Master Dolphin in KDE 4

Dolphin is KDE 4’s default file manager, and is a departure from KDE 3, which relied on Konqueror for file management. Unlike Konqueror, which functions as a web browser and many other things, Dolphin is specifically used for file management. If you prefer to use Konqueror or any other file manager, you can change the KDE settings to use it by default.

Dolphin is intended to be a simplified file manager, stripping away some of the common Konqueror file management features. Many of the features can be re-enabled, and some new features are unique to Dolphin. Here is a basic guide to all things Dolphin.

Breadcrumbs vs. Location Bar


Konqueror has a web-browser-style location bar that allows you to type in the file path you want to reach. Dolphin introduced a feature to KDE called breadcrumbs. Each folder in a path hierarchy is a button that you can use to navigate back any number of steps. If you prefer the location bar method or ever need to type a path in directly, move your mouse to the end of the path until the mouse pointer turns into a cursor selection. Then, just click.  To revert back, click the check. You can also turn the location bar on by default in the settings. To toggle back and forth, you can also use Ctrl+L.


View Modes

There are three view modes in Dolphin, just like Konqueror: icons, details, and columns.  Use shortcuts to switch between them:  Ctrl+1, Ctrl+2, and Ctrl+3, or click “View” and choose the view mode you want.



A new feature introduced in Dolphin is the panel.  There are four possible panels: Places, Folders, Information, and Terminal. There are three settings, and you can display all three, two, one, or even none of them. You can also drag the  panel to either side of the window or stack two on top of each other. To add all three to the same panel, right click and check the ones you want to appear.  Tabs will appear allowing you to cycle through them.

The Places panel gives you clickable links to the folders you specify. To add a folder, just drag it over to the Places panel. Once it is there, you can edit it or remove it. Alternatively, to add a folder, right click on it and click “Add to Places“. Dolphin is integrated with other KDE applications, and the “places” you set in Dolphin will be available in file open and save dialogs in other applications.

Press F4 to bring up a terminal panel at the bottom of the window. It will automatically be set at the point where you currently are in Dolphin. Anytime you navigate to a different location within dolphin, the terminal will change to that directory. This is very useful if you have navigated through several folders and need to do some terminal work there.  Instead of having to type in the full path, it will take you there.

File Associations


When you click on a file, does it open the application you want? In a previous post, I explained how to change file associations in KDE, but Dolphin also allows you to do this on the fly. For example, suppose you have three video players installed, and VLC is set to default. But when you click on Quicktime files, you want SMplayer to open instead. Simply right click on the file, click properties, and then click the wrench icon to the far right of the current file type description. This will open up the normal file associations dialog that you would get through the longer process of going through System Settings, but the changes will still be applied to all files of that type.

Ultimately Dolphin is a preference, and some will still prefer the more powerful Konqueror. Others will appreciate have a file manager separate from their browser.  There are many other features to try with Dolphin. Experiment and try new things. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Tavis J. Hampton

Tavis J. Hampton is a freelance writer from Indianapolis. He is an avid user of free and open source software and strongly believes that software and knowledge should be free and accessible to all people. He enjoys reading, writing, teaching, spending time with his family, and playing with gadgets.


  1. After so many time using Konqueror to browse my files I were a bit reticent with Dolphin, but after a while I really love this piece of software now.

  2. No começo tambem tive alguma dficuldade para trocar do konqueror mas o terminal anexo ao dolphin realmente me conquistou.

  3. I just dont understand why KDE continues to be so bloated. Too much Windows like flashyness for my taste.

    I prefer Gnome anyday.

    1. Ahilash, do you go to lesbian web sites and tout the power of the penis?

      This is about KDE’s Dolphin, not your Mac fetishism.
      I install tons of distros for newbies on my own and with my LUG and since this is a Windows centric world, it is no surprise that when you give a person a desktop, they will choose KDE 75% of the time. I have people try Ubuntu because of the hype and when they try it, they think its the ugliest thing since Win95.
      The GTK look and fonts is not pleasant to many as well.
      As for bloated, KDE4 is much faster than KDE3 but you wouldnt know that.

      As for Dolphin, I was a Konq lover but Dolphin is both sleek AND powerfuul

      My only problem is with the search which is still too convoluted.

  4. @Rob I dont have a Mac. I use Linux Mint and have been for a couple of years. I have tried many different distros over the last few years and people who claim that KDE is better than Gnome never mention why. They just say that because it looks and feels most like Windows.
    In my opinion, it takes longer to do things in KDE than in Gnome, even the most basic things.
    You sound quite frustrated… KDE not working out for you ;-)

    1. @Abhilash:
      “people who claim that KDE is better than Gnome never mention why”
      KDE tries to supply the user with features, integration and configurability (that’s what you mix up with bloat). And that’s exactly why people who say KDE is bloated never say _why_, they’ve found KDE to be complete and feature rich but seek for a negative slur to that. Gnome, on the other hand, tries to tout less options and difficulty of configuring as a good thing. To me this sounds like the tired old argument that less choice is better, and that all those different distro’s are a bad thing.

      “They just say that because it looks and feels most like Windows.”
      Yes, this is something Gnome people _like_ to say about KDE. But they then fail to explain what’s bad about Windows that KDE is emulating.

      “In my opinion, it takes longer to do things in KDE than in Gnome, even the most basic things.”
      Opinions are nothing but a bias if you don’t have the motivations to back them up. You probably had a look at KDE and quickly had your prejudice confirmed when you didn’t know your way around it. Why don’t you give us an example?

      “You sound quite frustrated… KDE not working out for you ;-)”
      Très drôle… But ask yourself this: why’re you trolling KDE-centric articles?

      1. @Jaap I am the last one to troll any forum. Even my own blog.
        What configurability are you talking about in KDE that does not exist in Gnome?

        As to what I faced problems with in KDE: Frankly I admit that I did not spend too much time on it, only about 2 days or so and I was looking for flaws.

        One of the things I couldn’t find was the place to save my wifi password so that it didnt ask me every time I booted in.

        Launchers created on the desktop didn’t retain their icons.

        After using Mint KDE for 2 days I still feel that Mint Gnome is easier to use.

  5. Were I to return to KDE, I’d find this of interest. It doesn’t, however, make up for the ruthless way in which KDE3.x was degraded into KDE4.

  6. there is something wrong with the formating
    Where it says:
    ” There are four possible panels: Places, Folders, Information, and Terminal. ”

    the first 2 do not appear
    (but do get copied with klipper)
    This occurs with both FF and Opera 10

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