Customizing Thunar

This chapter describes how to customize certain parts of the file manager to your own needs.

The "Send To" Menu

Thunar includes a Send To menu, which provides possible targets where files and folders can be sent to. To access the Send To menu, choose FileSend To from the main menu, or right-click on a file or folder and choose Send To.

"Send To" Menu

By default, the Send To menu includes an entry named Desktop (Create Link) for all files and folders, which simply creates a link on the desktop for each selected file. In addition, if the Shortcuts Pane is active, the menu also includes an entry called Side Pane (Create Shortcut) for folders, which allows users to add new shortcuts to the side pane. Following these entries, Thunar lists the removable drives currently plugged into the computer. In the screenshot above, the Floppy Drive represents a possible target where files can be sent to. Note that the device is mounted automatically once selected from the Send To menu, so you do not need to manually mount it.

In addition Thunar also ships the thunar-sendto-email plugin, which adds the entry Mail Recipient to the menu, that opens the mail composer with the selected files attach to the new email. If the selection contains atleast one folder, the selected items are added to a ZIP archive before attaching them to the email. Otherwise, if the selection contains multiple files, or a single file, which is larger than 200Kib, the user will be prompted whether to pack the files into a ZIP archive, and send the ZIP archive.

Like most other features of Thunar, the Send to menu can be easily extended by users and application developers with new targets, using standard desktop entry files. These files must be installed into one of the $XDG_DATA_DIRS/Thunar/sendto/ folders (see the XDG Base Directory Specification for details about the $XDG_DATA_DIRS variable).

The MimeType of the target .desktop specifies the types of files for which this action should be available in the Send To menu. For example, say you want to add entry for a Flickr uploader tool, then this entry should only show up if the selection contains JPEG files (other file formats are not supported by Flickr) and so you should add a line MimeType=image/jpeg;. If you do not specify any MimeType your entry will show up for all file types.

A complete example using the postr application is shown below:

# postr.desktop - Integrate postr into
#                 the "Send To" menu.
[Desktop Entry]
Exec=postr %F

If you install this file to ~/.local/share/Thunar/sendto/ (create the folder if it does not exist yet), the Send To menu for JPEG files will show the new entry Flickr, which can be used to upload JPEG images to Flickr.

The Thunar Project Wiki contains additional examples of useful targets for the Send To menu. Feel free to extend the Wiki page with new examples.


Thunar uses small utilities to create thumbnails of certain file types and displays the thumbnails as preview of the file content. These small tools are called thumbnailers. Thunar ships with thumbnailers for image and font files, and makes use of the installed thumbnailers from GNOME automatically if it was installed with support for gconf. Users may however dynamically extend this basic functionality with thumbnailers for additional file types.

If you plan to write a custom thumbnailers, you need to start with a program that accepts atleast two command line parameters, the input file, which is of the file type you plan to support and the output file, which is a PNG file that complies with the format specified by the Thumbnail Management Standard. Additionally your program may also accept the desired size of the thumbnail, which is optional but highly recommended. If you write the output file at an arbitrary image size, Thunar will afterwards scale it to the desired size, which might produce a less optimal result than generating the thumbnail with the requested dimensions.

Once your utility to generate the thumbnails is done, you will need to register your thumbnailer, so Thunar is able to locate and use it. Therefore all you need to do is to install a description file for the thumbnailer (a .desktop file) in one of the $XDG_DATA_DIRS/thumbnailers/ paths. For example, if you want to register the thumbnailer for your user account only, you can install the file into the folder ~/.local/share/thumbnailers/. The .desktop for thumbnailers has the following format.

Thumbnailer Description File Format

Thumbnailer description files utilize the Desktop Entry Format with a special Type of X-Thumbnailer and special field X-Thumbnailer-Exec with new field codes. Basically, a thumbnailer description file has the following format.

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Your Thumbnailer
X-Thumbnailer-Exec=your-thumbnailer %i %o %s

The Version and Encoding are mandated by the Desktop Entry Specification, just use the values shown in the example above. The Type field must have the special value X-Thumbnailer, otherwise your thumbnailer will not be recognized. The Name value describes your thumbnailer.

