How to Wirelessly Transfer Android Files to a Linux Desktop

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Do you have an Android phone and a Linux desktop? You can transfer files wirelessly, send texts from your PC, and control your phone from your computer. It’s like Windows 10’s Your Phone app for Linux!

Android and Linux Integration

KDE Connect is a slick and richly featured piece of software that integrates your Android handset right into your KDE desktop environment.

It provides many features such as two-way notifications between your phone and computer, wireless transfer of files in both directions, and the sending of SMS texts from your computer. KDE Connect is an integral part of the KDE desktop environment.

GSConnect is a version of the software developed for the GNOME desktop environment. It is built as a GNOME extension. GNOME users must install GSConnect.

To take care of the Android side of things, KDE and GNOME users alike must install and use the KDE Connect Android app.

The computer you are going to pair your Android phone to does not have to be using Wi-Fi. It can be plugged into the network using an ethernet cable. It must be on the same network as your handset, but that’s the only requirement.

The Installation Steps

Installing GSConnect is straightforward, but the steps must be followed in the correct order.

  1. Install the KDE Connect app on your Android phone.
  2. If you’re using Google Chrome, install the chrome-gnome-shell Linux software.
  3. Configure Chrome or Firefox to integrate with the GNOME shell.
  4. Use Chrome or Firefox to install the GSConnect GNOME extension.
  5. Pair your Android handset to your KDE or GNOME desktop environment.

KDE users only need to do the first and last steps. GNOME users who are using Firefox as their browser do not need to do step two.

Installing the Android App

On your Android handset, open the Play Store and search for “KDE Connect.” When the app has been found, click the green “Install” button.

KDE Connect on the Play Store

When the installation has completed, you will be able to find the “KDE Connect” icon in the Apps Launcher.

KDE Icon in the apps launcher

If you use Google Chrome as your browser, you will need to install the chrome-gnome-shellintegration software. If you’re using Firefox, you don’t need to do this, so skip this step and go straight to the section titled Configure Firefox to Manage GNOME Extensions.

Use apt-get to install this package onto your system if you’re using Ubuntu or another Debian-based distribution. On other Linux distributions, use your Linux distribution’s package management tool instead.

sudo apt-get install chrome-gnome-shell
sudo apt-get install chrome-gnome-shell in a terminal window

Configure Chrome to Manage GNOME Extensions

Open Google Chrome and browse to the Chrome Web Store. Search for “GNOME Shell integration.”

When you see the GNOME Shell integration extension click the blue “Add to Chrome” button.

Google Chrome web store

You will be asked to confirm that you want to add the extension to Chrome. Click the “Add extension” button.

Confirm adding an extension to Chrome

When the extension has been added to Chrome, you will see the GNOME footprint icon in the top right of the Chrome toolbar.

GNOME Icon in the Chrome toolbar

You should now jump to the Install the GSConnect GNOME Desktop Extension section, below.

Configure Firefox to Manage GNOME Extensions

Open Firefox and browse to the Firefox Add-Ons website. Search for “GNOME Shell integration.”

When you see the GNOME Shell integration extension click the blue “Add to Firefox” button.

GNOME Shell integrations in Firefox Add-Ons

You will be asked to confirm that you want to add the extension to Firefox. Click the blue “Add” button.

Confirm adding extension to Firefox

When the extension has been added to Firefox, you will see the GNOME footprint icon in the top right of the Firefox toolbar.

GNOME Icon in the Firefox toolbar

We can now add the GSConnect GNOME desktop extension.

Install the GSConnect GNOME Desktop Extension

In Google Chrome or Firefox, click the GNOME footprint icon in the top right of the toolbar. Search for “GSConnect” and click the “GSConnect” entry when it appears.

Searching for GSConnect

Click the On / Off button so that the blue “On” section is showing. This downloads, installs, and then activates the GSConnect GNOME extension.

GSConnect ON/OFF button

You may now close your browser.

Verify Mobile Devices is in the System Menu

Open the GNOME system menu. You should see a new entry in the menu titled “Mobile Devices.” If you cannot see this new menu entry, repeat the steps described above.

Mobile Devices menu entry

Pairing Your Android Phone and Your Computer

Click the Mobile Devices menu entry. The menu will expand. Click the “Mobile Settings” menu entry.

Mobile Devices menu expanded

A window will appear which has the name of your computer as its title. If the KDE Connect app is running on your Android phone, you will see it listed in this window.

Window with unpaired device

On your Android phone, start the KDE Connect app if it is not running. When the app opens, you should see the name of your computer listed as an available device. In this example, it is “howtogeek.”

KDA Connect app with unpaired computer

Tap the name of your computer. The app will tell you the device is not paired. Press the blue “Request pairing” button.

KDE Connect request pairing screen

A Pair Request dialog box will appear on your computer. It will tell you the name of the Android phone that is requesting the connection. In this example, it is Honor.

Click the “Accept” button to accept the pairing request.

Pairing confirmation dialog

Your KDE Connect app will display a set of functions that are now available.

KDE Connect main menu

Your Android handset will be listed as connected on your computer.

Android handset listed as connected on computer

If you click the name of your Android phone the dialog will show you a set of options and settings that you can use to fine-tune the interworking between your computer and your mobile phone.

Honor smartphone settings

The Mobile Devices menu entry in the GNOME system menu will be replaced by a menu entry showing the name of the Android phone that has been paired. Clicking that menu entry will reveal a sub-menu with new functionality in it.

GNOME system menu with a paired device

Your two devices are now paired.

