Tested on Ubuntu 18.04.4

Nautilus (Ubuntu’s default file manager, a.k.a. ‘Files’) lets you run custom scripts from its context menu.

  • Put an executable in ~/.local/share/nautilus/scripts
  • Restart Nautilus, e.g. nautilus -q
  • Select files/folders, right click them (to open the context menu), and run the executable from Scripts > your_script.

This can be handy.

Nautilus sets a few variables that your scripts can use. The most useful is ‘NAUTILUS_SCRIPT_SELECTED_FILE_PATHS’, which tells you the files/folders that have been selected.

In Ubuntu versions prior to 14.04 you put the executable in ~/.gnome2/nautilus-scripts.

Debugging your scripts

nautilus -q; nautilus --no-desktop lets you see your script’s output in the terminal.

A Python example


#!/usr/bin/env python3
import os

cwd = os.getcwd()
selected_files = os.environ["NAUTILUS_SCRIPT_SELECTED_FILE_PATHS"]
selected_files = selected_files.split('\n')[:-1]

print('The script was run from', cwd)
print('The selected files/folders:\n', selected_files)

Make the script executable: chmod +x my-script

Run Nautilus with terminal output enabled: nautilus -q; nautilus --no-desktop

In Nautilus’ GUI, select some stuff, right click, and run the script.

Example output:

The script was run from /home/you
The selected files/folders:
 ['/home/you/Documents', '/home/you/wallpaper.png']

Second Python example

Convert selected .txt/.md files into .json.


#!/usr/bin/env python3
import os
from pathlib import Path

selected_files = os.environ["NAUTILUS_SCRIPT_SELECTED_FILE_PATHS"]
selected_files = selected_files.split('\n')[:-1]

for file in selected_files:
    p = Path(file)
    if p.suffix.lower() in ['.txt', '.md', '.markdown']:
        txt = p.read_text()
        txt = txt.replace('\n', '\\n')
        json_text = f'"{txt}"'

Make executable: chmod +x txt-to-json

(Note, this conversion process has not been rigorously thought through, and may not always work..)

Bash example

Sometimes a Bash script is more suitable. E.g.


code .

Make executable: chmod +x vscode

This opens Visual Studio Code in the directory that is open in Nautilus.