My Desktop icons keep toggling between these two types of arrangement (image attached):

arrangement 1

arrangement 2

I can't really tell what triggers the toggle. It seems like the first type occurs after logging in, and then it switches to the second type when specific actions are done. I tested it by creating a new directory in the Desktop. This sometimes triggers the change, but sometimes not. Sometimes moving the newly created directory to trash seems to trigger it.

Turning on/off the Desktop icons extension does not seem to do anything.

How do I fix this?

Just to note, I am using Nemo as my default file manager.

UPDATE: This was helpful. By removing the Desktop icons extension (apparently by deleting the actual directory of the extension) and making Nemo handle the desktop icons seems to be working fine.

  • Felling that dash-to-panel is somehow responsible. May 3, 2020 at 0:58
  • 1
    @HattinGokbori87 Could be. I tried disabling Dash to panel and the issue seemed to be gone. Except when I enabled the Desktop icons extension out of curiosity, the same problem started again. Disabling both Dash to panel and Desktop icons extensions seems to be working. However, I am really used to Dash to panel and don't want to have it disabled. May 3, 2020 at 1:58
  • Indeed, you likely discovered an issue related to the combined use of these extensions. You should consider filing this with the developers of both extensions.
    – vanadium
    May 3, 2020 at 10:19
  • @vanadium I don't know if combining these two extensions is the issue because I have Desktop icons extension disabled anyway. So chances are it's Dash to panel only. Since 20.04 is still very new, I guess I'll wait for a few days for it to get fixed hopefully. May 3, 2020 at 11:10
  • That I do not understand. With Desktop icons disabled there should be no icons on your desktop in the first place. You will need to give more clarity. Using nemo file manager to provide the icons by any chance?
    – vanadium
    May 3, 2020 at 15:41

2 Answers 2


As already mentioned in the update to the question, the solution is to disable the Gnome Shell "desktop-icons" extension, and use the Nemo desktop instead.

Here are detailed instructions to do that:

# install Nemo
sudo apt install nemo

# Edit settings
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons false
gsettings set org.nemo.desktop show-desktop-icons true

# Disable the "desktop-icons" extension
gnome-extensions disable desktop-icons@csoriano

# Set nemo-desktop to autostart on login
cp /usr/share/applications/nemo-autostart.desktop $HOME/.config/autostart/
sed -i -r 's/^(OnlyShowIn)/#\1/i' $HOME/.config/autostart/nemo-autostart.desktop

The last sed line is to comment out the line OnlyShowIn=X-Cinnamon; in the .desktop file. Otherwise, it would only run with Cinnamon.

Note that you don't need to delete the original Gnome "dektop-icons" extension, as many answers to similar questions suggest. The gnome-extensions command can be used instead.

To review the state of all installed Gnome extensions, I also find this command useful:

gnome-extensions list | while read id; do gnome-extensions show "$id"; done

Note: According to a comment here, it seems that in some cases you may need to reboot after the change for it to take effect (logging out and back in may not be enough).

  • If I remember correctly, I did disable the Desktop icons extension using Gnome tweaks GUI before, but it only seemed to fix the issue after removing the actual directory of the extension. This time however (fresh installation again), using the gnome-extensions disable desktop-icons@csoriano command seems to be working (maybe it was a bug that was fixed). I copied the autostart file and then removed the OnlyShowIn=X-Cinnamon; line. Now it seems to be working fine. Thanks. Jun 20, 2021 at 16:10
  • no need to do that, see the other solution by changing the resolution (and changing it back) Feb 19, 2022 at 8:14

I have read all the posts trying to solve this on Ubuntu 20.00. None of them apply. Right-clicking on the desktop shows a completely different menu with the desired option not there or in settings either. Nothing matched.

THEN, I tried reducing the resolution by one level. I didn't want to as I have a large screen and wanted as much on it as possible... But I did. (from 1920x1080 to 1680x1050).

Guess what... It worked! My desktop icons remain where I put them! Even when they vanish after editing a document (that is another issue) when I restart or start anew, they are back where I want them.

  • right that worked, it removed the Sort by setting... Feb 19, 2022 at 8:12

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