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.

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