I just installed Ubuntu and I want to replace nautilus with Nemo. I first installed Nemo by using the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:embrosyn/cinnamon
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nemo

I then used the following commands to set Nemo as the default file manager:

xdg-mime default nemo.desktop inode/directory application/x-gnome-saved-search
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons false
gsettings set org.nemo.desktop show-desktop-icons true

I learned these commands from this post. However, I receive the following error:

> GLib-GIO-Message: 15:22:17.302: Using the 'memory' GSettings backend. 
> Your settings will not be saved or shared with other applications.


I found a fix for this error which can be found in my answer below. The accepted answer provides an updated set of instructions to make Nemo the default file manager in recent versions of Ubuntu (18.04+ at the time of writing).

  • 2
    We have had a discussion on community.ubuntu.com about Nemo in 18.04. You can search it for Nemo and try to get complete solution. I do not remember the result of using Nemo instead of Nautilus. Also I think that you can use nemo from official repositories (not PPA). But I do not use both, since I use MATE DE. I'm tired of all these unexpected changes in the behavior of the desktops.
    – N0rbert
    Aug 19, 2018 at 9:32
  • 1
    Everything you did as far as those commands was wrong. Sudo is not needed and shouldn't have been used. You should rerun the gsettings with sudo to revert them (use opposite value). As far as the xdg-mime command root likely now owns ~/.config/mimeapps.list so delete that file as root. (plus check the rest of your home dir. for root owned files or folders..) If you saw any change in desktop icons from running those gsettings commands as root then you have additional issues as nothing should have happened.. The 3 commands should have been run as a user.
    – doug
    Aug 19, 2018 at 12:18
  • As far as nemo handling the desktop, that's done with the nemo-desktop command, this should be done via a autostart file. (can be initially checked thru alt+F2 > enter nemo-desktop
    – doug
    Aug 19, 2018 at 12:20
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? Make nemo the default file browser Jun 17, 2020 at 11:17
  • 2
    @CeesTimmerman "Make nemo the default file browser" is already mentioned in the question, so this question can't be a duplicate of it.
    – karel
    Jun 17, 2020 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


If your problem is that you have Anaconda installed and it has changed some things in your ~/.bashrc file, read this answer by the OP.

Otherwise, here are my generic instructions on...

How to install Nemo and set it as the default file manager in Ubuntu 18.04, 20.04, etc.:

  • Fully tested in Ubuntu 18.04 running the default Gnome desktop.
    • Update 8 Aug. 2020: also verified in Ubuntu 20.04.
  • Why use nemo over nautilus? See the several screenshots at the very end showing the great usage of space and features which nemo has.

This works for me: https://itsfoss.com/install-nemo-file-manager-ubuntu/

To use Nemo instead of Nautilus as your default file manager, including to manage desktop icons, do:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install nemo
xdg-mime default nemo.desktop inode/directory application/x-gnome-saved-search
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons false
gsettings set org.nemo.desktop show-desktop-icons true

# Then also install these tools so we can adjust some settings next
sudo apt install dconf-editor gnome-tweak-tool

# Start up the nemo desktop to allow nemo to control the desktop icons too
nemo-desktop&  # We use `&` here to run it in the background

[also do this for Ubuntu 20.04 or later START]
(I can't remember if this is required for Ubuntu 18.04 too or not, but I had to do it on Ubuntu 20.04)

ON UBUNTU 20.04, you must also change a setting in the new "Extensions" program which we just installed (or "activated", maybe?--I'm not sure) above with sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool. Press your Super key (Windows key on a PC keyboard, or Command key on a Mac running Linux), then type in "extensions", and click the Extensions program:

enter image description here

Inside this program, click the slider to turn off "Desktop Icons", as shown below. This turns OFF the nautilus desktop icons so that we can just have the nemo desktop icons instead. If you don't do this, you'll get a weird desktop with unusable nautilus desktop icons covered up by usable nemo desktop icons, as shown a couple images down.

enter image description here

Here's a snapshot of my desktop:

(Shows the newly-activated nemo desktop superimposed on top of the now-unusable nautilus desktop):

enter image description here

(Now shows just the newly-activated nemo desktop, with the default Ubuntu gnome nautilus desktop icons now disabled, as I want):

enter image description here

[also do this for Ubuntu 20 or later END]

Now add the command nemo-desktop to your startup applications to turn on the nemo desktop icons at every boot.

enter image description here

Reboot (or just log out and then log back in) and run xdg-open $HOME to ensure it opens up your home folder in nemo now, and NOT in nautilus like it used to.

Set up nemo desktop icons:

If you want your Computer, Home, Trash, etc. icons on your desktop again (you can see some of these shown in a screenshot farther below), see Mark Greaves' answer here. In my own words: ensure dconf-editor is installed:

sudo apt install dconf-editor

Press your Super key (Windows key on a PC keyboard, or Command key on a Mac running Linux), then type in "dconf editor", and click the program:

enter image description here

Navigate to: org --> nemo--> desktop. You have options to show the following 5 things. Enable whichever ones you like. I recommend you don't change anything else unless you know exactly what you're doing:

  1. computer-icon-visile (I like to enable this one--shown in the screenshot just below)
  2. home-icon-visible (I like to enable this one--shown in the screenshot just below)
  3. network-icon-visible
  4. trash-icon-visible
  5. volumes-visible

To change the desktop icon size when using Nemo as your file manager:

In Ubuntu 18.04, simply right-click on the desktop and go to Desktop --> Icon Size, as shown here:

enter image description here

In Ubuntu 20.04, you'll have to right-click on the desktop and then go to "Customize". It brings up a new window as shown below. I've highlighted a few things you may want to customize. One of them is a drop-down menu for "Icon Size", for example. The sliders at the bottom and right can be used to adjust horizontal and vertical desktop icon grid spacing, respectively.

enter image description here

To go back to using Nautilus instead of Nemo:

xdg-mime default nautilus.desktop inode/directory application/x-gnome-saved-search
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons true
sudo apt purge nemo nemo*
sudo apt autoremove

And remove the nemo-desktop command from your startup applications.

