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Android ADB file manager
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Android ADB File Manager

A command line + GUI (GTK based) Android ADB-based file manager


Recent Android releases (Honeycomb / 3.0+) replace the older USB mount protocol with the use of MTP (Massive Transfer Protocol). Unfortunately this is still very buggy and doesn't work as it should in any machine I have tested (and heard of): system slowing down to a halt when transferring large number of files, files which are there but cannot be seen by the computer... etc.

So I decided to go ahead and build a little utility that would if not fix, at least alleviate the pain of using Honeycomb devices. aafm uses ADB (one of the command line tools provided with the official Android SDK) for communicating with the Android device. This is the same method that IDEs implement.



Python with PyGTK bindings, GTK, git, and the Android SDK.

Getting these should be fairly straightforward if you're running any decent Linux distribution. If you're using Windows I believe there are next-next-next installers for everything. This leaves us with the third option which is Mac OS. Up until recently there wasn't an easy way to get any PyGTK software working in Mac OS, but turns out you can now download a binary build of PyGTK for Mac OS with which aafm works quite well!

It can be downloaded from (more info). Simply run the installer once downloaded, and then follow the instructions below as if you were running a proper Linux system.

One note though: there are a few hiccups with the Mac version, but they are mostly cosmetic and won't prevent you from enjoying the software. Feel free to help correcting them if you have the know-how!

Clone repository

Clone this repository to a place you fancy. For example, your Applications folder.

git clone git:// ~/Applications/aafm

Install the Android SDK

If it's not installed yet, download the SDK from its page and follow its instructions:

Basically (at least in Linux) just download a zip file and unpack it to a known location. In my case it's ~/Applications/android-sdk-linux_86. Once that is done, you need to make sure that the ADB tool is readily accessible from a shell (which is what aafm uses internally).

So to try that out, open a new terminal and type adb. If it works, you should get a long help message that starts with something like Android Debug Bridge version 1.0.26. If it doesn't work, you'll get something akin to adb: command not found.

In case it doesn't work, you need to add the path to ADB to the environment PATH variable. In Linux this is done by editing a file called .bashrc in your home folder (.bash_profile in Mac OS). Locate a line that looks like PATH=$PATH and make it look like this:


The line above appends ADB's path to whatever value $PATH held before. The path might be different, according to wherever you've installed the Android SDK.

For more information on ADB and a list of its features, read over here:

Also, I haven't tried it myself, but it seems that it's possible to download and build a reduced subset of the Android SDK only, including ADB and a few more tools. This doesn't require Java installed in the system. This page describes how:

Close terminal and open it again

So the changes to the PATH get current. In Mac OS you might need to log in and out too.

Configure udev rules (if in Linux)

You need to let the system know that when you connect your USB device (i.e. the tablet) it should allow you, as a non-root user, to access it. If you don't do that, you'll get a "Insufficient permissions for device" error.

This is done by adding a new file that contains so called udev rules.

For example, in Ubuntu 10.10 you would add a file in /etc/udev/rules.d/51-android.rules with the following content:

# Samsung
SUBSYSTEM=="usb", SYSFS{idVendor}=="04e8", MODE="0777"

You can find out the "idVendor" value by running lsusb in a terminal. That will output a list of the currently connected USB devices, such as for example this:

Bus 004 Device 006: ID 05ac:8218 Apple, Inc. 
Bus 004 Device 003: ID 0a5c:4500 Broadcom Corp. BCM2046B1 USB 2.0 Hub (part of BCM2046 Bluetooth)
Bus 004 Device 002: ID 05ac:0237 Apple, Inc. Internal Keyboard/Trackpad (ISO)
Bus 004 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 003 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 18d1:4e12 Google Inc. Nexus One Phone (Debug)
Bus 001 Device 002: ID 05ac:8507 Apple, Inc. 
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

Since I'd like to add support for browsing my Nexus One phone (because aafm works with every Android device that adb can connect to), I just need to look at the device with id 18d1:4e12, and add the following line to the udev rules file:

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", SYSFS{idVendor}=="18d1", MODE="0666"

Save it, and then change the file permissions:

chmod a+r /etc/udev/rules.d/51-android.rules

To make sure it worked, connect the device and try to run adb devices in a terminal. If it's working properly, you should see a list more or less like this:

List of devices attached 
4342354131444B534652	device

The numbers aren't important, the important bit is that you see device instead of ??????.

If it isn't, you might need to either disconnect the device and try again, or reload udev so that the rules are actually loaded. Try with this:

sudo /etc/init.d/udev restart

If everything else fails, try to log in and out again, or maybe even restart the system.

