7 Tips and Tweaks to Get More Out of Thunar File Manager of Xfce

Thunar is the default file manager in the Xfce desktop environment, which is a balanced blend of lightweight and good user experience.

But like any other unexplored tool, you won’t find much until you scratch the surface and that’s what I did with Thunar.

And behind my bold statement, a variety of features will surely enhance your Linux experience.

In this tutorial, I will share the following tricks that you can use to levitate the Thunar experience:

  • General shortcuts for Thunar
  • Add Thunar plugins
  • Open from where you left off last time
  • Emblem for better recognition
  • Highlight file/folder
  • Copy or move files easily in dual pane mode
  • Custom actions

So let’s start with the first one.

1. Use keyboard shortcuts

It is a no-brainer that by using keyboard shortcuts, you can increase your productivity.

So here are some easy shortcuts that you can use in Thunar to reduce the usage of the mouse:

Shortcut Description
Ctrl + T New tab
Ctrl + N New window
F3 Switch to dual pane mode
Alt + ⬅ Back
Alt + ➡ Forward
Ctrl + F Search for files
Ctrl + S Select a file by pattern
Ctrl + H Show hidden files
Ctrl + E Enable tree view in the side pane
Alt + ⬆ Open parent directory
Alt + home Go to the home directory

While it looks like nothing, trust me, implement these shortcuts to your daily workflow and you’d want more!

2. Open Thunar from where you left off


This feature is only available in Thunar 4.18 or later.

Opening your file manager with the same tabs opened that you closed last time is a big feature and should be celebrated.

I’m one of those guys who loves to explore Linux by diving deep into the Linux directories. And to open the Thunar from where I left off is a great feature.

To enable this, follow three simple steps:

  • Click on the Edit menu and choose Preferences
  • Go to the Behavior tab
  • And check the Restore tabs on startup option
Restore tabs in Thunar file manager

3. Add emblem to file or folder

Think of emblems as a special sticker for that file or folder that you want to identify as soon as possible.

Also, you can add emblems to make directory names more relatable. For example, you can add an emblem of ▶️ to the Videos directory.

To add an emblem, you have to follow the given steps:

  • Right-click on the file/folder and select Properties from the context menu
  • Go to the Emblem tab and choose one or more emblems for the selected item

Mine looks like this:

Emblem in thunar

4. Highlight file/folder with an accent color


This feature is only available in Thunar 4.18 and later

If adding emblems is not enough to stand that file/folder among others, then you can change its background color or even foreground color.

Note: Changing the foreground color will only affect the font color of the selected item.

To highlight a file or folder, you need to follow the given simple steps:

  • Hover to the item that needs to be highlighted, right click and select Preferences.
  • Go to Highlight and choose between foreground or background (or even both but one at a time).
  • Then, select the color and it will show how will it look. If satisfied, hit the Apply button and if not, then reset to default by pressing the Reset button.

5. Explore Thunar plugins

Unlike famous file managers, Thunar has comparatively fewer plugins as everything can be done through custom actions and other features are inbuilt. (cough fanboy cough).

But some useful plugins are there.

To learn more about them, you can head over to their official site.

And in this section, I will show you how you can add an archive plugin by which you can create and extract archives from the context menu only:

Archive plugin

To install the Thunar archive plugin in Ubuntu, use the following command:

sudo apt install thunar-archive-plugin

For Fedora:

sudo dnf install thunar-archive-plugin

For Arch:

sudo pacman -S thunar-archive-plugin

6. Use dual pane feature for moving and copying files

This is one of those generous tips available to almost every file manager, but most people are unaware of that.

Then why am I adding this as a tip for Thunar? The answer is simple. The dual-pane feature of Thunar is outstanding and copying/moving files is the easiest task.

Moving files

Let’s have a look at how you can move files from one directory to another:

  • First, press the F3 to enable dual pane mode.
  • Navigate to directories on both sides. On one, navigate to the file that needs to be copied, and on the other side, navigate to the destination where it needs to be copied.
  • Now, select the items that need to be moved.
  • To move a file, simply select the items and drag them to the next pane (where you’ve opened the directory to paste the file).

Moving files

Copying files

Copying is almost the same as moving. But here, you need to press Ctrl key while dragging and dropping the file.

  • Switch to dual pane mode using F3.
  • Navigate to the target and destination on both sides.
  • Now, select the files, press the Ctrl key, drag them to the 2nd pan, release the mouse key first, and then Ctrl.

Copying files

If you notice carefully, the mouse cursor indicated an arrow ↗ whereas when you copy the file, it shows a plus ➕.

7. Use custom actions in Thunar (for advanced users)

By far, this is the most useful feature of Thunar where you can create your own action like creating a selected file executable, opening Thunar as a root user, and a lot more.

