I have a laptop with Xubuntu 13.10 and to the right of the laptop is a monitor located.

The monitor is the primary: I set the option "Primary" in the settings editor (http://www.ubuntubuzz.com/2011/12/how-to-dual-monitor-setup-on-xfce.html) and I use this setting: xrandr --output HDMI1 --primary --right-of LVDS1 (HDMI1 is the monitor as you might have guessed)

Most of the dual-monitor-setup is fine: My menu-borders appear on the monitor and all programs also start on the monitor.

My problem are the desktop-icons: When I save a new file (e.g. an image in the browser) to the desktop, it appears on the far left of the laptop and I have to drag it on the monitor.

And when I rename an icon, that is on the monitor, it jumps to the far left side of the laptop.

And what's even more annoying: Every two or three days (must be some kind of race-condition) when I start the laptop the icons which are carefully arranged on the monitor appear all on the left side of the laptop in one vertical line and I have to drag them back and re-arrange them.

Is there another option/ setting where I can set which is the primary monitor, so that the desktop-icons also realize where they are supposed to appear? How can I prevent the random icon-moving at the start of the system?

  • Also if you select "arrange icons" from right click desktop menu they will appear on the left monitor. Expecting icons are placed first on main monitor ("Display settings" checkbox). Jan 6, 2017 at 16:42
  • I have exact same problem on my Ubuntu 18.04. Have you found a solution to this, @nyx?
    – jedi
    Jan 29, 2019 at 19:22
  • sadly, no :( At some point I just stopped using desktop icons, because it was too annoying.
    – nyx
    Feb 5, 2019 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


In extended desktop mode, the computer sees multiple monitors as a single large desktop. If your window manager places desktop icons on the left, then they will jump to the far left-hand monitor.

However, if you use KDE as your desktop manager/window manager, you can use "FolderView" as your desktop setting. This way, you can arrange icons exactly as you wish on either monitor and they will stay put.

I have tried most of the major desktop environments, including Cinnamon, Gnome 2, Gnome Classic (Gnome-Session-Fallback), Gnome 3, KDE, LXDE, MATE, Unity, and Xfce. Among these, KDE is the only one I have tried that enables me to use my right-hand monitor as the primary display while also keeping my desktop icons on the right-hand display.

If you want to stay with Xfce, a workaround I have used in that desktop environment is to install screenlets and use the folderview screenlet to put a window on my right-hand monitor that is set to the Desktop folder. This way, I can see the icons that are on the far-left in the screenlet window. With this screenlet, I can also open, copy, paste, or delete files that appear in the Desktop folder.


I wrote iconic to solve this problem and others. It will:

  • Allow you to move icons to any of three monitors
  • Not suffer the "lost icon syndrome" that occurs when monitors of multiple resolutions are used
  • Sort icons alphabetically, alphabetically with "Link to" prefix ignored, sort by modified date ascending or date descending
  • Allow different grid size (columns x rows) depending on monitor, EG more on 4K monitor than 2K monitor
  • Instant Test button for quick experimentation on column x row changes or reserved space changes for monitor left, top, right or bottom areas
  • Test button will last for x seconds defined by you, clear all windows before test and restore them after test
  • Bash script for easy modifications

You can get the script on github.

Here's the main screen:

iconic main menu.png

Visit the github page for iconic to see all the other screens, explanations and a copy of the script.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.