Ubuntu – How to prompt users with a GUI dialog box to choose file/directory path, via the command-line

command lineguiprompt

Suppose I have a script like this:

(The example depicts an rysnc use case)

echo -n "Enter Source Directory:"
read srcdir
echo -n "Enter Destination Directory:"
read dstdir
rsync -av --delete "$srcdir" "$dstdir"

The idea here is to prompt the user to enter the "Source" and "Destination" directories for rsync to work with. As is, the user will have to manually enter /path/to/directory/ via the command-line.

Instead, I want to prompt the user to enter the paths through a GUI interface.

Something like this:

What commands can I use to prompt the user with a GUI selection window that returns the file path to the command-line?

Best Answer

You can use this for files:

zenity --file-selection

and this for folders:

zenity --file-selection --directory

for usage, run:

zenity --help-general
zenity --help-file-selection

Generally it matches the current theme (for GTK window managers anyway), on my machine with a modded version of Zukitwo 3.8 it looks like this:

One way of using it is like this:

echo "you selected $(zenity --file-selection)"

Which would result in you selected /path/to/file.

You can also use options to set an appropriate title, and the directory it starts in - With your rsync use case, for example:

zenity --file-selection --directory --title="Choose rsync source directory" --filename=$HOME/Desktop/

For files, you can also specify a filetype to select - e.g:

zenity --file-selection --file-filter='PDF files (pdf) | *.pdf' --title="Select a PDF file"

NOTE: You can also use YAD, a fork of Zenity that has loads more features.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/y-ppa-manager
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install yad


For the most part you can use it the same way - for the file browser:

yad --file-selection

and for the help page:

yad --help-all

Though at the time (around version 26?), it had not been updated to match the new GTK 3.14+ interface (zenity had) - it has more features, but check compatibility (based on documentation it should work on GTK+ >= 2.16.0