The short answer is that you can't show emblems on icons on the desktop with the normal
xfdesktop package at the present time, although there is a development patch available. On Xfce,
xfdesktop actually manages the desktop and not
thunar, the filemanager. If you go to settings > settings-manager > desktop > icons, there are few options to tweak the desktop icon setup, but no other hidden ones within
xfce4-desktop. It is possible to show thumbnails of items on the desktop because thumbnailing on Xfce is managed by default by another service called tumbler and not by
thunar by themselves.
However, there is a development patch for custom emblems at Xfce.org. Eric Koegel wrote in the patch summary that it:
Adds support to display multiple custom emblems for file icons on
the desktop. Regular file icons will display whether it's a symlink
or the file is read-only in addition to any emblems the user sets
in Thunar. This requires an optional dependency on libtdb to read
the metadata for the user set emblems.
You must use git to clone the source, as the patch is set up to work with the source directly from git.
(This was tested with on Ubuntu 12.04 with the Xfce 4.10 and 4.12 ppas applied, not with the stock Precise version, so it should work on 12.10 and later also)
Please Note: The feature is very experimental, so it is up to you if you want to try it, and perhaps report back upstream if you have problems.
sudo apt-get install libtdb1 libtdb-dev git build-essential checkinstall xfce4-dev-tools
sudo apt-get build-dep xfdesktop4
git clone git://git.xfce.org/xfce/xfdesktop
wget "https://bugzilla.xfce.org/attachment.cgi?id=4391" --output-document=xfdesktop4.patch
patch -p1 < xfdesktop4.patch
sudo apt-get autoremove --purge xfdesktop4 xfdesktop4-data
sudo checkinstall --pkgversion=4.10.3
Note: When the configure has finished, you should get this message (see the icon emblems part):
* Build desktop menu module: yes
* Build support for desktop icons: yes
Include support for file/launcher icons: yes
Include support for icon emblems: yes
* Special treatment for mount points on UNIX: yes
* Mount notification support: yes
Now after installation run
xfdesktop --version and you will get:
Built with GTK+ 2.24.10, linked with GTK+ 2.24.10.
Desktop Menu: enabled
Desktop Icons: enabled
Desktop File Icons: enabled
Custom Icon Emblems: enabled
Lastly, logout and login again, as
xfdesktop --reload won't be enough, and the emblems should be there. If
xfdesktop is not running when you log back in, enter
xfdesktop & and it will start. For a more permanent solution, add it as a startup item, as it should be starting up on login.
Be aware that this is development code (both the patch and the git code) and hasn't been classed as a stable version, so it might not always work as expected, but this is about all that is possible at the minute. Also, when you get a later version through any updates, it may remove your patched version unless you pin the version in
I have experimented with the new version of
xfdesktop and successfully returned to the old version by simply removing the package installed with checkinstall- it will be called something like
xfdesktop4.10.3, but just type
xfdesktop and press tab until the package appears. As an example, you could use
sudo apt-get autoremove --purge xfdesktop_4.10.3
Then just reinstall
xfdesktop package is obviously not as critical as a window manager, but perhaps experiment on a virtual machine beforehand if you wish.
I can say that the emblems are quite small, although the symlink symbol can just be seen, although not all emblems appear, so it is clearly a very experimental feature. Emblems appeared on file icons, but not on folder icons.