File explorer – customising the shortcuts

[Continuing to split my big post up into separate ones! Apologies if anything seems disjointed as a result. Message says I can't post more for 21 hours, so I'll have to put the other questions on tomorrow...]

5> File explorer – customising the shortcuts

I think the program I used most in Windows was File Explorer, and likewise in Zorin it will be Files. I’m really pleased the shortcut Win+E opens it in Zorin!

In Windows I hated the default layout. As you’ve seen, I used the Desktop, and the D:. The D: was set up with all my content in a tidy hierarchy of types (software, financial, fiction business, photos etc). I avoided ever using the Windows default folders in the user directory for a number of reasons – not least because often programs would save junk in there! As far as I was concerned, my D: was only files and folders I specifically put there.

So in Windows I used a Windows Explorer hack to hide some of the things I never used, to get rid of some clutter: Homegroup, Libraries, Network, User home folder, Control Panel etc. The image shows how I used to have it set up. I really just used the shortcuts at the top left to get to some of my main folders, including the Desktop, and also shortcuts to the C: and D: if I needed any other location. The lower section I mostly ignored (especially because it still had things I never used from explorer, and also automatically added folders off my desktop, making Win Ex still too cluttered).

A long time ago I asked about customising the Files tool in Zorin. Zorin told me that I can hide the main folder shortcuts at the top of the sidebar. “File browsers in Linux get the main shortcut folders from a config file in your home folder. To customize this, please open the Terminal and enter this command: gedit .config/user-dirs.dirs In the new text editor window, you can hide the folders you wish by adding a "#" character to the beginning of the corresponding line. After saving the file and logging out and in again, you should see the changes applied. If you don't have any files in the folders you've hidden, you can safely delete these folders if you wish.”

So I hid these:







However, even when I reboot the PC, they are all still there in Files, and if I reopen the .dirs file the hashes are gone. This used to work, but not any more. So:

  • How do I hide those unwanted links (which I never use)? Is there a process that replaces the one above, but which still works?

  • Will it also work for Save As dialogues, or will the unwanted options show up there?

  • As an aside – is there a way to change what folder shows when Files opens? By default it is “Home”, but I would rather I could change it to Desktop.

  • As a second aside, is there any hierarchical tree view option for the left pane? Or just the breadcrumb trail at the top? If the latter that’s fine, just an adjustment (e.g. it makes it harder to drag a file between two folders).

If I could get rid of unwanted folders then I could use the New Bookmarks section to add shortcuts to the folders I want and it would be nice and uncluttered.

Just for info, one of the reasons I never use existing OS folders like "pictures", "videos" etc is because I file things in a hierarchy of meaning, rather than content type. So one set of folders might cover editing clients, subfolders for project - they might have documents, invoices, emails etc related to that project. The novels I write have subfolders which contain the books, notes, promotional images, book cover files and so on, so a range of file types. My hard drive is organised in this way because it matches how I file stuff, and means I can easily find anything, and all relevant content will be in the same folder (or subfolders).

It's why, to me, filetype is irrelevant: only what the file concerns is of use. Whether a table in in docx, odf, xls, jpeg or whatever makes no difference, it just goes in the folder it is relevant to. Documents, pictures, videos etc don't have their own folders for me, they're just content types. Hence me not using the ones Windows or Linux expects me to use, I found they never match how I organise my data drive.

Any thoughts on this? For some reason Zorin is ignoring changes to user-dirs.dirs (but not giving any error messages).

The hashtag comments a line out, telling the system to ignore that line.
Remove the hashtags to make them visible to the system.

Sorry for the delays Karl; have been very busy and scattered across a lot of things and catching up to all the threads has been an experience..

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No worries!

My query is that when I add the hashtag and save it, it doesn't save the change. When I open the file again there are no hashtags. So it should work, but isn't (if that makes sense!)

OH I get it!
You want them ignored, therefor the hashtags...

sudo nano /etc/xdg/user-dirs.conf

Going off memory so let me know if that is not the right path.
Change enabled=True to enabled=False

ctrl+x to exit, then y and enter to save.

Adjust user-dirs.dirs
Reboot and test.

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Yep, that worked @Aravisian ! All those extra folders are gone now from the Files manager, plus Save As dialogues. Excellent, many thanks!

Lastly, is there a way to change what folder shows when Files opens? By default it is “Home”, but I would rather I could change it to my workspace Desktop. It's only a single extra click each time I open it, but I probably do it about 20 times a day, so it adds up. No problem if there isn't an easy way to do it though. Files has already been improved a lot by being able to hide those unused folders!


I just noticed - my right click menu no longer has a "New file" option (as I discovered when I went to create a new txt file). It only has New Folder. Could this be a consequence of the change above? I create new txt files all the time for notes. [I tried to create a screenshot of the right click menu but none of the options seemed to work - while it is open it disables the screenshots.]


I reversed the steps, changing it back to False and rebooting. All the entries I'd hashed out returned to Files (grrr), but the right click new document menu returned. Then I changed it back to True and hashed out the menu options - rebooted - and now the unwanted folders were gone again, but so was the right click new document option. So it's definitely the sudo nano /etc/xdg/user-dirs.conf change that enables me to correctly remove unwanted entries from gedit .config/user-dirs.dirs , which is what I want: but it then also removed the right click new document option, which I don't want removed. Is there a way to do one without the other? [I'm happy to share screenshots of the right click menus if there's a way to do it.]

