A caveat about my instructional posts in general… I am a user, and not that much of a power user at that. I know what I know about computers mostly through trial and error. If I state something and there is a better way to do it, please say so. I also tend to be over thorough and explain things as if everyone was a beginner… this is a result of my early thrashings and gnashings with Linux where I wished someone would do the same and where I discovered how much outdated/conflicting/plain old wrong information there is out there. roll Sorry in advance for that…

I tried to Google for answers and quickly found what I just mentioned… broken links, forum posts that talked in circles, etc… I played around for half an hour and this is what I found…

The easy part, sudo apt-get install pcmanfm. The packages that get installed are…

gvfs-fuse libfm-gtk0 libfm0 libmenu-cache1 lxmenu-data pcmanfm

The libs I wouldn’t worry about and lxmenu-data obviously pertains to LXDE. gvfs-fuse is for mounting filesystems I think?

Out of curiosity, I ran sudo apt-get purge thunar to see what it wanted to remove…

thunar* thunar-archive-plugin* thunar-dropbox* thunar-media-tags-plugin* thunar-thumbnailers* thunar-volman* xfce4*

As I’m happy using Thunar, I didn’t remove these. It should be safe though as xfce4 is just a metapackage and shouldn’t remove any Xfce components. I wouldn’t remove thunar-volman or thunar if you like your DVDs and CDs to autoplay though (more on that in a minute).

To let PCManFM handle external drives, go to Thunar>Edit>Preferences>Advanced and uncheck “Enable Volume Management”. You can double check that PCManFM is set to handle drives by going to PCManFM>Edit>Preferences>Volume Management and make sure all 3 boxes are checked. While you are there, go to Advanced and add “gksu %s” w/out quotes to the “Switch user command” field so that you can use PcManFM’s “Tools>Open current folder as root” feature. After logging out/in, when you plug (for example) a USB drive in, PCManFM will open it instead of Thunar.

The Xfce menu is a funky beast, that’s where we’re headed next. Navigate to /usr/share/applications and “Open current folder as root”. One thing I didn’t like is that, as root, while Thunar displays a red banner with a Warning message PCManFM only displays a warning icon in the location bar. Be careful! What you will see are icons for all your menu entries (except the login window entries, those are in /usr/share/gdm/applications). They all have the file extension .desktop which gets hidden both in PCManFM and in Thunar. These are funky files, if you rename one it may disappear on you! The files “real” name can be seen by opening it in a text editor and going to “File>Save as…”

Now more funkiness… as it is set up in #! (and in other distros I’ve tried), Thunar has menu entries all over the place. There are 2 .desktop files named “File Manager” and one named “Thunar File Manager”, and in the actual xfce4-menu there is a top level entry, an entry under Accessories, another one under System and a direct link to Thunar’s preferences under Settings! PCManFM’s .desktop file’s “display” name is also File Manager, (facepalm) and the actual xfce4-menu entry is in Accessories and is also labeled File Manager (double facepalm and a warm shot of Cuervo with no training wheels). Anyhoo, the entry I was interested in is the top-level File manager entry (in the xfce4-menu from the top down you’ll see Run Program…, seperator, Terminal, *File Manager*, Web Browser). In a text editor, open the 3 “File Manager” .desktop files and find the one that has the line “Categories=X-XFCE;X-Xfce-Toplevel;“. Change the line “Exec=Thunar” to “Exec=pcmanfm %U“. Save and exit. Now when you click that menu entry it will open PCManFM. If you want to hide other menu entries, open the appropriate .desktop file and add the line “NoDisplay=true” w/out quotes to the bottom and save, the xfce4-menu will change in about 5 seconds. Or you can add “hidden=true” instead, this will also remove context-menu entries. BTW, I believe all your menu customizations will get reset if you reinstall or dist-upgrade Xfce.

Now PCManFm is handling folders and drives, but I got a bit stumped with CDs and DVDs. Thunar will autoplay CDs and DVDs for me if I go to Settings>Removable Drives and Media>Multimedia and change the 2 commands to (I’ll use VLC in this example) “vlc cdda://” and “vlc dvd://” w/out quotes. Since we’ve disabled Thunar’s handling of removable media, these won’t work anymore. I couldn’t get PCMan to autoplay anything. I could open a CD or DVD via VLC>Media>Open Disc, choose the type and hit play. I could not eject the media using the DVD drive’s button, but only via PCManFM, right-click the media and choose “Eject removable media”. Personally, I didn’t like that, but to each his own.

I installed and looked in xfce4-taskmanager and saw that a Thunar process was running still, it’s part of the session startup applications and I believe it’s there to allow Thunar to open faster. It’s a little fussy to kill. Go to Settings>Session and Startup>Session and highlight Thunar, then click the “Quit Program” button. Click the “Save Session” button. When you reboot or log out, make sure you check the box for “Save session for future logins”.

To put everything back the way it was, purge pcmanfm and the other packages, change back your .desktop file(s), and re-enable Volume Management in Thunar’s preferences. Finally, with Thunar open, again go to Settings>Session and Startup>Session. Find the Thunar entry and left-click “Restart Style” and change it to “Immediately”, and click the save session button. After you’ve logged out/in one time and you confirm that Thunar is in your process list, you can change the entry back to “If running” if you want.

That’s all I have, I hope that helps.

Resource site:

by hhh

Bookmark and Share
Here can be your banner, contact me about conditions.