I am using nautilus on xfce and oneiric, but the desktop of nautilus shows up although I have activated it via gconf, e.g. by

gconftool-2 \                                                                   
--type bool \             
--set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop false

I remember this had worked on previous versions of Ubuntu.


Install gnome-tweak-tool. There is a setting called "Have file manager handle the desktop" that you can switch off.

The configuration system has been replaced, so gconf won't work in all cases anymore. However, not all apps have been converted yet, so it's still present.

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  • Does it work for all desktop variants? I was about to post this as an answer but I wasn't too sure. – jokerdino Oct 18 '11 at 9:20
  • Yes this should work on all variants. – user530873 Oct 24 '12 at 1:02

For gsettings based desktop environments (such as those that use the openbox window manager, as Shailesh has pointed out), the following gsettings corresponds to your gconftool-2 invocation:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons false
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The following command works with OpenBox:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons false

The gconftool based command do not work with OpenBox.

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I'm running openbox over 12.10 and disabling the "Have file manager handle the desktop" option in Gnome tweak tool was not enough. I also had to open dconf and go to org/Gnome/desktop/background and make sure draw-background and show-desktop-icons are not ticked off. My dconf solution without the tweak tool option did not work for me either. Both solutions are needed (in my case).

Gconf desktop/background did not work for me, nor any other configuration via gconf (I believe gconf does work on older systems).

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I'm not exactly using Ubuntu (but debian), and gnome 3.14, and I had a lot of problems with disabling desktop handling by nautilus. Gconf entries were missing and Tweak tool didn't have "Have file manager handle the desktop" option. And option labeled: "show desktop icons" didn't work.

In gnome3 by default nautilus is not handling desktop, so if you nuke your gnome3 config it'll revert to defaults and desired behaviour. If you are using xfce or other desktop enviorment there's fair chance you wont miss these settings.

Instructions on how to delete (or backup!) them are here: How do I reset GNOME to the defaults?, or just execute this will erase all gnome3 configuration:

  rm -rf .gnome .gnome2 .gconf .gconfd .metacity .cache .dbus .dmrc .mission-control .thumbnails ~/.config/dconf/user ~.compiz*
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none of the above solutions workedf for me with xfce in debian

however: Settings -> Desktop -> Icons - > Icon type: None

this worked for me!

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