Desktop Icons Gnome Shell Extension 1.0 Release Candidate Available

Desktop Icons Gnome Shell extension

Nautilus lots its desktop icons feature with version 3.28. This functionality was brought back in Gnome via a new Desktop Icons extension, which had a first beta release back in August.

The Desktop Icons extension is getting closer to its 1.0 stable version, with a release candidate being published on the Gnome Shell Extensions website yesterday.

The latest Desktop Icons 1.0 RC features some important changes:

  • Multi-monitor:
    • allows to extend the rubberband operations between screens
    • fixed errors when a monitor is connected or disconnected
    • fixed drag and drop for multi-monitor setups
  • Add HiDPI support
  • Add renaming, similar to Nautilus
  • Add thumbnail support
  • Add drag and drop support between files in the desktop
  • Add support for icons in desktop files
  • Added keyboard shortcuts support for selection
  • Add internationalization support
  • Add symlink emblem to symlinks
  • Fix rubberband selection stopping when over the shell or a window
  • Fix launching desktop files with field codes
  • Implement meson build support

Desktop icons extension rename file

The main extension developer, Carlos Soriano (Nautilus maintainer and GNOME Board director), says that with this release, the extension overpasses what Nautilus offered previously.

That's because Nautilus was drawing one big window on multiple monitors, while the Desktop Icons extension "implements a sane multimonitor handling, by having a flexible grid per monitor".

What's more, the Nautilus desktop icons only worked on Xorg, while this extension supports Wayland too.

There's currently only one feature missing from Desktop Icons - it doesn't support drag and drop between desktop icons and windows. This should be available with the first stable release of Desktop Icons, which is expected in about one month.

As a side note, Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and 18.10 include Nautilus 3.26 which still has the desktop icons functionality, despite using newer Gnome versions (Gnome 3.28 for Ubuntu 18.04 and Gnome 3.30 for Ubuntu 18.10). That's why Ubuntu 18.10 and 18.04 users are able to add icons on their desktops. Hopefully Nautilus will finally be updated in future Ubuntu releases, thanks to this extension.

Getting Desktop Icons extension for Gnome Shell


The easiest way of installing the Desktop Icons extension is to search for Desktop Icons in Gnome Software, then click the Install button.

If your Linux distribution doesn't support that, another way of installing Gnome Shell extensions is to use the Gnome Shell Extensions website. You'll need to install a browser extension and a package called chrome-gnome-shell. The Gnome Wiki has a page explaining how to install these depending on the web browser and Linux distribution you're using. Once you've got that covered, restart your web browser, head to the Desktop Icons page on the Gnome Shell Extensions website and click the OFF switch to turn it ON.

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