Karl, please give me some time to do a bit of testing - I may be able to solve all of the above problems, but I am not sure, yet.

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No worries! I'm already amazed that, after 20 years of Windows, I've been able to use Linux for a week of work! Everything now is just usability tweaks. The core is there and really impressive. And on my new PC it's all whizzy (takes only 8 seconds to load ZorinOS or Win10 from the Grub menu).

After some testing, it appears that only Nautilus loses the function.

Thunar (XFCE default) and Nemo (Cinnamon default) File Managers both retain the New File option in the right click menu.

Given other issues you have raised... and given that you also wish to open directly in Desktop Directory, I wonder if you would be better served by Zorin OS Lite (XFCE) that has much of these built in.

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"Given other issues you have raised... and given that you also wish to open directly in Desktop Directory, I wonder if you would be better served by Zorin OS Lite (XFCE) that has much of these built in."

Interesting proposal! One of the other threads made it sound like there would be a lot of tweaking needed on XFCE, i.e. some things work better, some worse, is that right? Or would any differences be invisible and inconsequential? As long as things look like I expect and it's stable then I don't care what's under the hood.

I'm also guessing that there's no easy way to just change a file manager in Gnome so it (e.g. Thunar or Nemo) becomes the default for Super+E, Save and Open dialogues in programs etc?

I guess I could easily use Etcher to pop the XFCE version on a USB, test it, then maybe install it. [Would I need to do anything else first? I think the grub menu is on the same drive as Zorin; so would I just reformat that drive and install Zorin over it, and it put a new dual boot menu? Or would the install process do it for me? I just don't want to mess anything up.]

My other question is versions. According to Download - Zorin OS the Lite version has less than my Pro version and is older; it says a Pro xfce version is coming soon. So would I wait for that, or go for the older Lite version?

Many thanks!

EDIT: As a test, I installed Thunar on Zorin. Thunar seems loads better than Nautilus! With just a right click it let me hide all the folders I never wanted to use. It strikes me this is how all software should work - letting the user customise it to match their workflow, not forcing a workflow on them. People like me who don't store things in users/home folders obviously don't want shortcuts to them. Maybe just making Thunar (or similar - Nemo, Dolphin?) my file explorer for Super+E, Open, Save etc would be easier than reinstalling the whole of Zorin? Or would Thunar have issues if in Gnome rather than XFCE (e.g. other programs it expects)?
I just want a file explorer that lets me hide the folders I never use, and bookmark the ones I do (bonus points if I can somehow bookmark individual files as well as folders, but I can use desktop shortcuts for that; the "Starred" option in Nautilus doesn't work anyway, since it only applies to the OS drive, not my data drive).

No, not really. The other threads are dealing with Users Installing XFCE on Core, then configuring it.
ZorinGroup is actively developing Zorin OS 16 Lite (XFCE) that comes configured for the user. It may be worthwhile to wait for its release.
I, personally, consider XFCE to be a fully fleshed desktop, unlike Gnome (Core, wha tyouare using) that requires a dozen gnome-extensions that are independently developed,) in order to get it usable and working. There is no "xfce-tweak-tool" because XFCE includes it in the desktop.

I believe you can do this easily using gsettings. If you like we can look at that in detail when you decide on an alternate file manager to use.

You can test this right away, if you like, using Zorin OS 15.3 Lite.
keep in mind that testing on LiveUSB is slower as everything must pass through the bottleneck of the USB port.

Zorin OS 16 Lite and Zorin OS 16 Pro Lite are still in active development. If you have Pro- then the moment Zorin OS 16 Pro Lite is released, you will automatically get a download link emailed to you, as Pro Lite is included in choosing Zorin OS Pro.

This is exactly how I felt when after struggling with Gnome for months, I switched to XFCE (Zorin Lite) and suddenly, intuitive design was present, user control and functionality were present and the daily troubleshooting came to a halt.

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Sensible stuff here! Maybe my best approach is to wait for Zorin 16 Lite Pro Xfce, and play around with it. (A family member has an old laptop with Windows on - I may try putting Zorin Lite on that as a test!) It does sound better than Gnome. Don't get me wrong, the Zorin Core gnome desktop is really nice, I just find the few issues that bug me - such as not being able to hide folders from the chosen file manager - REALLY bug me! In fact, I'd have been happy with Nautilus if it had let me do that easily.

In the meantime I think if I could change File Manager then that would make a lot of things much easier, and I could stay in Gnome for now. It would save me a day's work (nowadays the part of reinstalling an OS that takes longest is rejecting all the cookie popups from the sites I go to every day ... Argh!).

So I installed Thunar. For now I pinned it to the Taskbar. I can run it with Super+1 (instead of Super+E, which opens Nautilus). I'm happy leaving Nautilus installed, since I am sure it is tied in to many things.

For info, here is Thunar on the left, Nautilus on the right (with all the folders I don't want to see highlighted!) :slight_smile:

In an ideal world I would be able to use Super+E to open Thunar instead of Nautilus (saving me having to pin the former to the Taskbar). Also Open, Save, Save As etc dialogues in programs like Gimp, Thunderbird, Libreoffice etc would use Thunar (and the pinned favourite folders) rather than Nautilus.

Could you please advice me on how to do that, @Aravisian ? (Sections in bold.) Thanks!

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