Nautilus, streamlined

While at the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, an impromptu graphic and UI design session erupted in the hotel hackfest room. We worked on GNOME artwork and design related subject matter. A few of us discussed and sketched wireframe mockups of gnome-shell and Nautilus.

This hackweek, I decided to start fleshing out the mockups. I tried getting gnome-shell properly working on my machine (running openSUSE 11.1), and was mostly unsuccessful there. I have a lot of ideas based on the BetterDesktop usability studies we did at Novell (years ago) and would be interested in helping out the gnome-shell crew. (:

I saw David’s recent blog post on a simplified Nautilus and decided to skip past gnome-shell (for now) and produce something that should hopefully benefit all users of GNOME (regardless of using gnome-shell or not): Streamlining Nautilus.

These somewhat-polished mockups are based on the wireframes and discussions (that we unfortunately did not write down) from GCDS. They are not pixel perfect (but should be somewhat close). A menu bar is not included in the mockups (similar to David’s screenshot) — but the menus do need to be retooled as well.

Icons not in the toolbar would be configurable somehow. Keyboard shortcuts would all work the same.

…There are many more notes in the actual mockup, so click the thumbnail teaser graphic and view the full thing at 1:1 size already! (:

As stated in the mockup, you can contact me via @garrett on Twitter, over email, or in IRC. (I prefer Twitter and IRC over email, by-the-way)… or you could post a comment on this blog post too.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

127 Responses to “Nautilus, streamlined”

  1. Hylke says:

    Love it (obviously ;)).

  2. Ulisse says:

    please somebody put it into code NOW! 🙂

  3. David says:

    Absolutely awesome! I tried to show how we could streamline Nautilus without writing new code, but I think we all agree that something new is in order, especially with GNOME 3 around the corner. I love what you’ve done. The only major gripe I have is the presentation of the “Loading” indicator. If the loading indicator could be displayed inline with another element, without adding a new rectangle to the window, that would be a big win for “streamlininess.” For example, the “refresh” icon shown in the loading example could spin to indicate network business, and could have a “stop” icon on hover. Introducing the hover state makes it harder to discover how to stop the loading, and it wouldn’t work well on a touch screen, but user testing could show us how stop buttons are used.

  4. garrett says:

    @David: Thanks! The loading indicator was a quick thought, and the roughest part of the mockups overall. I decided to try something different, and I think your suggestions are great.

    One question I have is this: Do we even need a visible “stop” action? If we don’t — then having it somewhat hidden would be fine, I think. (That probably makes sense. We could also provide a stop icon for the toolbar customization and bind it to escape. There must also be a decent, obvious stopped state in Nautilus too; but that should exist regardless.)

  5. Mostly ok, but there are grave problems here:
    * I have yet to see a single person that actually uses sidebars. The sidebar takes much more space than all you other ‘optimizations’ freed up. Just remove the sidebar by default and make sure all functionality is accessible without it (‘Home’, ‘Computer’ buttons and ‘Places’ menu item is most of the way there).
    * You have a HUGE free and unused space on the toolbar now. How about bringing back all the useful buttons?
    * Button labels in toolbars is a system-wide preference. Respect that or get out of Gnome. Read the HIG sometimes.
    * Status bar has some of the most important information in this whole window – free space and file sizes are very cruisial and must be visible.

  6. The stop action needs to be wisible and must have ‘stop’ written on it (if the button label preference is on), otherwise it will not be discoverable. Despite what they say in design class – icons are not intuitive: people have to learn what they mean. And the only way to do that is to read the labels by those icons until you remember them.

    Try showing the interface to you granmother/grandfather and see how discoverable it actually is.

    For example, I have no idea whatsoever what that icon on the right side (right from the breadcrumbs) is actually supposed to do.

    Also, when you are presenting ‘streamlining’ proposals, please present a comparison, with enough files that the streamlining is actually needed. So far you are only making more empty space.

  7. Lucas Rocha says:

    Love it. Suggest you to open a bug report about this so that this doesn’t get totally missed in the future.

  8. Allan Day says:

    Very nice indeed! I wonder whether it’s worth putting actions in the side-panel (so when you click on a file icon, a list of possible actions like open, cut and copy is displayed)? You have to right click on a file icon in order to bring up a list of possible actions at the moment. It’s not very discoverable.

