How to Change the Icons for the Dolphin File Manager

March 28, 2014
dolphin10The Dolphin file manager is probably one of the best file managers available given its features and bountiful customization options. Though designed with the K Desktop Environment (KDE) in mind, Dolphin can be installed and used in other desktop environments, such as Cinnamon, GNOME, and Xfce4.

However, when installed in another environment, Dolphin’s icons will default to the KDE Oxygen icon set and not match the system icons. This makes Dolphin appear incongruous, so is there a way to change Dolphin’s icons so they match the system’s icons?



For example, we can go from this:


Dolphin with the default Oxygen icons.

To this:


Dolphin with the Moka icon set.

Dolphin icons are managed separately, so they require System Settings, the central configuration center for KDE, in order to change them. Install System Settings:

sudo apt-get install systemsettings

To run it, open a terminal and enter systemsettings. Root privileges should not be necessary.


The main screen appears.

KDE System Settings

KDE System Settings

Under Common Appearance and Behavior, choose Application Appearance (usually with a double-click in non-KDE environments). In the following window, select Icons. A list of available icons from /usr/share/icons will appear.


Behold! A list of icons installed on the system.

Note that the icons must be present in /usr/share/icons, and all icon files and directories must have the 755 permission in order to appear. If not, they cannot be selected. Differing permissions might occur when copying icons from another directory. To change permissions, do so recursively.

sudo chmod 755 -R /usr/share/icons/<icon_directory>

Replace <icon_directory> with the specific directory name.

After changing permissions, close and reopen System Settings to register the changes. The icons should now appear, but if not, then check that the icon directory is not within a subdirectory and make sure that the icons are organized in the expected format. For comparison, check how the icons are organized and grouped within other, working icon directories.

Select an icon set from the list, and click Apply. Close and reopen Dolphin for the changes to take effect completely.


Orange again! The Humanity icon set makes its appearance.

The new Dolphin icon settings are saved, so there is no need to open systemsettings again unless to change the icons to something else. Different users may have their own icons for Dolphin just as they can have their own system icons for their session customizations.


The elementary Xfce icon set makes Dolphin match the default Xubuntu 13.10 system icons.


Hydroxygen icons! If systemsettings can see the icons, then they can be applied to Dolphin.

Notice that the folder icons in Dolphin appear alike by using the same default folder icon. Thunar, for example, might show different icons for various folders, such as Downloads and Videos, but not Dolphin.

System Settings (systemsettings) does not convert special folder icons, so right-click the plain folder icons and choose new icons for them one at a time…or leave them be.


To change an icon, right-click the icon and choose Properties from the context menu.


Click the icon button (shown circled in red) to make another list of icons appear. The icons will be a combination of Oxygen and the current icon theme. Choose a new icon, and then click OK.


Here, the Moka icon theme shows specific folder icons. Yes, each icon was changed manually…one…by…one.

When changing icon themes, keep in mind that icons must be changed in two separate places: once for the system using the main system settings, and again for Dolphin using the KDE System Settings. Changing one does not automatically change the other unless inside KDE. This might require extra effort, but the results will make Dolphin feel welcome in a non-KDE desktop.




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