The Ubuntu desktop (aka GNOME) is an incredibly user-friendly environment. All of the default applications make it easy for any level of user to work efficiently and reliably. And if you want to include an extra layer of security to your workflow, there’s a piece of software you can add to the built-in file manager (GNOME Files) that makes it easy to encrypt and decrypt files and folders.

This process can be used on any Linux distribution that uses the GNOME desktop. Depending upon your package manager, the process of installation will vary (e.g., apt vs yum). I’ll be demonstrating on a fresh installation of Ubuntu Desktop 18.04.


You need to install just one package. Open up the terminal window and issue the command:

sudo apt install seahorse-nautilus

Once this command completes, restart Nautilus with the command:

nautilus -q


Now you’re ready to encrypt. Open up the file manager and navigate to the folder or file you want to encrypt. Right-click on it and you should see an Encrypt entry (Figure A).

Figure A

Select the Encrypt entry. If you have yet to create an encryption key, you’ll be prompted to create one (Figure B).

Figure B

You can also simply use a shared passphrase for the encryption. This is a good choice if you plan on sharing the file or folder with another user (and don’t want to worry about exchanging encryption keys). If you opt to go the key route, click Create Or Import A Key. This will open the Seahorse app, where you can walk through the process of creating your PGP key.

SEE: How to encrypt files on a Ubuntu server with Tomb (TechRepublic)

Once your key is created, go back to the file manager, right-click the file or folder, and select Encrypt. This will open a new window, where you can select the newly created encryption key (Figure C).

Figure C

After you select the key, you can optionally sign the message by selecting a key from the dropdown. Once you’re finished, click OK. If this is a folder, you will be asked if you want to encrypt each file contained within or pack them together in a compressed file (Figure D).

Figure D

You will then be prompted to enter the passphrase for the selected encryption key. Upon successful authentication, the file/folder will be encrypted and you can do with that encrypted file what you will.

When you need to decrypt that file, all you have to do is right-click it, select Decrypt, and (when prompted) type the encryption passphrase.

Easy encryption

Setting up the ability to encrypt/decrypt files and folders on the Linux desktop doesn’t get much easier. If you’re looking to add another layer of security to your desktop usage, this might be just what you’re looking for.