Browsing with Nautilus

Using Nautilus File Browser

Tutorial Level: Extensive

Gnome’s Nautilus file browser has be overlooked as a less powerful alternative to its counterpart in Konqueror or Krusader. Although Nautilus does not have all the features of the KDE file browsers, it does not mean that Nautilus should be overlooked. On the contrary, it is a great tool when browsing through system files and personal folders. Because of it’s great usage, Gnome has adopted Nautilus as its default file browser and continues to work to improve the program. Now that we have a background to the program, let’s begin looking through the many aspects of this file browser.

Finding your way Around

File browsers such as Konqueror are great for their purpose and come with extras, such as doubling as an internet browser, but Nautilus has stuck to its main purpose: file browsing. It’s interface reflects this purpose, making finding important files convenient and easy. First, let’s open a Nautilus window: press Alt+F2 and type nautilus to find the application. Now that we have the browser open, let’s breakdown the basic parts of the interface.

Let’s start with the Places sidebar. The default setting for this bar will show common places on your system at a glance, including your personal documents folder, media such as a CD or DVD in your drive, links on your desktop, File System, the trash bin and others. The great part about this bar is that you can add your own folders to this list.

To do this, click a folder or file, click the Bookmarks tab at the top of the browser and click Add Bookmark. You can also click the file or folder and then press Ctrl+D to easily add a bookmark. Once you bookmark a location, it will appear in the left sidebar and if you double-click it, Nautilus will load the contents of the folder or open a specified program such as OpenOffice or Gedit for documents and files.

The great part about the program is customization. If you rather not have your common places in the sidebar, not a problem, you can change this with a few clicks. If you click on the Places button at the top of the sidebar, you will have the option to show the following besides Places…

  • Information: This option will give a basic overview of the current directory or folder. It will show the number of files, last edit date and contain a link to open the folder in a separate Nautilus window.
  • Tree: The tree format will list the directories and folder on your system in a expand and collapse format. This is great for seeing the parent location while viewing files.
  • History: This format will show the most recent locations you have visited in a fashion similar to the list in the Place sidebar. Great for finding files you may have forgotten about in the last few days.
  • Notes: Add notes about your folder or file for future reference.
  • Emblems: They say a picture can tell a thousand words. Drag an emblem to a folder to add a graphic caption to the folder, such as a heart for a favorite folder or exclamation point for an important directory.

Now that we’ve seen the sidebar, let’s look at the Location Bar that runs across the top of the file pane. This shows the location you are currently in and the parent folders to the left. If you delve into a long list of directories, Nautilus will abbreviate the list with a simple left arrow. Click this arrow to expand the list and see a complete heading of the parent folders.

The Main Toolbar has buttons for easy access to common tasks such as back, forward, reload, the Home and Computer directories and search. If you click the search button, your status bar will be replaced by a search field. The last panel is the Status Bar that shows miscellaneous information, such as space left in a directory, number of items in a directory and much more. To hide any of these panels, click the View tab at the top of the browser and uncheck any of the boxes in the second section.

The Main Panel

Now that we are familiar with the extra panels that surround the main panel, we’ll focus on the heart of the Nautilus browser: the file pane. The basic functions of this panel as similar to that of a Windows browser: double-click to open a file or view a directory. But it wouldn’t be OpenSUSE if it didn’t go one step further. If you right click on a file or folder, you can open the location in a new window of with an appropriate text editor, cut, copy, paste into a folder, trash the item, encrypt…the options are numerous. If you right click on a folder or directory, you can even open the location in a terminal window.

You can also view the properties of an item in the right click menu. This prompt you with a panel that shows much of the information that was available in the sidebar, as well as sharing options and the default program to open this item. You can also change how you view the items in a directory: as a list or in icon format. The icon format is similar to that of the Windows file browser, and the list view gives you a better view of folder and file information at a quick glance. Examples: Icon view, List view.

As you can see in the images, the list view gives a bit more information than the icon view and gives the option of a tree view (with the arrow icon) if needed. To switch the view in the current directory, click the View tab and select your view on the last section of the dropdown. You can perminately set the view with Edit -> Preferences and setting the default view in the first option on the prompt.

Customizing the Browser

One of the most important parts of Nautilus is the customization and flexibility it allows. Above is only one example of the changes you can make to fit your liking. There are almost endless number of combinitations that are available. Since we could not possibily describe everyone of them in this tutorial, we’ll cover the major changes you can make to make file surfing as easy as possible.

First, we need to open the preferences prompt again. To do this, if you have not already, click the Edit tab and click the last option on the the menu (Preferences). The first options shown are for the viewing options. Here, you can change how items are arranged and to show hidden files if you need. There are also options for the zoom size in different instances. The zoom size will either make the icons or list information smaller or bigger, depending on the preferences you set.

If you click on the Behavior Tab on the top of the prompt, there will be options for how and when to open items, and the options pertaining to the trash bin. The next tab, the Display tab, had options for the appearence of items in the icon or list view. Here, you can set what will be shown and the format of dates in Nautilus. The List Columns tab had options for what information to display in the list view. This includes the order of categories for files and folders. The last tab, Preivew, allows you to edit the preview information of Nautilus.

Because all the settings and options can be displayed in this tutorial, the best way to find new options and suit them to your liking is to try them yourself. There are many options that can be found when playing around with the application. An example would be the server options. If you click on the File tab, and then Connect to Server…, you can enter a server’s connection information and connect to that server. I hope this tutorial has taught you about the advantages and disadvantages of Nautilus file browser and gotten you more comfortable using the program.


~ by unseenghost on 19 Jun 2008.

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