A few months back I wrote a guide on how to set custom folder icons in Nautilus without needing to install 3rd-party apps or change icon set.

It’s all done using a native, built-in feature of the Nautilus file manager — it’s not even a new feature either as the file manager has let users change folder icons since time immemorial.

But it is currently an underexposed, lesser-known capability.

Unless you know to open a folder’s Properties dialog and click on the directory icon at the top (which opens a file picker from which you can select any valid image file) there’s a good chance you’d never discover the feature.

I certainly hadn’t until last year!

Why are custom folder icons useful?

Well, they can aid your workflow by letting you give important folders a distinctive, identifiable, or specific look. And they can scratch a personal aesthetic itch, as was my case when I used the feature to change the blank ‘snap’ folder in Ubuntu’s Home directory to one with an emblematic icon.

So I’m pleased to see GNOME’s making this niche-yet-nifty feature easier for users to discover.

Improvements Filed

Easier to find, easier to undo

Over the Christmas period GNOME contributor Khalid Abu Shawarib made a clutch of code commits that significantly improve the discoverability of this feature, most notably:

  1. Add an ‘edit’ icon to the Properties dialog folder thumbnail
  2. Add button to ‘reset’ custom icon to default icon

Interestingly, TWIG reports that these improvements happened as a “side effect of porting a few dialogs away from deprecated GTK dialog APIs”. But whether these changes were as-planned or pre happenstance, they’re welcome by me all the same!

Nautilus 46 (due in March, and almost certain to ship in April’s Ubuntu 24.04 LTS release) could include this small buff — though no guarantees. They’re already present in the latest GNOME nightly builds of Nautilus (46 alpha) should you wish to check them out.