I plugged my cellphone to my Ubuntu laptop via a USB cable and somehow Shotwell was invoked and all my photos were imported. Now I have a Shotwell library which I do not want and I am concerned that it takes space.

(Note: My intention was to move a single photo from the cellphone and I did not intend to authorize Shotwell to import from the laptop hard disk but for some reason it does that.)

The FAQ does not make it explicit whether this library takes space or if it merely indexes to my existing photos in their existing location and that the index itself takes little space.

I want to Control-A in the library of photos and right click to the context menu and "move to trash" if my photos will still be preserved in their original locations. If there is a better way to accomplish deletion of the library I would like to know. For example: apt-get remove and apt-get purge are possibilities I would welcome but since I did not install Shotwell (I think it is present by default in Ubuntu) I am not familiar with the package name that would apply to the apt-get command.

2 Answers 2


You can Right-click > Show in File Manager (Shift+Ctrl+M) on any photo in Shotwell to find out where the files are stored on your local drive.

From my own Shotwell library, I can see that all photos that were imported from the SD card from my camera ended up in /user/home/Pictures..., sorted as .../2019/10/04.

Based on the options available, it seem that there are two options to remove the photos from the Shotwell library:

  • Edit > Remove From Library (Shift+Delete)
  • Edit > Move to Shotwell's Bin (Delete)

The first option (Remove From Library) also gives you the choice to also move the item to your desktop trash.

The second, simply moves the item to the Rubbish Bin Library within Shotwell itself.

Lastly, if you do not want the photos on your laptop at all, you can remove them from File Manager directly.

For a visual reference, you have two options:

Remove from Library and Move to Shotwell's Bin

The first will give you the following options, and the option marked in red will remove the image from Shotwell and remove it completely from the folder it was imported into.

The Destructive Option

If you choose to Remove and Trash any file, and decide you want it back, you will need to recover it from your distributions Rubbish Bin folder through File Manager.

  • Strangely Shotwell did not create /home/user/Pictures but it did create /home/user/2019. MIne is empty but perhaps that is because I never used an SD card.
    – H2ONaCl
    Oct 10, 2019 at 22:51
  • That's probably just how Shotwell was configured. You can see where it has been set to put the imported files under Edit > Preferences. Oct 10, 2019 at 22:54
  • The key thing to understand seems to be that Control-A, Edit, Remove From Library gives 3 choices. "Cancel", "Remove From Library", and "Remove and Trash Files". Whether "trashing" deletes from the 2019 folder or the original location is unclear to me.
    – H2ONaCl
    Oct 10, 2019 at 22:56
  • Neither. Shotwell is simply a cataloging application, much like Adobe Lightroom. It does not duplicate files on import, or delete files when you "Remove..." them from a Library, unless you select "Remove and Trash Files". Oct 10, 2019 at 22:59
  • This is confusing and seems to be a contradiction. You said "neither" meaning that "remove from library" and "remove and trash" do not delete files (from anywhere at all). Then you said "unless" you make it delete files via "remove and trash".
    – H2ONaCl
    Oct 12, 2019 at 1:08

I conducted the following experiment. I found an image in File Manager that was not valuable. This might be an untrivial operation if the system is already clean. I found the same image in Shotwell's library and selected it via a click, menu bar Edit, menu item "remove", and when presented with the two choices "remove from library" and "remove and trash", the user is also presented with a dissociated warning "this cannot be undone".

I selected "remove from library". File Manager continued to indicate the presence of the image even after forcing a refresh. Proceeding without refreshing is a little naive.

Shotwell's warning in the dialog that "this cannot be undone" seems to be wrong because I still have the image so I can re-add it to the library if I choose to. Perhaps they should disambiguate: "one choice is to remove and the other irreversible choice is to remove and trash".

Despite performing a procedure that might seemingly threaten to be irreversible, I still have my original images.

Save time by clicking the blank space in the library and Control-A to select every image in the library and then proceed to perform subsequent operations on every image in the library.

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