More information on udev rules and Android can be found on the official Android development guide:

Enable Debug mode in the device

Go to Settings → Applications → Development and make sure the USB debugging checkbox is ticked. You might get a scary warning saying debugging allows you to do nasty things--just ignore it.

Execute aafm

To execute it, cd to the place where it's been cloned:

cd ~/Applications/aafm/src/

And simply execute it:


If for some odd reason it has lost the executable permission, you can add it:

chmod +x ./

Or simply execute it using Python:

python ./

Once you're satisfied it's working, you can also make a launcher or add it to your Gnome menu, of course!

Using it

If everything works (and why shouldn't it?) you should get a window divided in two panels. The left side represents your host computer, and initially should show the files of the aafm directory, since you launched it from there. The right side represents your Android device's files --so it needs to be connected to the computer, and USB debugging must be enabled in the device. You can navigate just as you would do with your favourite file explorer. Files can be dragged from one to another panel, directories created, and files renamed (hint: right click and explore the options the contextual menu offers you!). You can also drag from Nautilus (in GNOME) into the device panel, to copy files to the device, or drag to Nautilus, for copying files from the device.

Be warned that currently the progress reporting is a bit hackish and with large files it will appear as if the window has got frozen. It hasn't--it's just waiting for the ADB transfer to finish. In the future this should be fixed, but I haven't come up with the best solution yet.


Copyright (C) 2011-2012 Soledad Penades (

This software is licensed under a GPL V3 license. Please read the accompanying LICENSE.txt file for more details, but basically, if you modify this software and distribute it, you must make your changes public too, so that everyone can benefit from your work--just as you're doing with mine.

You can also make your changes public even if you don't plan on redistributing this application, okay? Sharing is good! :-)

Change log

2012 09 25 - r5

Several bug fixes and refactoring, plus a nice addition for those using desktop systems in Linux!

  • New .desktop file and icon allows users to launch aafm from GNOME/KDE/etc menus/shells/launchers (Huulivoide). Fixes #35.
  • New script for making aafm available system-wide (Huulivoide). Fixes #35.
  • Fix/refactor copying files between host and device (sole, xisberto). Fixes #33 and #37.
  • Gracefully handle unknown uids and gids (sole and muflone). Fixes #8 and #39.

2012 03 14 - r4

Many interesting bug fixes and new features thanks to the work of Norman Rasmussen and Michał Kowalczuk. Thanks!

  • Add BusyBox support (by sammael). Fixes #11.
  • Handle device drops when there's no row present (by normanr). Fixes #9.
  • Handle symlinks on the device correctly (by normanr). Fixes #12.
  • Quote/Unquote special characters in drag&drop messages (by normanr). Fixes #10.
  • Slightly improve the README. Clarify how to find out the device Id, add link to PyGTK binary for Mac users.
  • Move the TO DO list items that were on this README file over to the issue tracker in the project's page.

2011 11 06 - r3

  • Fix issue #4: use correct path separator in device when running under Windows
  • Fix issue #5: support for finding out ownership in Windows
  • Python 3 compatibility
  • Start using REVISION file
  • revised

2011 09 30 - r2

  • Fix issue #3: ls -la fails in some devices

2011 07 18 - r1

  • First initial release; basic functionality is here!



I'm by no means a GTK/Python/ADB/Android expert. I'm just learning so this project will surely contain many things that can be improved or that are plain wrong, so feel free to clone the repository and submit pull requests :-)

In order to make your life a bit easier I'll roughly show what each file does:

  • - a class that communicates with an Android device, using ADB via shell commands. Takes care of copying and reading files, listing and parsing directories, etc.
  • - this is the GTK front-end. Takes care of building the window with the host and device panels, and issuing instructions to Aafm when the user requests something to be done.
  • - a utility class that encapsulates a GTKTreeView and some more things in order to show file listings.
  • - an awesome class developed by the guys of Quod Libet, that allows more than one element of a TreeView to be selected and dragged around.

As you can see, an GUI counterpart is missing. There was one at the beginning but I didn't redo it when I rewrote most of the code from scratch. Feel free to... you know what, if you're interested in having a CLI version.

This was initially developed in an Ubuntu Linux 10.10 system. I thought it wouldn't work on other systems, but it seems people are using it in a lot of places though. Some environments where it's known to work:

  • Ubuntu 10.10, 11.04, 11.10
  • Arch Linux
  • Windows (!!!)


I'm now using Github's issue tracker to keep track of issues, bugs and wished-for features.

If you'd like to have a certain feature or think you've found a bug that is not in the list, please add it to the issue tracker at

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