To choose which desktop options to display in Nautilus:

For Ubuntu 18.04, first ensure the gnome-tweak-tool is installed:

sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool

Then open it by searching for "Tweaks" in your start menu, and going to --> Desktop tab on left:

enter image description here

For Ubuntu 20.04, I believe the Nautilus desktop icons are just controlled by the "Extensions" GUI tool I've previously shown above.

Why use nemo over Ubuntu's default nautilus file manager?

This one's easy. Take a look at the beautiful use of space that nemo permits in Compact view. Look at all of the files you can see at once!

(Note that this view is NOT zoomed out all the way. You can still zoom out one more time while still seeing the file names, and one more time after that to see only tiny icons). I LOVE how compact you can see everything! Let this be a model for GUI file manager designers (Microsoft & Apple & Ubuntu/Nautilus, take note! :))

enter image description here

Versus the really user-unfriendly and space-wasting views available in the nautilus file manager (looking in the same directory in an identically-sized window):

  1. Icon view (zoomed all the way out):
    enter image description here
  2. Or, list view (zoomed all the way out): enter image description here

Aweful, in my opinion! I can't see hardly any files in comparison and it's much more difficult to find things!

Enough said. Notice the nice address bar you can easily type in in nemo too. In nautilus you have to use Ctrl + L to see the address bar to type in.


If you can't get nemo to become your default file manager used by some tool like Dash to Panel, try the following (untested):

  1. Search the repo for nautilus and manually replace it with nemo. See the search for "nautilus" in the Dash to Panel source code here: https://github.com/home-sweet-gnome/dash-to-panel/search?q=nautilus. OR:

  2. Make your computer open nemo whenever nautilus is run, by making a symbolic link named "nautilus" in your ~/bin folder, but have it point to nemo!:

    mkdir -p ~/bin  # create ~/bin dir if it doesn't exist
    # see where the executable for nautilus is; sample output: `/usr/bin/nautilus`
    which nautilus  
    # see where the executable for nemo is; sample output: `/usr/bin/nemo`
    which nemo
    # create symlink to back nautilus path up; this allows running 
    # `nautilus_real` to run the real `nautilus`!
    ln -s /usr/bin/nautilus ~/bin/nautilus_real
    # create a new `nautilus` symlink to point to `nemo`; this means
    # that if you run `nautilus` it will actually run `nemo`!
    ln -s /usr/bin/nemo ~/bin/nautilus

    Log out and log back in. Now, running nemo will run nemo, running nautilus will run nemo, and running nautilus_real will run nautilus.

    To undo these aliases, simply delete those two symlinks you just created above:

    rm ~/bin/nautilus_real
    rm ~/bin/nautilus


  1. Note that this answer was moved to this location from here: Change default file manager Ubuntu 18.04
  2. How to change desktop icon size?
  3. How to display Trash and Home folder icons?

Other things you might want to change:

  1. [my answer] How can I add "Show desktop" to the GNOME dash or Ubuntu Dock?
  2. [my answer] How can I create launchers on my desktop?
  3. [my answer] How can I snap a window in a corner with 18.04?
  4. [my answer] Permanently fix Chrome scroll speed
  • 2
    Thanks a lot for this precise and amazing guide! Oct 12, 2020 at 14:54
  • Thank you! It worked well (Ubuntu 20.04) except that in the panel (I use tweaks dash-to-panel) it still opens Nautilus when I click on Files. How do I change this?
    – Kvothe
    Nov 19, 2020 at 14:06
  • The biggest downside I experienced is that it seems that something weird happens where the desktop is above other applications after clearing the desktop (using the panel button or key combination). Somehow I ended up seeing the applications but unable to click in them because I could only click on the desktop icons which were flying over the applications.
    – Kvothe
    Nov 19, 2020 at 16:23
  • @GabrielStaples, if so that is great! I will look even closer. Note that I already removed the original desktop icons and added new ones using dconf-editor. It is those new ones that seem to be giving a problem.
    – Kvothe
    Nov 19, 2020 at 16:35
  • 1
    It works for me on 22.04. Now I can finally use type-ahead instead of putting up with Nautilus's disorenting automatic search when you type the first letters of a file.
    – laur34
    Apr 28 at 13:27

For those who are here because of the gsettings error mentioned in my question:

The cause of the error was Anaconda installation. I finally solved the problem as explained in this answer. To summarise, just comment the lines added by Anaconda to your .bashrc file, follow the instructions for setting Nemo as the default file manager (as per the accepted answer above), and after completing the instructions uncomment the lines in your .bashrc file.

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