Nautilus (now called GNOME Files or Files) is the default file manager on GNOME. It features a clean and intuitive interface and packs plenty of features to make your life easier.
However, not all of these features come enabled in Nautilus by default; some of them need to be enabled separately, while others require installing a plugin.
If you use Nautilus every day or have switched to it from another file manager recently, here are some of the best Nautilus tweaks you must check out—and probably enable in Nautilus—to make the most of it on your Linux computer.
1. Enable Quick Preview
Quick Preview is among the first features you should enable in Nautilus. It allows you to preview different types of files inside Nautilus, like images, videos, documents, etc., without having to open them.
However, Quick Preview isn’t available out of the box, so you need to enable it. To do this, first, install the gnome-sushi package by opening the terminal and running this command:
sudo apt install gnome-sushi
Once done, close the terminal and the Nautilus file manager. This will give you the sushi file previewer inside Nautilus.
Now, open Nautilus again and head over to the directory with the file you want to preview. Click on the file and hit Space to preview it.
Additionally, you can also preview directories to get more information about them.
2. Show File Size/Number of Items in Directories
By default, Nautilus doesn’t show the file size and the number of items in a directory. Hence, if you need to know the size of a file or the number of items in a directory, you’ll have to go through a few steps.
Fortunately, though, Nautilus supports these options, and you can enable them from its settings.
Open Nautilus, click the hamburger menu icon (with three horizontal lines) in the toolbar, and select Preferences. Scroll down to the Icon View Captions section and tap on First. Choose Size from the available options and close the window.
You should now be able to see items contained within directories and the size of files/documents upfront.
Nautilus features a sidebar in the left pane to offer quick access to different directories and locations on the system. If there are certain directories you need to access more often, you can add them to the sidebar or, as Nautilus calls it, “bookmark” them to access them from anywhere.
Go to the location that contains the directory you want to add to the sidebar. Drag it to the sidebar where it says New bookmark and release the button to drop it there.
If you wish to remove the directory at any time, right-click on it and select Remove.
4. Create New Documents Quickly
Using the terminal is the fastest way to create a document. However, if you aren’t comfortable (or familiar) with the CLI, Nautilus has an easy GUI option for you. It’s accessible from the right-click context menu, and you can enable it with a few simple steps.
To do this, open the default text editor on your computer (on Ubuntu, it’s called Text Editor). This will open a new file. Save it as Document (or any other name you like) to the Templates directory under Home. Close the text editor and Nautilus.
Now, whenever you want to create a new document, go to that directory, right-click, and select New Document > Document (or whatever name you saved the file with).
It will open an empty document where you can add text. Give the file a new name and choose a directory to save it.
5. Resize and Rotate Images From the Context Menu
Depending on the Linux distro you’re running on your machine, you’ll get an image editor pre-installed within the OS, which you can use to edit images.
However, if you use Nautilus, there’s a better and more efficient way to do this. It involves using the ImageMagick program and the nautilus-image converter package.
First, open the terminal and run this command to install both the packages:
sudo apt install imagemagick nautilus-image-converter
Once finished installing, reopen Nautilus and navigate to the directory that contains the images you want to convert or resize.
Right-click the image and select Resize Images or Rotate Images, depending on your requirement, and you’ll get a suitable prompt screen with different options for the chosen action.
Adjust the properties (size or rotation) and perform your desired operation. Once the operation is complete, you’ll see the edited image in the same directory.
6. Show Hidden Files
Many configuration files you’ll ever need to edit on Linux are often hidden in the file manager. Although you can directly open these files from the terminal using a text editor, if you want to view hidden files and folders in GUI, you need to enable the Show Hidden Files option in Nautilus.
To do this, click the hamburger menu icon in the Nautilus toolbar and check off the Show Hidden Files option. Once enabled, you should now be able to see all the hidden files inside directories.
7. Access Recently Visited Directories Quickly
Nautilus packs plenty of nifty features to let you do more with fewer clicks. However, many of these features aren’t well-known—even to some long-time Nautilus users.
For instance, the ability to access your most recently visited directories using the left arrow key is one such feature. It also lets you right-click on the Back option in the Nautilus toolbar to view your most frequently visited directories.
So whenever you’re navigating your way into a directory and need to go a few directories back, right-click the Back icon and choose a directory to jump to it directly.
8. Open a Folder as an Administrator
At times, there will be situations where you’d want to open a directory as root (with admin privileges), perhaps to open and edit files or paste some copied files over.
Nautilus lets you do this through the nautilus-admin package. Open the terminal and install the package using:
sudo apt install nautilus-admin
Then, quit the Nautilus file manager by running:
Alternatively, hit the Close button to close Nautilus.
After this, reopen Nautilus and visit the directory you want to open as the administrator. Right-click on the blank space and select Open as Administrator. When prompted for an admin password, enter the password and hit Authenticate.
Deleting files in Nautilus is easy: you right-click on the file you want to delete and select the Move to trash option from the context menu.
As you do this, the file you just deleted is moved to the trash, so you can recover it later. However, sometimes, there would be files that you’d want to delete permanently.
In such situations, you need the Delete Permanently option. It’s available in Nautilus, but you need to enable it manually.
To do this, open Nautilus Preferences. Scroll down to the Optional Context Menu Actions section and toggle the option for Delete Permanently.
When you need to delete a file permanently, right-click on it and choose Delete Permanently.
10. Enable Expanded View for Folders in List View
Nautilus offers two options for viewing the contents of a directory: List View and Grid View. Although both views work fine, if you’ve used List View, you must have noticed that, to access a directory’s content, you need to double-click it to open it, which can be a bit annoying.
Fortunately, there’s a way around this, which allows you to expand directories directly with a single click. For this, go to Nautilus Preferences and, under General, toggle the switch for Expandable Folders in List View.
Now, each directory will have a small arrow to its left that you can click to expand the directory and view/access its content.
Symbolic links (also called symlinks) are shortcuts that allow you to create links to files and directories so they’re accessible from more than one location. In some sense, they’re similar to regular shortcuts, except that they behave as if the linked object is present in the same location.
One of the ways to create symlinks on Linux is to use the ln command. However, if you aren’t familiar with the CLI, Nautilus has a hidden feature that lets you create symlinks interactively.
To use it, first, enable the feature by going over to Nautilus Preferences, scrolling to the Optional Context Menu Actions, and toggling on the switch for Create Link.
Once that’s done, when you want to create a symbolic link, right-click on the file or directory for which you want to create a symlink and select Copy. Then, go back to the directory where you want to keep this symlink, right-click on the empty space, and select Create Link.
Do More With Nautilus on Linux!
Enabling certain hidden features and adding a few new ones in Nautilus allow you to get the most out of the file manager on Linux. Not only does this simplify some trivial operations, but it also extends Nautilus’ scope of use, which allows you to carry out certain operations that’d otherwise require using another program.
If you’ve been using Nautilus for a while and wish it had more features/options, Linux also has a few other good file managers that you must check out.
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