It’s a Lot Simpler with KDE

KDE Connect is an integral part of KDE. Because of the smooth integration between the two, the setup process is effortless compared to the GNOME process.

Open the system menu in KDE. Click the “Applications” icon.

KDE System menu

Click the “Settings” menu item.

KDE System Applications Menu

Click the “System Settings” menu entry.

KDE Settings Menu

The System Settings dialog will appear.

Scroll down until you can see the KDE Connect menu item. Click the “KDE Connect” menu item.

KDE System Settings dialog

On your Android phone, start the KDE Connect app if it is not running. When the app opens, you should see the name of your computer listed as an available device.

KDA Connect app with unpaired computer

Tap the name of your computer. The app will tell you the device is not paired. Press the blue “Request Pairing” button.

KDE Connect request pairing screen

Accept the pairing request on your computer. Your Android handset will now be listed as a paired device in the System Settings window.

System Settings with a paired Android device

Click the name of your phone. The System Settings dialog will list settings and functions related to your paired device.

KDE paired device settings and functions

Your Android phone and your computer are now paired.

Finishing Up the Android Settings

The KDE Connect app needs permission from you to allow some of its plugins to operate. Tap each plugin to make sure it has the permissions it requires.

KDE Connect plugin permissions

For example, tapping the “Notification sync” plugin will take you to the Notification access screen. Locate “KDE Connect” in the list and then switch the toggle to the on position.

Android Notifications access screen

Android will ask you to confirm you wish to grant the permission to KDE Connect. Tap the “Allow” button.

Enable KDE Connect verification options

The KDE Connect slider button will now be blue indicating that the permission was granted.

KDE connect with notification permission granted

Continue granting permissions for the plugins you intend to use.  As each plugin that requires permissions is addressed, it is removed from the list.

To return to the settings of any plugin tap the three-dot menu icon.

three-dot menu highlighted

Then tap the “Plugin settings” menu item.

Plugin settings menu item

All of the plugins will be listed and can be administered from here.

Plugin list

Android Storage Locations

The Filesystem expose plugin makes a location in your Android phone accessible to your computer. This allows files to be transferred to your mobile phone from your computer. If you only want to send files from your Android phone to your computer you need not bother with this setting.

To set up a storage location, tap the “Filesystem expose” item.

Filesystem expose menu item

On the Filesystem expose settings screen, tap the blue plus (+) sign.

Add storage location screen

Tap the “Click to select” option in the Add storage location menu.

Select storage location options

Your Android phone may offer several storage locations to choose from. The Android phone used to research this article only provided one, the Downloads folder. Tap the location you wish to use and then tap “Select.”

Android downloads folder

Tap the Display name menu entry and provide a name for the storage location. In our example, this is “downloads.” Tap “OK.”

Providing a name for the storage location

Downloads will now appear on the Filesystem expose settings screen.

Downloads in the filesystem expose settings screen

Transferring FIles to Your Computer

Tap the “Send files” option in KDE Connect.

Send files option in KDE Connect

KDE Connect will open the default storage location, which was previously set to Downloads. We have a single file in this location. To transfer it to the paired computer, tap the file.

One file in the Android downloads folder

You will see a transfer notification popup on your computer, informing you that the transfer completed successfully.

Transfer OK notification

Transferring Multiple FIles

You can transfer many files at once, and from different locations on your phone.

If you want to transfer files from somewhere other than your default storage location, tap the “hamburger” menu.

The hamburger menu in KDE Connect

A side-panel appears that allows you to browse throughout the storage on your Android.

Navigation side-pane in KDE Connect

If you wanted to send images, you’d tap the “Images” icon. If you wanted to transfer audio files, you’d tap the “Audio” icon.

Let’s say we’ve tapped Images. You can select multiple files by tapping each file in turn. A white tick in a blue box appears on the selected files.

Multiple files selected in KDE Connect

To transfer the files, tap the word “open.”

Open option highlighted

By default, the transferred files arrive on your computer in the Downloads directory.

Transferred files in the Downloads folder of the computer

KDE File Manager Integration – Dolphin

The KDE file manager Dolphin has integration with the KDE Connect app as soon as your Android phone is paired with the computer.

If you launch Dolphin, you’ll see your Android phone listed under Devices.

Android phone showing in Dolphin

Click on your phone’s name to see the default storage location that was set up in the KDE Connect app. Dropping files in this directory will transfer them to your Android phone.

Android device selected in Dolphin

GNOME File Manager Integration – Nautilus

There’s a bit more work to be done to achieve the same thing with GNOME. The results are just as good, though.

First, we need to install the Nautilus and KDE integration provider. Close any Nautilus windows and then type the following command in a terminal window, and press Enter.

sudo apt install python-nautilus gir1.2-nautilus-3.0 sshfs
sudo apt install python-nautilus gir1.2-nautilus-3.0 sshfs in a terminal window

Open the System Menu, click the name of your Android phone and then click the “Mount” menu option.

Mount option in the system menu

Open a Nautilus file manager window. You will see an entry for your Android phone. It won’t be listed by name—that’s a perk for KDE users—it will be listed by the IP address it has on your Wi-Fi network.

In this example, it is 192.168.4.24.

Android phone mounted in Nautilus

Selecting the IP address that represents your Android phone allows you to browse to the default storage location of the phone, and to transfer files by dropping them into that directory.

That Felt Like a Marathon

Once you start to experiment and explore the features of GSConnect and KDE Connect, you’ll see that it was worth it. The level of integration is impressive, feels professional, and is genuinely useful.

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