File Management with Nautilus

Nautilus is the file manager and viewer of GNOME. The following section provides an overview of the basic functions of Nautilus as well as a few tips on its configuration. More information can be found in the help pages for Nautilus.

Navigating in Nautilus

Nautilus has a navigation behavior similar to most web browsers. Open a new window by right-clicking a free area of the desktop then selecting new window. Alternatively, double-click the personal folder.

Figure 5.1. Nautilus in Your Personal Home Directory

Nautilus in Your Personal Home Directory

The standard window is shown in Figure 5.1: “Nautilus in Your Personal Home Directory” . Use the icons in the toolbar to move forward and backward, to move one level up in the directory tree, to stop loading a document, to reload the document, or to go to the preferred starting page. Location shows the path to the current directory or to the current file. A different path can be directly entered here.

The left sidebar contains the current object and some information about it. A drop-down menu is located right above the sidebar and is set by default to Information. It is, however, possible to switch this to other display modes:


The Tree view shows the complete directory tree of the system.


The History view lists objects that have been accessed previously.


The Emblems view presents all available emblems. These are used for marking files, for instance, as art. To mark a file as art, drag the art emblem to the file and drop the emblem on top of the file. Emblems are removed by dropping the Eraser emblem over a file.


Notes is useful for managing personal information about objects. These notes are saved along with the object.

Nautilus tries to select appropriate icons for objects according to their associated file information. Image and text files are shown as a thumbnail. Double-clicking shows the file in a viewer. The left sidebar in its Information view shows a list of applications with which the file can be opened. The file cannot be processed directly with Nautilus.

Nautilus also manages bookmarks. Access the Bookmarks menu to edit, access, or create your bookmarks.

File Management

Nautilus supports dragging and dropping for managing files. To move files from one directory to another, use New Window from the context menu or the File menu in Nautilus for opening two windows. Access the path of the original location of the objects in one window and access the destination path for those files in the second window. To move the files, drag the files from one window to the other and drop them there. Copying files is a little more complicated. Right-click the object to copy and select Duplicate. Then move the copy to the new directory. The context menu that appears when right-clicking an object provides functions for renaming files and other tasks.

Configuring Nautilus

Nautilus retrieves its default font and other preferences from the desktop configuration. To set Nautilus-specific preferences, select Edit -> Preferences in any Nautilus window. The configuration dialog offers four tabs: Views, Behavior, Icon Captions, and Preview.

The Views dialog allows switching the Default View between Icon View and List View. A sorting order can be set for any of these options.

The Behavior dialog allows choosing between single-click and double-click response and also sets the handling of executable files. These can either be started on activation or the content displayed. The operating mode of the trash is also set here. Activate a confimation dialog before deletion, if desired. Include a Delete command that bypasses trash can also be set. The files are immediately deleted if this option is activated.

The Icon Captions dialog features three options for determining what information should be displayed for icons and how it should be displayed. In the Preview dialog, select whether to activate preview thumbnails for certain file types.