What's the best file manager for Ubuntu Gnome 14.04 Trusty?

What's wrong with Nautilus?

Nautilus (generically called "Files", just to confuse everybody) is the default file manager that comes with Ubuntu and Gnome. It's recently developed a few non-features, and removed a few useful features and although I tried to like it, I could not get on with it after a month's use.


The titlebar and toolbar have been merged into one. At first I thought, well that's efficient, but then I realised that it makes it breaks a few things that turned out to be important to my productivity:

  1. I use Close, Miminise and Maximise buttons, but Nautilus ignores this preference, giving my just Close.
  2. I have my close button on the left (I was won over to this by Ubuntu's radical move a few years back, and now I like it), but Nautilus forces me to have the close button on the right. Every time I go to close a window I go left where I expect to find it, then remember, oh, nautilus! and go right.
  3. I have configured Gnome Shell so that double click a title bar maximises vertically, middle click maximised horizontally. Are these respected in the reinvented wheel of nautilus' new titlebar? Nope.
  4. I like to move windows around, but there's not much to grab and drag now.
  5. It's like there's an invisible titlebar's space above the window because you can't position the window very near the top of the screen.

It reminds me of Chrome and all those annoying Windows hardware vendors' non-standard software, where they think that their design is best and remove all the standard bits that make an OS (or graphical shell) nice to use.

Unusable Icon Layout

I love whitespace. Calm, peaceful, reassuring whitespace. But the Gnome team have overdosed bigtime with this one:

Bookmarks/Places/Everything else

I find it really jarring to look in several places to find that convenient shortcut I wanted. OK you can hack the ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs file (and make it read-only so your change doesn't get lost), to get rid of Videos or repurpose Documents. But when I bookmark a location in Nautilus it comes up in a completely separate place. So then looking for it I have to scan Places, then Bookmarks - twice the brain work.

Then there's the removal of split pane views and the removal of Compact view and other view options. Finally there's the icky search thing where you type and it instantly starts a recursive search. I found this useful when in a folder with no subfolders, but try it in a rather full home directory (or viewing a remote directory structure) and it's like trying to dance in treacle.

There are some great things (still) in Nautilus, but these were enough to force me to look elsewhere.

Dolphin, Nautilus, Nemo, PCManFM, Thunar

I've looked at each file manager and given it a 0, 1 or 2 based on how well it meets the things I think are important:

Select files, see how many and disk usage22222
Mass Rename1
option to use external app for this
very flexible
Pleasant Layout of Icons2
Compact mode in icon layout, and "compact layout"
Very tight
Very tight
Big Thumbnails/previews2 (256px)1 (94px)2 (256px)2 (370px)2 (256px in thumbnail mode)
Details (tabular) and icons views1
Three views but limited column options.
Three views
Two views, but excelent add-on for optional columns
Three views but Image Size column did not work.
Four views but limited column opts.
Bookmarks listed in one place2211
Can add to places, but not integrated with GTK environment
Progress monitor for slow operations22221
v. simple
Mount ssh, sftp, smb2222
But not using GVFS (so issues from other apps)
Handle memory sticks etc.22222
Disk usage2
Bar chart in side panel; info in status bar
via Properties context menu
via Properties context menu
via Properties context menu; optional in details bar.
twin pane, with easy drag n Drop1
twin panes,  but*
but theme v confusing
Meta data112
via additional columns package
"Information" pane pretty useless.
Quick Previews10100
Type to locate a file11

starts recursive search

Standards - works well with desktop2201
Requires KDE's config
"open with"2221
KDE not Gnome config (obv)
'scripts' and possibly 'actions'
in-built custom opts
scripts, actions + others
'modules' but couldn't find any!
Extract/Compress archives2221
not apparent how to create
breadcrumbs and editable path2222
nice drop-downs
Select files by pattern11100
Does not leave file litter1110
leaves .directory files everywhere!
Theme works2
after hacks
hover a selected file and its name vanishes!
Search works2020
nepomuk(?) silently fails
Total Score3632282827

Nemo Wins!

Yes, nemo wins for me. But not the nemo you'll get in Trusty (which has theme issues). I was really interested so see Thunar coming out so well in this test. I really like Thunar because it's lightning fast and does a lot. Dolphin was the reason I left KDE (a long time ago, shortly after the 3.x → 4.x move); Konqueror was an excellent file manager (prob better than those above) but then it died a death when Dolphin came along and they started using a bit of Dolphin inside Konqueror that removed its coolness. I'm glad I don't have to use PCManFM because although I quite like it, I can never spell it to launch it!

How to install:

  1. Add the NoobsLab repo: apt-add-repository ppa:noobslab/mint and install nemo and any of the nemo-* extras you want.
  2. Completely replace Nautilus with Nemo, details in webupd8 article, basically run:
    xdg-mime default nemo.desktop inode/directory application/x-gnome-saved-search
  3. Fix the theme as shown in my instructions on ask.ubuntu.com

Nb. I have not done this in one go - took lots of faffing, so you may find you need a couple of restarts (e.g. nautilus -q; nemo -q;). The webupd8 article covers a lot more detail.

We all win with open source software

It's all well and good me seething about a particular development turn or twist. I'm an end user, getting to use any of these five (or many more) for free; it's amazing the work that has gone into providing these and it's great that so many of them play nicely in a standard desktop environment. Nemo began as a fork of an earlier version of Nautilus, forking is what makes open source so strong. It's a theory but a practise with proven results, too. Others in that category for me are OpenOffice→LibreOffice; MySQL→MariaDB; Amarok→Clementine.

So go on, tell me about something I missed! Or that my numbers don't add up (they may not - they did in the spreadsheet, but I might have tweaked a couple since! #lazy).



I have just installed Nemo. But all the files and folders are shown without icons (just plain white background).
This happen in desktop as well as when I open Nemo.I have setup Nemo as my file manager.

Could you please help me.

Renganathan replied on

That's odd. Try re-setting your icon theme using the Tweak Tool/Advanced Settings? AFAIK, Nemo uses the standard GTK them icons, so it is strange if they don't work in Nemo but they do in Nautilus.

Rich replied on

i see ur instruction at http://askubuntu.com/questions/463761/how-to-fix-gtk-theme-for-nemos-pat...

but when i do cp -ar Adwaita Adwaita-custom , the output is "No such file or directory".,it seems like i dont have adwaita themes,

i have installed nemo with unity patches from webupd8,and my volume bar still didnt work,. im running ubuntu 14.04 32 bit. i install from here sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/nemo sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install nemo nemo-fileroller

help please

baryaqod19 replied on

That would be strange, as Adwaita is the default theme that is installed with Gnome Shell. It comes from the gnome-themes-standard-data package; you could try apt-get install gnome-themes-standard-data, then repeat.

Sure you had done the cd command first? (sorry if that's a dumb suggestion!)


Rich replied on

This article is mostly about GUI file managers. However, one of the newer players in this area is nnn: https://github.com/jarun/nnn

The primary goal of nnn file manager is to bridge the gap between the CLI and the GUI.

John replied on

Thanks, John, that looks interesting, particularly as it can be used inside neovim!

Rich replied on

Add new comment