Lean Linux File Management

The fastest, most efficient file manager in Linux is the set of GNU tools including ls, cp, and so on. But if you want a graphical user interface, you pay a cost in overhead. Considering how important file management is, and how easy it is to screw it up, a good GUI is probably worth the overhead. For Gnome users, Nautilus does the job well, with all the bells and whistles. KDE has its own version and I’m sure everybody who uses it loves it.

But, new fangled file managers also tend to get bloated with features over time. I’ve been thinking of creating a couple of my own file managers that are simpler to use and do the job more quickly. There are a number of text-based file managers as well, that run in a semi-graphical way in a terminal. For one thing I do quite a bit of, I would like one file manager that always opens on the same exact directory, and I do not need the ability to do anything other than open a file in that directory in a certain program, sort by date or name, change the filename, and drag/copy the file to another location when I’m done with it. Always the same location. Seems like that could be done in a simple Python script. Some day I’ll get that done.

In the mean time, there is an interesting altnernative file manager that was designed for the Xfce desktop but that works great on Gnome. It is leaner, meaner, possibly more customizable than Nautilus, and will take you a few seconds to install from your package manager. It is called Thunar. Here is the web site for Thunar. Give it a try, it can’t really hurt.*

*(and if it does that’s your prolbem not mine, just so you know….)


  1. #1 Dan J
    October 6, 2008

    As with so many other pieces of software, everyone has their favorite for managing a particular task.

    I think GUI file managers for MS Windows aren’t something the average Windows user thinks about, as they have Windows Explorer and probably have no further expectations or needs. I never used anything other than that when I used Windows. I’ve never used a Mac, other than some brief assistance for some people over the years, so I can’t comment except to say that I didn’t like the default file manager (this was before OS X).

    Nautilus is the default for Gnome, which I use on my current Ubuntu machine. I don’t like the default settings, so the first thing I do on a new installation is to customize it a bit to my likings. Using Nautilus scripts helps to achieve some more customization.

    Thunar looks interesting. I particularly like the idea of a built-in bulk renamer. I currently use an external program for this function. The audio tag function also sounds good, though the EasyTag program that I use works wonderfully, including CDDB lookup for files.

    One of the file managers that I really liked was on my Amiga A500: Directory Opus (or DOpus). One of my favorite things about DOpus was that there were two directory panes. I could extract archive files highlighted in one directory into the directory in the other pane with a single click, among other nice little tricks. It had user-customizable function buttons and lots of nice features that most people didn’t think of back in the early 1990’s. It’s currently being developed for MS Windows by GPSoftware. The old DOpus 4 source code was later released under the GNU GPL, so maybe there’s a chance it could be ported over for the Linux community.

  2. #2 llewelly
    October 6, 2008

    As long as I can pipe the output of find through sed and xargs and into command line args of mv, cp, and rm, I don’t need those fancy shmancy file system browsers. Though when I’m feeling too brain-dead to be certain of my sed exprs I’ll fall back on emacs dired mode.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    October 6, 2008

    Today’s quote of the week:

    “Though when I’m feeling too brain-dead to be certain of my sed exprs I’ll fall back on emacs dired mode.”

    Is The Commander too Gooey???