My mother uses separate desktops heavily and finds it very irritating when she accidentally double-clicks on a folder on her desktop rather than right-clicking and choosing "open in new window" as she's trained herself to usually do.

Is there a way to set PCManFM to default to opening in new windows rather than new tabs?

(She's using 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) at the moment)

Here's a very rushed screencast explaining the behaviour I'm talking about.

  • I've looked in Edit->Preferences and there is no such option. So my guess is that the answer is "No". Sep 23, 2011 at 12:52
  • I follow the LXDE dev blog. Options which aren't exposed via the GUI yet aren't unheard of in PCManFM.
    – ssokolow
    Sep 24, 2011 at 2:28
  • 1
    The only answer I've found to this is to just recompile PCManFM with a parameter changed. I don't have the link handy, but I found it through Google on either the Crunchbang or Arch forums. May 22, 2012 at 16:51

4 Answers 4


You can try to recompile PCManFM , I am running Lubuntu 12.04 with PCManFM 0.9.10 and these steps worked for me.

Follow these steps:

  1. Open a Terminal and install the necessary packages:

    sudo apt-get install apt-src build-essential
  2. Install the build dependencies:

    sudo apt-get build-dep pcmanfm
  3. Create a folder to download the source code:

    mkdir ~/Downloads/src
    cd ~/Downloads/src
  4. Download the source:

    apt-src install -b pcmanfm
  5. Edit the pcmanfm-0.9.10/src/pcmanfm.c file.

    leafpad pcmanfm-0.9.10/src/pcmanfm.c
  6. In Leafpad, search for the line fm_main_win_open_in_last_active(fi->path); (should be somewhere around line 420 and change it to fm_main_win_add_win(NULL, fi->path);. Save the changes and close the file. See the screenshots if it isn't clear:


    code earlier


    code after editing

  7. Go to the pcmanfm-0.9.10/ folder to build the deb packages:

    cd pcmanfm-0.9.10/
    dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot -uc -b
  8. Now you can install the deb packages:

    cd ..
    sudo dpkg -i pcmanfm*deb
  9. Finally you can logout and Login to see the changes.

Reference: This post by ogilvierothchild in ubuntu forums.


Edit this file (as root):


Look near the end of it for a line that says:

Exec=pcmanfm %U

Add the -n option to the command like this:

Exec=pcmanfm -n %U

Save the edited file, and thereafter, pcmanfm will always open in a new window unless you specifically tell it to open something in a new tab.

The feature to default to opening in a tab rather than a new window would be fine if it were workspace-aware. The difficulty that arises is that you may have pcmanfm open on some other desktop and you try to open a file and nothing (apparently) happens. If you hunt around on your other desktops, you'll find it, but it should default to opening in a new window if there is no open pcmanfm on the current desktop.


I've Fedora 20 with LXDE. If I do a right-click and go to Desktop preferencies or if you type the following command:

pcmanfm --desktop-pref

Under the tab Advanced there is the option "Open folders from desktop in new window" that resolve this problem.


I'm running Ubuntu LXDE, not Fedora.
That option for "pcmanfm --desktop-pref" does not work for me.
I got a couple of errors, including a pop-up that says "Desktop manager is not active."
The answer I provided previously (editing the pcmanfm.desktop file) does work for me.

In particular, I'm running a Ubuntu server install with LXDE added
manually after installation, rather than "Lubuntu", so it may be something
particular to my configuration that causes the error, or perhaps it's a
difference between Fedora and Ubuntu, I don't know.
I'm just reporting what works for me.

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