When I tweak a setting in the Settings menu in Ubuntu, where is that information stored? For example if I add a custom keyboard shortcut, or set my default display, where does is this information later retrieved from by the OS? I am sure it ends up in a text file somewhere, but I haven't found it yet (probably because I am not quite sure where to look).


WOW! All the answers below so far have been super helpful! My question was perhaps a little too general, and ideally I would accept all answers as correct because they all provide very useful tools for finding useful config (or other) information.

I am accepting @A.B.'s answer, because dconf watch / scratched my particular itch perfectly. However, I would direct future readers to @serg's answer for it's detail, and @DK Bose's answer for its general usefulness. I would also suggest anyone with a similar question to experiment with all the suggested commands as I will be doing!

  • 2
    If user related the 1st place to look is ~/.config.
    – Rinzwind
    Oct 25, 2015 at 19:52
  • Wow, that seems like an obvious place to starts looking ! Thank you!
    – elethan
    Oct 25, 2015 at 19:58
  • NP :-) Not all software abides by it though ;-) and this only works for "user" settings. There is also ~./gconf and ~/gnome* ;)
    – Rinzwind
    Oct 25, 2015 at 20:06

3 Answers 3


There are many possible places:

  1. Your config folder ~/.config. Watch with

    inotifywatch -e modify,create,delete -r ~/.config
  2. The dot files direct to your home folder. Watch, e.g. your .mozilla folder with

    inotifywatch -e modify,create,delete -r ~/.mozilla
  3. The files in your local folder ~/.local. Watch with

    inotifywatch -e modify,create,delete -r ~/.local
  4. The dconf database, watch with

    dconf watch /

    and make some changes to check it ...


One possible general approach is this. Close all other programs except the one you're going to tweak. Make your tweak. Then, immediately run something like this:

find ~/ -mmin -1 -type f -ls

You may see some hits you may decide aren't relevant. find allows you to eliminate them:

find ~/ ! -path "*mozilla*" ! -path "*google-chrome*" ! -path "*cache*" ! -path "*dropbox*" -mmin -1 -type f -ls

You can add or delete paths, depending on your needs.

As an example, I'll change a setting of a text editor, Mousepad, and then run the long version.

$ find ~/ ! -path "*mozilla*" ! -path "*google-chrome*" ! -path "*cache*" ! -path "*dropbox*" -mmin -1 -type f -ls  
7735309   12 -rw-r--r--   1 dkb    dkb       10948 Oct 29 10:56 /home/dkb/.config/Mousepad/accels.scm  
7734498    4 -rw-rw-r--   1 dkb    dkb        1397 Oct 29 10:56 /home/dkb/.config/Mousepad/mousepadrc  
7209188  240 -rw-------   1 dkb    dkb      242407 Oct 29 10:56 /home/dkb/.local/share/recently-used.xbel  

(The last hit mostly isn't useful.)


Where Settings menu information is stored depends on some of the items. Such things as desktop background, themes, language, and keyboard shortcuts ( including custom ones ) - those all go into dconf schemas, while such things as Display settings and Network settings have to interface with xrandr and network-manager programs respectively.

For instance, in the settings menu I have a custom shortcut PAGE-DOWN. If I do dconf dump / | grep -C 5 PAGE Appropriately enough, I will see the following entry:

command='bash -c "xdotool getactivewindow key Page_Down"'

Same thing for Power settings , it's in dconf:



$ dconf dump / | grep  theme                                       

As far as positioning the screen goes, you can do it through Settings -> Display menu or use xrandr , for example something like

xrandr --output VGA1 --auto --output HDMI1 --auto --right-of VGA1

(Example from Arch Wiki)

Even more manual way, is to alter .config/monitors.xml file, which is what xrandr does.

But above all of them governs gnome-settings-daemon if you have Gnome shell or unity-settings-daemon if you have Unity ( default desktop ). Knowing that, I've used dconf, gconf and xrandr in numerous scripts on this site to adjust desktop functionality, and used gnome-settings-daemon to simplify behavior of openbox environment. Bellow are some of the examples,

Assign default keyboard language per-application ( uses gsettings)

How to permanently set my second screen's resolution?(uses xrandr )

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