I recently replaced Unity on my 11.10 install with XFCE/Xubuntu. So far I have only one problem, which is pretty much identified and solved here:

How to stop nautilus managing desktop in unity

The trouble is, that advice requires a 65meg download. I can't believe it's doing any more than changing a single config entry somewhere. Unfortunately I'm still too noob at Ubuntu to find this myself. All the advice I can see is for earlier versions of XFCE so the setting I'm supposed to change using gconf-editor or settings manager doesn't exist (or must have an entirely different name which has so far thwarted my feeble attempts to locate it).

Does anyone know where this setting is and how it can be changed outside of gnome-tweak-tools. I'd quite like to uninstall it now but am afraid it'll go back to how it was before.

  • Are you sure that's not 65KB? Seems strange that it would have so many dependencies. Oct 19, 2011 at 22:43
  • Yeah, it pulled down quite a lot. Is it possible for me to check what it got?
    – user12753
    Oct 19, 2011 at 23:27
  • Might it just be that I've just done a clean install of 11.10, and installed little else so far?
    – user12753
    Oct 20, 2011 at 0:03
  • gnome-tweak-tool actually depends on gnome-shell, so it has downloaded it. Oct 20, 2011 at 0:51
  • 1
    Ok, so that's why it's so large, but what's the connection between gnome and xubuntu/xfce? Do I actually need any Gnome components at all? Isn't there an XFCE config too which tells Nautilus to back off? Or is there a dependancy between Nautilus and Gnome? I want to learn more about this sort of stuff - is there a book or site which explains how these things are implemented, configured and related?
    – user12753
    Oct 20, 2011 at 7:28

3 Answers 3


Try running this command in Terminal:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons false
  • 1
    this works for newer versions of ubuntu (tested on 15.04)
    – Mark
    Sep 24, 2015 at 18:48

In at least 11.04 this works:

sudo apt-get install gconf-editor

in gconf-editor (a small program!) unmark: /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop

it says:

Nautilus handles drawing the desktop
If set to true, then Nautilus will draw the icons on the desktop.

found it at [SOLVED] Stop Nautilus from managing the desktop? - Ubuntu Forums

  • Thanks, but I have ditched Ubuntu on all but one PC because of Unity. Rather than install version of Linux and then change the UI away from the default, I've found it better to install Linux Mint and use Mate (a fork of Gnome 2). I'm all in favour of progress, change, improvements and all that, but Unity is just too inflexible and unintuitive - I just have no idea how to do stuff, and whenever I google it seems what I want is impossible. I didn't leave Windows for that.
    – user12753
    Jan 1, 2012 at 0:56

One option you have is to remove Nautilus

Open Terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) and type:

sudo apt-get purge nautilus

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