XDG user directories

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User directories are a set of common user directories located within the $HOME directory, including Documents, Downloads, Music, and Desktop. Identified by unique icons within a file manager, they will commonly be automatically sourced by numerous programs and applications. xdg-user-dirs is a program that will automatically generate these directories. See the freedesktop.org website for further information.

Tip: This program will be especially helpful for those who wish to use a file manager to manage their desktop for a Window manager such as Openbox, as it will also automatically create a ~/Desktop directory.

Installation

Install package xdg-user-dirs from Official Repositories.

Creating default directories

To create a full suite of localized default user directories within the $HOME directory, enter the following command:

$ xdg-user-dirs-update
Tip: To force the creation of English-named directories, LC_ALL=C xdg-user-dirs-update can be used.

When executed, it will also automatically:

  • Create a local ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs configuration file: used by applications to find and use home directories specific to an account.
  • Create a global /etc/xdg/user-dirs.defaults configuration file: used by applications to find and use home directories generally.
  • Create a local ~/.config/user-dirs.locale configuration file: used to set the language according to the locale in use.

Creating custom directories

Note: As with any configuration file, local settings will always override global settings. It will also be necessary to manually create any new custom directories.

Both the local ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs and global /etc/xdg/user-dirs.defaults configuration files use the following format to point to user directories:

XDG_DIRNAME_DIR="$HOME/directory_name"

A complete configuration file may also contain multiple entries:

XDG_DESKTOP_DIR="$HOME/Desktop"
XDG_DOWNLOAD_DIR="$HOME/Downloads"
XDG_TEMPLATES_DIR="$HOME/Templates"
XDG_PUBLICSHARE_DIR="$HOME/Public"
XDG_DOCUMENTS_DIR="$HOME/Documents"
XDG_MUSIC_DIR="$HOME/Music"
XDG_PICTURES_DIR="$HOME/Pictures"
XDG_VIDEOS_DIR="$HOME/Videos"

As xdg-user-dirs will source the local configuration file to point to the appropriate user directories, it is therefore possible to edit it in order specify custom folders. For example, in the following example, a custom folder for the XDG_DOWNLOAD_DIR variable has been created called Internet, and ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs has been edited accordingly:

XDG_DOWNLOAD_DIR="$HOME/Internet"

When downloading files from a web-browser, the default folder used for downloading will now be Internet. Alternatively, it is also possible to specify custom folders using the command line. The syntax of this command is:

$ xdg-user-dirs-update --set XDG_NAME path/to/custom_folder

For example, the following command will produce the same results as the above configuration file edit:

$ xdg-user-dirs-update --set DOWNLOAD ~/Internet

The names of the xdg templates are DESKTOP, DOWNLOAD, TEMPLATES, PUBLICSHARE, DOCUMENTS, MUSIC, PICTURES, and VIDEOS.

Querying configured directories

Once set, any user directory can be viewed with xdg-user-dir. For example, the following command will specify the location of the Templates directory, which of course corresponds to the XDG_TEMPLATES_DIR variable in the local configuration file:

$ xdg-user-dir TEMPLATES