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

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:

[ac-box style=”alert”]The extension is still (Oct 2020) in alpha development, so it may have a lot of bugs. Use with care.[/ac-box]

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.

By Ji m

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 Please comment to remind me outdated tutorial! And, notify me if you find any typo/grammar/language mistakes. English is not my native language. Contact me via ubuntuhandbook1@gmail.com Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/ubuntuhandbook1


  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

    1. The feature is missing so far due to desktop icons controller changed from File browser (Nautilus) to built-in Gnome Extension in recent Ubuntu releases.

      1. ok, fine, thanks for the explanation! but why should such a very important and basic feature be removed really?

    2. same here too! i don’t like Window$ but icon drag and drop is a primary feature in all GUI-based OSes since the invention of sliced bread! MacO$ does it, AmigaOS does it, all others do it! even Linux did it in the past (which this very article here confirms it!) but then it was removed because now it’s an extension that does what?!? really!?

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

  6. 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 malatesh10@gmail.com

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    1. What are they trying to do? force Ubuntu client users to go to Windows? Who the F made these decisions?

    2. AMEN!! I am new to Ubuntu and this frustrates me as I cannot move files off the machine!! None of the fixes work.

  9. I just tried this, for a minute I had 2 copies of each icon, then I disabled the lower “desktop icons” and I get no icons. So I went back to the previous setting and disabled the NG version. Is there a step I am missing?

  10. I use both Windows 10 PCs and Ubuntu 20.04 and also do quite a bit of cross platform education. I completely agree with earlier comments – who on earth made the decision to drop the drag-and-drop facility?
    This is such a basic skills embedded even in UK primary school teaching so is Ubuntu trying to write itself out of young people’s vision?
    We need Ubuntu to step up to the task and aim high – dislodge Microsoft as the Windows 11 shambles unfolds!


  11. This is the kind of 101-level functionality that should work without needing to install plugins to work. These are the barriers that slow down mass adoption of Ubuntu.

  12. I have been working with Linux Debian and Ubuntu for a number of years. I agree with Window users here: such a basic functionality should not be removed. I am not interested if Gnome doesn’t support desktop icons. If it doesn’t work you fix it.
    What if in the next release Gnome doesn’t recognize anymore the character ‘A’?!?

  13. This basic feature was already working in ubuntu 18.04. It’s a pain in the ass, to find out its broken after upgrading to 20.04.

    1. That’s because GNOME, the default desktop environment developed by another team, dropped the desktop icons support. Ubuntu 20.04 came with an extension to fulfill the feature which however miss the drag’n’drop function.

      1. I wish they could all work together. I am giving up. I guess I will have to email the files to myself to put them on my cloud. Otherwise they are stuck on the laptop with Ubuntu.

  14. I would like to be able to drag and drop from desktop to an open app like Firefox. How does one accomplish that in Ubuntu 22.04? As in a lot of statements about every operating system except Ubunbtu allowing drag n drop from desktop to folder, from desktop to open app is also available in every OS except Ubuntu and other Linux distributions.

  15. Yes, Ubuntu 20 i don t want it to use it any more. Total downgrade in user experience. It is “sabotage” to move away from linux.

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