The X-Thumbnailer-Exec field contains the command to run your thumbnailer, and supports certain field codes that will be substituted when the thumbnailer is run. Recognized field codes are as follows:

The local path to the input file for which to create a thumbnail. May be either a path relative to the directory from which the thumbnailer was invoked or an absolute path.
The local path to the output file where to store the generated thumbnail. The output file must be written as valid PNG file according to the thumbnail standard (see above). Note that the path may not end with .png, which matters if you invoke certain third party tools.
The desired size of the generated thumbnail in pixels. This parameter is optional.
Similar to %i, but substituted with the URI of the file, rather than the path. This was added for compatibility with GNOME.
Will be substituted with a single %.

You need to include atleast %o and %i or %u, otherwise your thumbnailer will be useless.

The MimeType lists the MIME types - separated by semicolon - for which your thumbnailer is able to create previews.

Example EPS Thumbnailer

This example demonstrates how to write and install a new thumbnailer for .eps files, which uses the convert utility that ships as part of ImageMagick. First, we start with a simple script that invokes convert to generate a thumbnail at the requested size.

# eps-thumbnailer - Example thumbnailer script for EPS files.
# Usage: esp-thumbnailer eps-file png-file size

# command line parameters

# invoke convert (ImageMagick)
exec convert "eps:$ifile" -scale "$sizex$size" "png:$ofile"

Save this script above to a file eps-thumbnailer, make sure the file is executable and install it to /usr/local/bin.

$ chmod +x eps-thumbnailer
$ sudo install eps-thumbnailer /usr/local/bin/eps-thumbnailer

Next we need to create the thumbnail description file eps-thumbnailer.desktop, which looks like this:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=EPS Thumbnailer
X-Thumbnailer-Exec=/usr/local/bin/eps-thumbnailer %i %o %s

This file must be installed to /usr/local/share/thumbnailers (create the folder if it does not exists).

$ sudo install -d /usr/local/share/thumbnailers
$ sudo install eps-thumbnailer.desktop /usr/local/share/thumbnailers/eps-thumbnailer.desktop

The eps-thumbnailer.desktop file uses the special key TryExec, which, if specified, names a command that must be present on the system for the thumbnailer to be useful. In this case, our script is useless if the convert utility is not present.

The last step is to regenerate the thumbnailer cache, so Thunar will pick up our thumbnailer. The thumbnailer cache is located at $XDG_CACHE_HOME/Thunar/thumbnailers.cache (unless overridden by your or your system administrator, the $XDG_CACHE_HOME points to the folder ~/.cache/). The thumbnailers cache is regenerated periodically by Thunar, but you can force to regenerate it by invoking the thunar-vfs-update-thumbnailers-cache-1 utility, that ships as part of Thunar. This utility is usually installed in the libexec subfolder of your installation prefix (sbin on Debian/Ubuntu). So for example, if Thunar is installed in /usr, invoke the utility as follows:

$ /usr/libexec/thunar-vfs-update-thumbnailers-cache-1

But make sure you run the program from your user account, not the superuser account, since the thumbnailers cache is stored in your home folder, rather than a system wide location.

Now, if Thunar is compiled with support for file alteration monitoring (using the FAM or Gamin services), it will automatically pick up the new thumbnailers cache within a few seconds and afterwards be able to generate thumbnails using your custom thumbnailers. Otherwise you might need to completely restart Thunar to apply the changes, using

$ Thunar -q

to terminate any running instance, and afterwards restart it from your launcher.

Cleaning up Thumbnails

The generated thumbnails are stored in the folder ~/.thumbnails/ complying with the Thumbnail Management Standard. While testing a new thumbnailer, it might help to clean up the thumbnail cache using

$ rm -rf ~/.thumbnails/

which will also give you some free space in your home folder. Since all the information stored within this folder was automatically generated from files in your file system, you will not loose any sensitive data.