How to Install and Use Dolphin File Manager on Ubuntu

Linux is all about options and there’s no better example of that versatility than the number of Linux distributions available at your disposal. Some of them come with their own unique set of core apps. Apps like calculator, calendar, email, GNOME even have a maps app. Nautilus is a popular file manager for many Linux distributions. It looks pretty basic, but it has tricks up its sleeve that Windows File Explorer doesn’t yet have, like tabs. The Dolphin file manager is another option for Linux and Ubuntu users. It is the default file manager of Kubuntu, openSUSE, Slackware or any other Linux distribution using the KDE Plasma desktop. You can install the Dolphin file manager on Ubuntu using a command line.

Dolphin is to Nautilus what Nautilus is to Windows File Explorer. Nautilus is great, it’s simple, it looks clean, and it can do pretty much what an average user would want from it, and sometimes even more. Dolphin is a different beast, literally.

If you’ve never been exposed to some advanced file managers, Dolphin might not seem like something you’d want to use. The story is quite similar to the KDE Plasma desktop it was made for. But you can manually install Dolphin on Ubuntu and you don’t necessarily need the Plasma desktop for it to run.

You can easily add new apps and remove installed apps. Now, there are 3 ways to install and uninstall programs in Ubuntu and you should check them too.

Installing Dolphin File Manager on Ubuntu

Dolphin in KDE Plasma

Dolphin is available in the Ubuntu repositories and therefore also in the software center. you can search //dolphin in the Software Center or use the link below.

If you’re more into the command line, you can use the following command in a Terminal window to install Dolphin.

sudo apt-get install dolphin

Dolphin File Manager Interface

Dolphin File Manager Interface

  1. main toolbar
  2. Address bar (breadcrumb by default).
  3. Left sidebar (Places pane by default)
  4. status bar
  5. Right sidebar (information panel)
  6. main area

Dolphin will look quite similar to Windows file explorer at first, but there are a few key differences. For example, the main toolbar has just a few buttons and looks quite clean and simple. You can access the menu by clicking the button To control button, like the single menu button in Chrome. The left sidebar by default has Places where the Windows file explorer would have the Quick access. You can specifically view your files by type by selecting Documents, Images, audio files or videos underneath Search for.

On the status bar is a slider that you can use to zoom in or out, allowing you to set the size of items in the display area. To increase performance, Dolphin does not show thumbnails by default, no matter how much you zoom in. You’ll have to click the Preview button at the top, luckily not always.

Tabs and split view

Tab and split view in Dolphin file

Dolphin supports tabs like Nautilus or any other decent file manager out there. To start a new tab, you can press Ctrl+T and you can close one with Ctrl+W while the tab is open. Alternatively, you can simply right-click on a folder and select Open in new tab.

Tabs are great, but you can’t see two tabs at the same time. You can only switch between them, and while this makes copying files between two places easier than having no tabs, Split View is much better at it. You can easily use it by pressing F3 or clicking the button Share button at the top. This splits the Dolphin window into two tabs that you can see side by side. So, you can easily drag and drop files between them, making things much easier. There is just a sidebar, toolbar, etc. for navigation and they work for the side currently in focus.

Mobile panels, integrated terminal and tree view

Dolphin File Manager dashboard view

You may notice it sooner or later that Dolphin doesn’t have the left tree view navigation like the Windows file explorer. Not that you really need it because you have the breadcrumbs style address bar at the top. But if you still want it, Dolphin really has it.

All you have to do is press F7 on your keyboard. A longer path would be To control > panels > folders. You’ll likely find it in the top left, but you can easily move it to the bottom left or even the right, as I did in the screenshot above. All you need to do is select Unlock Panels and drag any panel to the desired side.

You can also enable an integrated Terminal inside the Dolphin window if you select terminal. You can also move the Terminal panel to the top of everything or to the bottom where it appears by default.

dolphin services

dolphin services

If you thought this was all you could customize in Dolphin, you couldn’t be more wrong. Dolphin services are basically what others call extensions or plugins. This simple but functional file manager manages to do a good job of hiding them. If you’re not told, there’s a good chance you won’t find them, or if you do, you’ll simply ignore them.

Dolphin services can add a lot of cool features that Dolphin doesn’t have by default. If you were frustrated because the supposedly advanced file manager doesn’t let you set an image as wallpaper, you’d really love the Define as wallpaper service.

Dolphin comes pre-installed with many of these services, but you can download and install more. You can convert videos, images, PDF documents, Office documents, send files to Chromecast, all with a right click. All you need is to install the service in question. You will find the services installed at To control > Configure the dolphin… > services. You can download more services by clicking on the Download new services… button here.

Don’t forget to check out our in-depth tutorial to learn how to edit images in Dolphin professionally.

Read next: How to zip and unzip files in Ubuntu using command

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