On ubuntu 16.04 (100% satisfaction) I used to select and open folders/files on desktop using keyboard, up/down, left/right arrow keys; not the mouse. I cannot do this anymore on ubuntu 20.04 Any work around ?

  • Are you still using Unity (default on 16.04) as your desktop on 20.04, or have you switched to GNOME shell (now the default).
    – guiverc
    Aug 30, 2020 at 6:15
  • Switched to Gnome-shel... tried Unity and Nemo on Vbox, lots of lags and other non convenient behaviors, got back (Vbox) to gnome.
    – gad
    Aug 30, 2020 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


Desktop icons are now provided by a Gnome Shell extension, which is still very new and underdevelopped.

A workaround is to navigate your icons in the file manager: they live in the "Desktop" folder.

If an active desktop is critical in your workflow, you better move to a desktop environment that fully supports them: Xubuntu, Kubuntu, ... Ubuntu uses Gnome Shell. Gnome Shell does not support an active desktop at all. Ubuntu wants to support it, but has to resort to a half ready Gnome Shell extension to do so, because the file manager Files (nautilus) does not anymore support this.

A rather technical option would be to move to the nemo or caja file managers, so these can manage the desktop.

  • Thank's for the reply. The topic is not that important -just a question of fingers confort using laptop pad : I do prefer using keyboard.
    – gad
    Aug 30, 2020 at 14:33

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .