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Open the system file manager and select files in it

Project description

Show in File Manager

Code style: black

Show in File Manager is a Python package to open the system file manager and optionally select files in it. The point is not to open the files, but to select them in the file manager, thereby highlighting the files and allowing the user to quickly do something with them.

Plenty of programs expose this functionality in their user interface. On Windows terms like "Show in Windows Explorer", "Show in Explorer", and "Reveal in Explorer" are common. Cross-platform programs use terms like "Open Containing Folder" or "Open in File Browser", all doing something similar:

Show in Windows Explorer Open containing folder

Commands like these open the file manager, ideally with the files selected:

Peony file manager

With Show in File Manager, your Python program or command line script can do the same, with minimum effort from you. Although this package provides several functions to assist in identifying the the system's file managers, in most circumstances you need to call only one function, the function show_in_file_manager, and it should just work.

This package aspires to be platform independent, but it currently supports only Windows 10/11, Linux, WSL1 and WSL2, and macOS. It works with 19 supported file managers.

Install and run

python3 -m pip install show-in-file-manager

Generate the man page:

python3 build_pandoc

You can import it as a Python module:

from showinfm import show_in_file_manager

Or run it from the command line:

showinfilemanager file1.txt file2.txt
showinfilemanager.exe D:\Documents\*.docx

More examples are below.


This package solves the following problems:

  • What is the operating system's stock file manager?
  • What is the user's choice of file manager?
  • Is the user's choice of file manager set correctly?
  • How do I supply command line arguments to select files in the file manager?
  • What about file managers with limited features?

There is no standard command line argument with which to open an operating system's file manager and select files at a specified path. Moreover, not all file managers support specifying files to select — if you try to pass a file to some file managers, they will open the file instead of selecting it, or worse yet display an error message. Some file managers will only allow selecting one file at a time from the command line.

On desktop Linux the problem is especially acute, as Linux provides a plethora of file managers, with widely varying command line arguments. Moreover, the user's default file manager can sometimes be incorrectly set to nonsensical values, such as an AppImage or Flatpak of a random application.

Windows is not without its share of limitations. Windows Explorer will select only one file at a time when called from the command line, and the argument must be quoted in a way peculiar to it. Rather than using the command line to launch Windows Explorer, this package instead uses the Win32 API to programmatically select multiple files. Using the Win32 API is not possible when calling Windows Explorer from within WSL — this package will launch explorer.exe using the command line under WSL. Calling Windows Explorer from within WSL is not trivial due to differences in URI and path formats between Windows and Linux.

Supported file managers

This package takes care of calling the file managers with the correct arguments for you. The command line arguments shown here are for reference.

All but two file managers accept URIs like file:///home/user/file.txt in addition to regular paths like /home/user/file.txt.

File Manager Used by Command line Can Select Files Handles Multiple Files / Directories Notes
Windows File Explorer Windows 10 / 11, Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) explorer.exe /select,URI No space between comma and URI. Can specify only one URI via the command line, but multiple files can be specified via the Win32 API.
Finder macOS open --reveal URI
Nautilus (Files) Gnome, Pop!_OS, Zorin nautilus --select URI1 URI2 Multiple URIs open multiple Nautilus windows. See issue #1955.
Dolphin KDE dolphin --select URI1 URI2 A regression in recent KDE releases means --select is ignored, but it is fixed in KDE Neon testing.
Nemo Linux Mint nemo URI1 URI2 Multiple URIs open multiple Nemo windows. Cannot select folders.
Elementary OS Files Elementary OS io.elementary.files URI1 URI2 Multiple URIs open multiple Files tabs. Cannot select folders.
Deepin File Manager Deepin dde-file-manager --show-item URI1 URI2 Multiple URIs open multiple Deepin File Manager tabs.
Peony Ubuntu Kylin peony --show-items URI1 URI2
Caja Mate caja --select URI1 URI2 Starting with 1.26, can select a file or folder using --select. In all versions, specifying a file without this switch causes an error. Multiple URIs open multiple Caja windows. See issue #1547.
Thunar XFCE thunar URI1 URI2 Specifying a file opens it. Multiple URIs open multiple Thunar windows.
PCManFM LXDE pcmanfm URI Specifying a file opens it. Multiple URIs open only the first URI.
PCManFM-Qt LXQt pcmanfm-qt URI1 URI2 Specifying a file opens it. Multiple URIs open multiple PCManFM-Qt windows.
CutefishOS File Manager CutefishOS cutefish-filemanager URI Specifying a file causes File Manager to attempt to open it as if it is a folder. Multiple URIs open only the first URI.
Index Linux index URI1 URI2 Specifying a file has no effect. Multiple URIs open multiple tabs, in addition to the user's home directory, which is always opened.
Double Commander Windows, Linux doublecmd URI1 URI2 A double panel file manager accepting up to two URIs. Cannot select folders.
Krusader KDE krusader URI A double panel file manager accepting one URI. Two URIs can be specified using --left and --right, but that is unsupported by this package. Specifying a file causes an error.
SpaceFM Linux spacefm URI1 URI2 Specifying a file opens it.
fman Windows, Linux, macOS fman path1 path2 A double panel file manager accepting up to two paths. Cannot select folders. Does not accept URIs.
Insight Lumina Desktop lumina-fm path1 path2 Specifying a file displays it in the left pane as if it were a folder. Does not accept URIs.


Open the file manager with the files to select

def show_in_file_manager(
    path_or_uri: Optional[Union[str, Sequence[str]]] = None,
    open_not_select_directory: Optional[bool] = True,
    file_manager: Optional[str] = None,
    verbose: bool = False,
    debug: bool = False,
) -> None:
    Open the file manager and show zero or more directories or files in it.

    The path_or_uri is a sequence of items, or a single item. An item can
    be regular path, or a URI.

    On non-Windows platforms, regular paths will be converted to URIs when 
    passed as command line arguments to the file manager, because some file 
    managers do not handle regular paths correctly. However, URIs will be 
    convereted to paths to handle file managers that do not accepts URIs.
    On Windows, Explorer is called using the Win32 API.
    On WSL1, all paths are opened using Windows Explorer. URIs and can be 
    specified using Linux or Windows formats. All formats are automatically 
    converted to use the Windows URI format. 
    WSL2 functions the same as WSL1, except if the WSL2 instance has a Linux 
    file manager installed. On these systems, if a path on Linux is 
    specified, that file manager will be used instead of Windows Explorer. You 
    can override this default behavior by using the parameter file_manager. 

    The most common use of this function is to call it without specifying
    the file manager to use, which defaults to the value returned by

    For file managers unable to select files to display, the file manager
    will instead display the contents of the path.

    For file managers that can handle file selections, but only one at time,
    multiple file manager windows will be opened.

    If you specify a file manager executable and this package does not
    recognize it, it will be called with the files as the only command line

    :param path_or_uri: zero or more files or directories to open, specified
     as a single URI or valid path, or a sequence of URIs/paths.
    :param open_not_select_directory: if the URI or path is a directory and
     not a file, open the directory itself in the file manager, rather than
     selecting it and displaying it in its parent directory.
    :param file_manager: executable name to use. If not specified, then
     valid_file_manager() will determine which file manager to use.
    :param allow_conversion: allow this function to automatically convert paths
     and URIs to the format needed by the file manager that will be called. Set
     to False if passing non-standard URIs. Ignored when running under WSL.
    :param verbose: if True print command to be executed before launching
    :param debug: if True print debugging information to stderr     

Other functions mentioned below are not necessary to call, but are provided for convenience and control.

Determine the most sensible choice of file manager

def valid_file_manager() -> str:
    Get user's file manager, falling back to using sensible defaults.

    The user's choice of file manager is the default choice. However, this is
    not always set correctly. On Linux, it most likely is because the user's
    distro has not correctly set the default file manager. If the user's choice
    is unrecognized by this package, then reject it and choose the standard file
    manager for the detected desktop environment.

    All exceptions are caught, except those if this platform is not supported by
    this package.

    :return: If the user's default file manager is set and it is recognized 
     as valid by this package, then return it. Otherwise return the stock file
     manager, if it exists.

This package makes opinionated choices about the most sensible choice of file manager:

  1. A file manager is valid if and only if this package recognizes it, e.g. nautilus, explorer.exe.
  2. If the user's choice of file manager is valid (i.e. an actual file manager, not some random application), that file manager is used.
  3. If the user's choice of file manager is invalid or could not be determined, the desktop or OS's stock file manager is used.

Get the operating system's stock file manager

def stock_file_manager() -> str:
    Get stock file manager for this operating system / desktop.

    On Windows the default is `explorer.exe`. On Linux the first step
    is to determine which desktop is running, and from that lookup its
    default file manager. On macOS, the default is finder, accessed
    via the command 'open'.

    Exceptions are not caught.

    :return: executable name

Get the user's choice of file manager

def user_file_manager() -> str:
    Get the file manager as set by the user.

    Exceptions are not caught.

    :return: executable name

On Windows and macOS, for now only the stock file manager is returned. That could change in future releases.

On Linux, the file manager is probed using xdg-mime query default inode/directory, and the resulting .desktop file is parsed to extract the file manager command.


From Python, show file or directory in file manager, using the most sensible choice of file manager:

# Windows path, in Windows or from within WSL
# Windows URI, in Windows or from within WSL
# Mixing Windows and Linux style URIs and paths, from within WSL
      'file:///C:/Documents/myfile.txt', '/mnt/d/Data/database.sqlite', 
      '/home/user/.profile', 'file:/etc/fstab'
   ), file_manager='explorer.exe'
# Linux path
# Linux multiple paths
show_in_file_manager(('/home/user/myfile.txt', '/home/user/other file.txt'))
# Mixing Linux URI and Linux path
   ('file:///home/user/other%20file.txt', '/home/otheruser/.bashrc')
# Simply open the file manager
# Open the file manager at a directory
# Select the user directory in the home folder
show_in_file_manager('/home/user', open_not_select_directory=False)

Open the system home directory (/home on Linux, /Users on macOS) and select the user's home folder in it:

showinfilemanager -s ~

Open the user's home directory directly, without selecting it:

showinfilemanager ~

Select files in two different directories, and open a third directory:

showinfilemanager myfile.txt ../anotherfile.txt ../../

The previous command will open three different instances of the file manager, because of three different directories (macOS users may need to adjust finder preferences in order to display multiple finder windows).


  • Its behavior in a confined Linux environment like a Flatpak, Snap, or AppImage is untested.


Please file issues or pull requests to improve the code. Discuss improvements in the GitHub discussion section for this project.

The initial source of this code is from Rapid Photo Downloader.




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