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Performing Management Tasks

This section describes all the different management tasks you can perform with the file manager. This includes such things as getting information about a file; moving, copying, and removing files; and changing various attributes of a file, such as its name, ownership, and permissions.

Getting Information About a File

The most basic management task is simply finding out information about a file. Information can be obtained in a number of different ways.

First, the status bar shows the size and type of the item that is currently under the mouse pointer. To see this information, move the mouse over the items in which you are interested.

You can also see detailed file information by selecting either Text View or Detailed List View from the View menu. This shows the type, name, size, modification time, permissions, owner, group, and link target for each item in columns across the screen.

The icons in the browser window indicate the type of each item, as recognized by KDE. KDE provides a large set of different icons to identify files of different types. By convention, a directory has a folder as its icon, a documents file often has a piece of paper as its icon, and a program often has a gear as its icon. Over time, you will learn these conventions and begin to identify easily, by the icon, the types of files you are looking at.

Selecting Items

Certain management actions can be performed by directly manipulating the items in the browser window. There are multiple ways to select more than one item to manipulate.

To select an item without launching it, hold down the Ctrl key and click the item. The item is shaded to indicate that it is selected. To add items to the selection, or to remove items that are already selected, use Ctrl+click as well. You can also select a group of items by dragging a rectangle around them.

If you have a large number of items and it is awkward—or impossible—to select them with a rectangle, you can select them using a name and wildcard specification. To do this, choose Edit, Select from the menu, or use the Ctrl+plus (on the number pad) keyboard shortcut. Then type a filename or wildcard specification into the Select Files dialog box. Click OK, and files matching your specification are selected. Similarly, you can unselect files using the Edit, Unselect option or Ctrl+minus (on the number pad). Edit, Unselect All (Ctrl+U) will unselect all files, and Edit, Invert selection (Ctrl+*) will invert your selection.

Moving and Copying Files

The easiest way to move or copy files from one part of your filesystem to another, or to make links to a file, is to select and drag them. You can drag files between two open file manager windows, between the file manager window and the desktop, or from the file manager window to a folder icon (either on the desktop or in another file manager window).

When you drop the item, you are presented with a menu with three options: Copy, Move, and Link. Select one of these options, and the operation is completed. For operations that can take a long time, a status window opens to inform you of the progress of the operation.

You can also copy files (but not move or link them) by selecting them and then choosing the Copy option from either the Edit menu or the context menu for the files. This marks the items for copying. Now browse to the location where you want to copy the files, and select Paste from either the Edit menu or the context menu of the directory in which you want to copy the files.


Using the Copy and Paste menu options requires only one file manager window to be open. If your screen is cluttered, or if there is some other reason why it might be awkward or time-consuming to have two file manager windows open, this method of copying files can be very useful. Similarly, you could open multiple browse windows within the file manager window and drag files between them.

Sometimes it is hard to decide which of the possible actions (Copy, Move, or Link) is the most appropriate. This is especially true when you start working with special KDE files and directories, such as the desktop itself. Some of the following suggestions might seem obvious, but here are some rules of thumb to help you decide:

  • Select Copy only if you really want to create another copy of the item—This is rarely what you want to do with executable programs and scripts. It might or might not be what you want with documents and other files, depending on the circumstances. Remember that having multiple copies means that modifications to one copy won't affect the other. Although it is possible to put real documents on the desktop, most people just put links there or put files there only temporarily.

  • Select Move only if you want to change the location of the original item—This is rarely what you want to do with a program or script. Programs are usually located in bin directories on the path, and moving them makes them inaccessible for command-line use.

  • For a desktop configuration file, you usually copy it or link it—Sometimes moving a desktop file from its original location results in it no longer working correctly. For example, MimeType desktop files have meaning only in a mimelnk directory. Don't move desktop files out of special directories unless you know what you are doing.

Removing Files

To remove a file from your system, you have three options: move it to the Trash, delete it, or shred it. Moving it to the Trash moves the file to the Trash directory, which means that it still takes up space in your filesystem but that you can recover it if you need it in the future. Deleting the file completely erases it from your system. There is no way to recover the file. Shredding the file goes an extra step by first overwriting the file with a complex series of data before deleting it. This should ensure that even advanced data recovery techniques won't be able to restore all or part of the file.


If you have accidentally deleted (not shredded) a file, there may be ways to recover the data. It is not easy and it may not work, but if the data is important, you should read Ext2fs-Undeletion mini-HOWTO, available at http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/mini/Ext2fs-Undeletion.html.

To move a file to the Trash, choose the Move to Trash option from either the Edit menu or the local context menu, or drag the item from the file manager window to the Trash icon on the desktop. Similarly, to delete it, select the file (or files), and then choose the Delete option from either of these menus. Finally, to shred it, select the file (or files) and choose the Shred option.

Launching Files

Launching a file from the file manager is exactly the same as launching it from the desktop window. You can either click the item, drag the item on top of a program, select Open With from the context menu of the item, or select one of the programs listed in the context menu.

If you single-click the item, KDE determines an appropriate course of action, depending on the file type. If KDE cannot determine a default program for the file, it prompts you for a program with which to open the file.

Modifying Files and Directories

KDE makes it very easy to manipulate the attributes of an item in the filesystem by providing a simple graphical dialog box to manipulate an object's properties. To access this dialog box, select Properties from the item's context menu. The dialog box has different tab pages, depending on the item type. But the first two tab pages of the dialog box, General and Permissions, are common to all types.

Renaming a File

To rename a file, select Properties from the file's context menu. When the dialog box opens, you are on the General page of the dialog box. Edit the Name field, and click the OK button.

Changing Ownership and Permissions

To change ownership and permissions on a file, access the Properties dialog box and select the Permissions tab.

To modify the permissions of an item, click the check boxes in the Access permissions section of the dialog box. To change the owner or group of the file, use the controls under Ownership.

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