How to install and make Nemo the default file manager in Ubuntu

This tutorial shows you how to install and use the Nemo File Manager in Ubuntu. You can also make Nemo the default file manager instead of Nautilus.

Nemo, the default file manager of Linux Mint is a fork of the popular Nautilus file manager in Gnome. Linux Mint has improvised a few things in its distribution and two notables among them are Cinnamon and Nemo.

The latest version of Nautilus (also known as Files) was not liked by a large number of users. It has no status bar, no compact list view and more, the backspace key no longer works and you will have to use the arrow keys to navigate.

These are some of the reasons why some advanced users prefer Nemo over Nautilus.

Unless you have a strong aversion to Nautilus / Files, you shouldn’t try to experiment with the default file manager like this. Modifying an entire component can lead to conflicts and system failures. If you are an advanced user who knows what he is doing, you can follow the rest of the guardiansAl.

Now that you’ve been warned, let’s see how install Nemo File Manager in Ubuntu 16.04, 18.04 and other versions.

Installing Nemo File Manager on Ubuntu Linux

Open the terminal (you can use the terminal shortcut Ctrl + Alt + T in Ubuntu) and use the following command:

sudo apt install nemo

That’s it. This could take a while in download and install Nemo, depending on your internet speed.

Once installed, you can see icons on the desktop to access the Nemo file manager. Keep in mind that if you search for Nemo in Unity Dash, it will be displayed as files and not as Nemo. But you can distinguish Nemo and Files (Nautilus) by the icons.

Once you have installed the Nemo File Manager in Ubuntu, you will see that Nautilus is still the primary file manager in the system.

Now let’s see how can you make Nemo the default file manager in Ubuntu.

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Make Nemo Default File Manager in Ubuntu

Open the terminal and use the following command:

xdg-mime default nemo.desktop inode/directory application/x-gnome-saved-search

And then you can configure Nemo to completely manage the desktop with the following commands (in the order given):

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

The first command deactivates the management of the office by Nautilus and the second allows Nemo to take his place.

You should also add nemo-desktop to the list of startup applications.

That’s it. You just made Nemo the default file manager in Ubuntu. You can check it using xdg-open $HOME command in the terminal. The tutorial for make Nemo default file manager should also work with other versions of Ubuntu.

How to remove Nemo and go back to Nautilus

I can understand if you don’t like Nemo in Ubuntu. While Nemo is a great choice for Linux Mint, using it in Ubuntu can lead to issues and it might not be the same experience as in Linux Mint.

So if you want to remove Nemo and go back to using Nautilus / Files by default, here is what you need to do.

Redefine the default GNOME files:

xdg-mime default nautilus.desktop inode/directory application/x-gnome-saved-search

If you added Nemo in Starter Apps, remove it from there.

You should now allow Nautilus to draw icons on the desktop:

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

Now that you’ve started using Nautilus again, you probably want to remove Nemo from Ubuntu as well. You can use the command below to remove Nemo:

sudo apt purge nemo nemo*
sudo apt autoremove

Hope this tutorial helped you install Nemo on Ubuntu, set it as default, and even go back to Nautilus. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below.


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Donald E. Hollingsworth