freeware, software

Restoring the File Explorer Appearance on Linux Mint (no more ’98 look)

If you’ve played with Linux Mint long enough, you’ll eventually become aware of a rather annoying issue when browsing files: At some seemingly random point, you may hear a sweet bell sound (no kidding) and your file browser/explorer suddenly looks ugly. i.e. Your folders have these antiquated-looking tan appearance and the nav panel looks like something out of Windows 98… (maybe not quite that bad, but you get the idea). There’s a way to get those shiny green folders back, and here’s how I did it… without restarting the OS.

Thanks to the guys on Ubuntu forums whose posts (in this thread) helped me figure this out.

The issue stems from the fact that Linux Mint has two file explorers built-in: nemo and nautilus. The former seems to bootstrap the latter somehow as you’ll see eventually, even though it’s a stand-alone program.

Nautilus is responsible for the pretty-looking appearance, and it happens to be unstable in certain regards. I’ve never been able to pin-point what causes it to die (though there seem to be many different, unrelated causes). When it does, a sweet little “logout” sound is played and the entire folder manager changes appearance. What you are looking at now isn’t nautilus, it’s nemo. It’s an ugly duckling, or clown fish if you prefer, but its there so you don’t lose what you’re doing.

Restarting Cinnamon won’t work, as it just reloads nemo. Closing nemo instances (the folders you have open) won’t work because it’s still running. To end the madness, we need to restart things manually.

  1. Open a terminal. You can right-click on the desktop and click “Open Terminal” or even right-click in a folder and click “Open in Terminal” from the drop-down menu.
  2. Type in “nemo -q” and press Enter. This kills nemo, and will also kill your window headers (funny what the computer world looks like without window management).
  3. Type in “nautilus -q” and press Enter. This kills nautilus. This shouldn’t be necessary at all, but in case you’re having a slightly different issue, this may help.
  4. Type in “nautilus . &” and press Enter. This restarts nautilus. You’ll notice, of course, things aren’t fully restored: You’re still missing a top menu bar and some buttons on the regular menu bar.
  5. Type in “nemo . &” and press Enter. This restarts nemo. Everything should look the way it was.

That last step is what’s so bizarre. When nemo is gone, the launchers (e.g. the bottom menu bar) launch nautilus. When nemo is on, the launchers launch nemo. Nemo seems to be using nautilus for appearance, but when nautilus dies, nemo doesn’t bother rebooting it nor does it detect it if restarted, so nemo must die and be restored to new life so that it can latch onto its better-looking twin. Or so it seems.

Major Pitfall: This won’t work if you’ve called cinnamon replace and it hasn’t finished. It will only crash with cinnamon. If you’ve attempted to use cinnamon replace and your terminal hasn’t returned to you the colored command-entry line (you know, the one with the $ at the end), then it hasn’t finished, and things will go sour if it’s canceled.

Tip: In case you forget, to open another terminal from the terminal, type in the command:

gnome-terminal . &

This creates a new terminal as a separate process.


If you find any issues with this solution, please don’t hesitate to post them. As I haven’t gone through to verify this procedure works in every scenario, I’d love to hear further information.

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