normal apps cannot be moved around (they are forced into fullscreen) but widgets can. On desktop there is no such distinction, either one can be moved anywhere.

Some functionality is more convenient in the form of widgets, such as weather and notes/reminders.

It would be useful to have a widget that would be synchronized with some folder in Files, or folder from cloud drive :thinking:

But why? In GNOME, everything that has a window is already shown on the overview.

Special support would be needed in the shell if they were implemented as part of the app grid, but for anything else they can just be normal apps that appear on the overview like everything else.

I just want to be able to put files on the desktop, but it’s a shame that the developers don’t allow to do that.

It seems that also in Chrome OS you can’t put files on the desktop, it probably guilty of giving bad examples.

Maybe it’s a matter of habit, on the phone I have no files on the desktop and I’m fine, but on PC it’s like an humiliation that i can’t use it how i want.

I’m sure you can find other desktop environments that avoid you any humiliation.

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I do not like other DE’s

I am not very passionate about this topic, but I would still like to point out different perspectives concerning some of the answers.

My personal perspective: My desktop used to be my “pinned” directory. I still use the ~/Desktop directory in exactly the same way as I did back in the days even if now there is not a desktop anymore. And if one day XDG will decide that ~/Desktop is not a cool path anymore I will still keep my own ~/Pinned directory.

What is inside that folder? My curriculum, my portfolio, and that’s it. I access these files more or less twice a week today, exactly like I did back in the days. And exactly like back in the days these files get updated much more rarely. The only difference is that now I cannot “show” them to the casual person that sees my desktop unless I say “Hey, watch this!”.

If maintaining a desktop is too cumbersome for GNOME it is not a feature worth crying for. This however is still wrong:

“Preventing users” is patronizing. But even forgetting that end assuming that the assumption holds true and represents a benefit for “users’ good habits”, we would still need to prove that it does not introduce bad habits too.

For example, the fact that the only way to access the desktop is by closing/minimizing all the windows might represent a good reminder that we have too many windows open.

As I said, I am not really passionate about this topic and I simply adapted to the absence of a traditional desktop in GNOME, but I do think that the amount of windows that I keep open during a session has ridiculously increased, since I am never forced to go “back to reality” and access my desktop.

In more general terms, a motivation like “We can’t maintain it, too complicate” sounds like a perfectly valid motivation to me; but a motivation like “You do not have a point in wanting what you want” (whatever that might be) starts to sound terribly wrong.

And even in more general terms, every software that forgets about Postel’s law is destined to succumb.


It’s less about “having a point” and more about “this is one of the guiding visions of the project”. Presenting you with a bunch of random icons on the main piece of screen real estate is not the desktop “getting out of your way”. Same reason why the application grid is only shown at log in time, when you don’t have anything else—and that’s a recent change, at that.

Instead of a desktop constantly lying in wait behind your applications, you can press Super, or throw your pointer in the corner, and you get access to a search bar capable of giving you access to all the recently used files. This way you don’t need to put stuff in your desktop just to have quick access to it, and then move it out of the way when you’re done—unless, no, you have to go back, and now you have to find your files again…

The GNOME project has a singular vision, for better or worse; you can agree with it, or you don’t. If you don’t, you have the option of using extensions, or different applications, or writing your own. Or you can choose another desktop environment. You can also get involved and try to change the direction of the project, by convincing designers and maintainers that you have a point—usually by backing it with some user testing. Of course, that’s going to be evaluated against the existing guiding principles of the project.