Nautilus – the default file manager in Ubuntu – has an interface many consider to be awful and overly complex.

It has button after button, toolbar after toolbar, menu after menu – and just looks, in my opinion at least, clunky.


Ian “ Izo” Cylkowski also thinks that Nautilus could do with a makeover and has gone a step further and produced some mock-ups detailing his vision for the file browser.

Boy does it scream ‘Yes!!’

To get to his design, Cylkowski deconstructed the current Nautilus, highlighti ng its replicated buttons and superfluous menus.

It’s well worth reading the whole thing over at his site @ although a brief summary is below.


  1. Arrows replicate functionality provided by pathbar. Would be more ‘elegant’ to have their feature merged into a right click on back/forward buttons.
  2. ‘Parent Folder’ button replicates functionality provided by pathbar.
  3. Stop buttons is useless – file browsers load instantly.
  4. Reload could be integrated into pathbar
  5. Home button is already on sidebar.
  6. Computer button should also be on sidebar.
  7. Search should be a text entry field.
  8. Make the pathbar sexy.
  9. Zoom could be better implemented (like Nautilus Elementary’s slider)
  10. Buttons would work better than drop down list; a-la OS X finder.

His resulting mock-up is worthy of an OMG!


He even goes one better by proposing that GNOME Activity Journal – which uses Zeitgeist to display a log of your recent file activity – would make more sense as part of Nautilus rather than a standalone application.

Seeing it in mock-up it’s hard to disagree!


Get it now (sorta.)

Cylkowski does reference the awesome work of DanRabbit’s Nautilus-Elementary. Better still Nautilus-Elementary can be installed today!


Install Nautilus-Elementary [Karmic only]

Open a terminal and type the following commands, hitting your return/enter key after each.

  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:am-monkeyd/nautilus-elementary-ppa
  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get upgrade

Then either log out and back in to use the new Nautilus or manually do it by pressing Alt+F2 and typing: –

  • pkill nautilus

Now we need to launch nautilus, so press Alt+F2 again, this time entering: –

  • nautilus

To hide/show the “menu bar” as in the screenshot hit Alt+M.
To toggle the sidebar use ‘F9’.

Future of Nautilus-Elementay

DanRabbit’s vision for Nautilus-Elementary is not too dissimilar to that of Ian Cylkowski’s: –


We’ve already seen Nautilus-Elementary get CoverFlow-esque integration: –


And you needn’t worry about losing the ability to ‘type’ in the pathbar either, as DanRabbit’s vision has that covered in spectacular style: –

Practical future: Lucid, GNOME 3 and beyond

Leaving the land of mock-ups and 3rd party win, what IS Nautilus going to look like in the future?

Requiring almost no squinting in our crystal ball, Nautilus in Lucid already sees some minor, subtle changes.

  • Tabs have been moved to the bottom
  • Split-pane view has been implemented
  • Toolbars have been slightly rearranged with the ‘Places’ sitting in the pathbar and ‘View’ and ‘Zoom’ jumping up to the main toolbar.
  • Un-mounting a device now returns you to ‘Computer’

Cartel ?

Split pane view in Nautilus 2.29


GNOME 3 will see nautilus become solely a file manager. “What?” you ask. Currently Nautilus provides several parts of the GNOME desktop including your actual ‘desktop’. With GNOME 3 Nautilus will be relegated to simply being a file manager – making swapping it out for an alternative a breeze.

Although noting concrete has been built – or even decided on – yet last weeks GNOME usability hackfest in London threw up some tantalizing glimpses into what’s being proposed.

Behold the whiteboard of divination: –


Máirín Duffy posted the above image and some notes on the discussion of Nautilus from the hackfest on her blog – which I’ve shamelessly pillaged and pasted below.

Head on over to her blog for even more juice on GNOME 3 from the week-long discussion.

  • remove combo box to change nautilus view, just use menu?
  • frustration that nautilus is becoming like midnight commander, not beautiful to use, too complicated
  • dont like split pane idea, why not use two windows? split-pane seems universally disliked by GNOME designers.
  • snap to side-by-side like in windows 7 would be good and would remove need for split-pane.
  • search in nautilus sucks
  • confusion between magnifying glass icon for search vs zoom
  • Things to consider removing from ui:
    • zoom controls
    • tabs
  • Things to add to ui
    • undo
    • search folders
    • sharing / collaboration – share with
    • context-sensitive actions toolbar


A lot of the discussions for GNOME 3’s direction tie in wonderfully with the proposed directions offered up by Elementary and Izo.

It seems the future of Nautilus has its bearing set firmly in the direction of awesome.

Thanks to leo

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