Alternatives to Nautilus on a Gnome desktop

In Experimentation on July 25, 2009 at 11:41 am

Nautilus is the default file manager on the Gnome desktop. It has improved in leaps and bounds over the years, yet there are certain areas where more work is needed.

After one too many crashes trying to drag-and-drop folders, I had the motivation I needed to sit down to search and evaluate alternatives. I didn’t find any truly compelling alternatives, but a number of equally flawed replacements.

Thunar is the file manager for the Xfce desktop environment. It has the look and feel of a Gnome application, and is a worthy replacement for Nautilus.

sudo apt-get install thunar

Dolphin is the KDE file manager. As expected, it looks a bit alien in a Gnome environment. However, if you’re willing to overlook this, it can be a great replacement for Nautilus. Personally, I find it more usable than Nautilus and the best replacement among the lot in this list. Dolphin does not pull in a ton of dependencies, but if you want to keep your system clean of KDE libraries then obviously this option is not for you.

sudo apt-get install dolphin

A stand-alone file manager. Lightweight, fast. Not much to say except to try it out and see if you like it.

sudo apt-get install pcmanfm

The file manager for the ROX desktop environment. This probably is the fastest and lightest replacement you can find; if speed is your primary concern, this is the alternative for you. It didn’t appeal to me. I found it’s behaviour of resizing the window to fit the contents of the folder a bit disconcerting. Your mileage may vary. Again, the best option is to try it and discard if you don’t like it.  If you are so inclined, you can also integrate Rox-filer in place of Nautilus in Gnome.

sudo apt-get install rox-filer

Two-paned File Managers

Two-paned file managers are not really my cup of tea, but if you’re a fan of Midnight Commander and the like, you might consider these options too:

The KDE version of the two-paned file manager. Obviously it does not look native on a Gnome desktop, but is quite surprisingly usable.

sudo apt-get install krusader

The Gnome version. Does not give the impression of a finished product.

sudo apt-get install gnome-commander

I tried out different alternatives each for limited periods, and at the end uninstalled the packages I don’t intend to use.

Barring obvious functionality and usability concerns, file manager preferences are dictated by quite personal tastes and what works for you will not be obvious till you actually use the software for a while. Also, your desktop environment dictates an application’s look and feel, and it may look significantly different from what you see in screen-shots on other sites.

For these reasons, I’d recommend you try out the application yourself.

Once you’ve tried and discarded an option, do not forget to uninstall the package completely.

sudo apt-get --purge remove pkg_to_uninstall

Versions: Nautilus 2.26.2


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