Enable ‘Drag & Drop’ Between Desktop and File Browser in Ubuntu 20.04

Last updated: October 24, 2020 — 14 Comments

gnome shell

Since the desktop icons are handled by an extension instead of Nautilus file browser, drag’n’drop action between desktop and file browser does no longer work.

Fortunately, a fork of the original Desktop Icons extension now is available with several enhancements, including Drag’n’Drop.

It’s called Desktop Icons NG, and features:

  • Drag’n’Drop, both inside the desktop, between desktop and applications, and nautilus windows
  • Allows to use “Open with…” option with several files
  • When hovering or clicking on an icon with a name too large to fit, it shows the full name
  • Doesn’t hang the compositor when there is too much activity in the desktop folder

Install Desktop Icons NG extension:

The extension is still (Oct 2020) in alpha development, so it may have a lot of bugs. Use with care.

1. If you’re first time installing a Gnome Shell extension, first open terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) and run command to install recommended packages:

sudo apt install chrome-gnome-shell gnome-shell-extension-prefs

2. Then go to extensions.gnome.org/…/desktop-icons-ng. Turn on the toggle icon and install the extension.

Don’t see the toggle icon? Click the link to install browser extension and refresh the web page.

3. Open Extensions tool from app launcher. Disable the built-in ‘Desktop Icons’ extension and enable the new installed ‘Desktop Icons NG’ extension.

For the extension settings, simply right-click on Ubuntu Desktop and select the last option.


I'm a freelance blogger who started using Ubuntu in 2007 and wishes to share my experiences and some useful tips with Ubuntu beginners and lovers. Please notify me if you find any typo/grammar/language mistakes. English is not my native language. Contact me via [email protected]

14 responses to Enable ‘Drag & Drop’ Between Desktop and File Browser in Ubuntu 20.04

  1. Thanks for your great information in your article on your website about how to enable drag & drop between desktop and file browser in Ubuntu 20.04. Just what I needed to know. But does it also work for URLs?

    Sincerely regards, Poul

  2. are you kidding me? coming from windows, this is such basic functionality. it boggles my mind linux users put up with this

  3. Thanks a lot, This was of big help, since I worked a lot with the drag and drop feature and had already moved to Kubuntu for having it again.

  4. I am seeing double icons on my desktop. I recently updated from 18.04 to 20.04, does that have anything to do with it? Really want to get this extension working.

    Thanks for any help

  5. I tried but icons on my dekstop are duplicated now.

    Desktop icons is disabled. Any ideas ?

  6. Is the “Nautilus” is dependency for this extensions ? without Nautilus this extension is not working ?

  7. Malatesh Ankasapur February 17, 2021 at 3:43 am

    dublicate icons will show only when two extensions “Desktop icons” and “Desktop icons NG(DING)” are enabled, install extensions-tweak tool and disable “Desktop icons” extensions from the tool or you can reach out me on [email protected]

  8. OK, I’ve tried all these things, and I still can’t drag and drop files either from a NTFS drive on the same machine or from a network folder on an Ubuntu 18.04 SAMBA server, which works fine with my Ubuntu 18.04 and Windows desktop machines.

    Drag-and-drop works perfectly fine on my Ubuntu 18.04 machine as installed (with Nautilus) on both network and shared disks on the same machine. To me, this seems like a DOWNGRADE. Isn’t there a simple fix? I can’t even drag a file out of the trash in Ubuntu 20.04 without going through hoops.

    As I said, all these things worked out of the box on Ubuntu 18.04 on my other machine–and in fact on my Ubuntu 18.04 server as well. I’ve bee using Ubuntu since Version 12, so I’m not exactly a newbie.

  9. Linux Professional Elite October 7, 2021 at 8:19 am

    Who made this idiotic decision to change this? Where are we? In 1990??

    Stop meddling with basic stuff and work on other things. Kick the theoretical programmer out of the decision process and let usabillity guys work on it. And _nobody_ cares why this is – it is just stupid basic stuff that should work all the time.

    This is such a stupid problem and you linux guys ask why people do not work with Linux? Because of stuff like this! Stop this bullshit.

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