This means this will be the longest section of this tutorial!

First, click on the Edit menu and you will find the second last option to configure custom actions:

Open configure custom actions

And as you can see, it listed all the actions available.

To add the action, click on the plus ➕ button and you’ll see multiple options:

Create custom action


  • Name: Name your custom action.
  • Description: Info on what this action is all about (for the user’s understanding).
  • Submenu: To group multiple actions into one.
  • Command: The key part where you’ll assign a command to make this action work.

But if you notice carefully, there’s another tab named Appearance Conditions where you specify what types of files (and directories) this action should appear in the context menu.

For example, if the action should only be visible when the selected file is a text file, then you tick mark the Text Files box:

Appearance settings for custom action.png

Now, let me show you the custom action for opening Thunar as a root.

Creating custom action to open Thunar as a root

You must have encountered a situation where you wanted to work with a file but only the root user can access it so you open the terminal and then execute the command to start the file manager as a root.

But using this action, it can be done with a single click.

To do so, enter the following in the data fields of the Basic tab:

  • Name: Open Thunar as a root
  • Command: pkexec thunar %F

You can select any relatable icon. I’m going with a simple terminal icon here.

Now, click on the Appearance Conditions section and enter the following:

  • Appears if selection contains: Directories

In the end, data fields should look like this:

Create custom action in Thunar

And here’s the end result:

Opening Thunar as a root

Pretty cool. Right?

Here are some more that can be useful:

Creating symbolic links is one of the easiest ways to access files that are located deep inside the filesystem. Sure, it is also used to redirect paths to packages.

And to create a custom action to create a symlink, enter the following:

  • Name: Create a Link
  • Description: Create a symlink
  • Command: ln -s %f 'Link to %n'
  • Appears if selection contains: check all the boxes.

Search files directly

Click on a directory, select search, and type whatever you want to search.

The most convenient way to search files within the directory.

First, install catfish in your system and if you’re using Ubuntu/Debian base, then the following command will get the job done:

sudo apt install catfish

Now, create a custom action and add the following:

  • Name: Search files in the directory
  • Description: Look for files in the selected directory
  • Command: catfish %f
  • Appears if selection contains: Check Directories only
Create custom action to search files in Thunar

Install multiple image conversion actions at once

While writing, I found an amazing package that includes custom actions for the following:

  • Rotate images
  • Shrink images
  • Grayscale images
  • Convert images to PDF
  • Convert images to arbitrary formats
  • Merge PDF files
  • Shrink PDF files in size
  • Creating symbolic links
  • Showing checksums
  • Fill color to the transparent area of an image
  • Encrypt/decrypt files

First, install the following packages to your system:

sudo apt install make imagemagick gnupg2 m4 build-essential pandoc gettext python3-lxml ubuntu-dev-tools git

Now, clone the repository and change your directory to it:

git clone https://gitlab.com/nobodyinperson/thunar-custom-actions.git && cd thunar-custom-actions

Next, check the dependency satisfaction using the following:

./configure --prefix=$HOME/.local PASSWDFILE=/etc/passwd

If it shows any missing package, then you may need to install that package manually (in most cases, it won’t).

Then, build the package from the source:


After that, install the package:

sudo make install

To merge changes to Thunar, use the following:

uca-apply update

Now, log out and log back in to take effect from the changes you’ve made.

Once you do that, you’d see various custom actions installed in the system:

But if that’s too much for your use case, then you can also remove any unnecessary action by selecting it and hitting the minus button:

And with your imagination, you can create endless variations of custom actions. Please share your favorites (with commands) so new users can benefit from it.

More on Xfce, more on customization

Some people think Xfce has a retro feel. You can surely give it a modern touch.

4 Ways You Can Make Xfce Look Modern and BeautifulXfce is a great lightweight desktop environment but it looks old. Let’s see how you can customize Xfce to give it a modern and beautiful look.

Theming is the predominant method of customization. Here are some Xfce theme suggestions.

11 Themes to Make Xfce Look Modern and BeautifulXfce desktop looks outdated? No worries. Here are some of the best themes to make your Xfce desktop look beautiful.

I hope you liked the Thunar tweaks. We have similar articles for GNOME’s Nautilus and Cinnamon’s Nemo file managers.

13 Ways to Tweak Nautilus File Manager in LinuxNautilus, aka GNOME Files, is a good file manager with plenty of features. You can further enhance your experience by using these extensions, tweaks and tips.
15 Tweaks to Make Nemo File Manager Even BetterNemo is a good file manager with plenty of features. You can further enhance your experience by using these extensions, tweaks and tips.

Enjoy exploring new things in your Linux desktop with It’s FOSS 🙂

Similar Posts