  9. Garrett: Looks sane, now make it happen!

    Aigars: The sidebar in this example is less expensive than the toolbar in terms of space as most monitors are wider than tall. This is especially true on netbooks (ran into a system with 1024×600 today, a bit on the extreme, but still) where the current Nautilus setup would have a lot of problems.

  10. garrett says:

    @aigars: Your comments are not entirely helpful, and are a bit negative overall. Please work on your friendliness.

    Also, do remember that this is a work-in-progress mockup, and a suggestion.

    I use sidebars all the time, and know others who do as well. It’s a fantastic way to get to the stuff that matters (projects, remote servers, working directories, etc.) If you don’t like them, then you can turn it off.

    We could also have a dropdown button for the toolbar which would provide the same lists as the sidebar as an option, which should please those who find the sidebar convenient and also want to free up space for content.

    As I stated, the toolbar would be configurable, so you can have a lot of your precious cluttered UI buttons. (:

    The default should be very plain and simple. For every feature you expose to users of your software, there’s an increased likelihood that they will be confused… so it’s important to try to get the basics right. I’m not talking about removing everything, but making it work better for everyone by default (and still provide some customizability for experienced-enough users).

    Your “get out of Gnome” comment is not appropriate. Have you ever considered that a lot of people work on open source software because they want to make the software better? Discussions and ideas are part of this and are important, just as lines of code are important.

    The status bar is hardly useful. I suggested showing it when you select items. It would also make sense to show a warning message when your space gets a bit too low. (You could also see the space used if you select your drives, and, possibly it would always be displayed for most external media.)

    There! I turned some of your lemons into lemonade. Thanks for (much of) your feedback! (:

  11. Nil Gradisnik says:

    Very nicely done! Reminds me a bit of the old Begle search UI Holmes mockups.

    Toolbar has some wasted space indeed.. but I don’t agree that no one uses sidebar.. that’s just bullshit Aigars.

  12. Jan Jokela says:

    Those actually look very pleasant. The thing missing in your illustrations are tabs! And tabs on top while at it 😉
    And if you think about it, there’s no need for a tool bar. The “Back” and “Forward” buttons are redundant because you have the navigation. Just click on your next or previous directory. The search box could be integrated in the navigation.

    @Aigars Mahinovs:
    * I use the sidebar. Easy for accessing storage devices and frequently accessed directories.
    * Just checked my nautilus, none of the toolbar buttons are usefull if you make things right. Really!
    * The GNOME HIG need to be re-written.
    * Status bars are dreadful beyond imagination.
    Lets agree to disagree 🙂

  13. Tonio says:

    Great ! Love it!

    I would even go one step further and drop prev/next button, and merge location & search bar, to avoid the lost space in your toolbar.

    Really like to see things moving that way for nautilus 🙂

  14. garrett says:

    @Aigars: Here are some points directed at your second comment.

    I don’t think the stop action matters. (See an earlier comment of mine as to why.) If you want a stop action, then you can clutter up your toolbar with it, or learn that you can click on the spinner (as mentioned in David’s comment) while it is spinning… or hit your “esc” key. (:

    My grandmother is a doctor and my grandfather is a rocket scientist. I don’t think they are necessarily “typical” grandparents. What it really needs (like any other UI design) is some good usability testing.

    Are you talking about not knowing about that icon that I said is a placeholder? That’s kind of silly, isn’t it? (:

    This is showing how it would typically look. The difference between having a ton of files and what is shown in the mockup is a scrollbar on the right, more-or-less.

  15. Does Conan 90D slice pictures rather than shoots them? 😉

  16. Søren Hauberg says:

    Looks quite nice; simple is good 🙂

    Two minor comments:

    1) In general bread crumbs work really well. They do have big issues when a directory has a really long name. If the bread crumb is going to be the main way of browsing, this needs to be fixed (not sure how, though).

    2) It would be nice if there was a more visible way of unmounting / ejecting CD’s and usbsticks. Similarly it would be nice if there was a way of emptying the trash can, if this is the directory you happen to be browsing.



    I really really like your mockups. I only hope that you don’t get lost along the way and end eventually up with just another messy interface. I cross my fingers that you can keep it simple. Only add more stuff (icons, buttons etc.) if it’s absolutely necessary.

  18. garrett says:

    Søren: Good points. Thanks for your feedback!

    1) Yes, I agree about the breadcumbs. We could do a number of things here, including the chevron-button concept “»” for more entries. Animation could also work. Some items could get compressed down too — especially those with unique icons (I prefer this option). It should always weight the visible part to be closest to the place you’re currently browsing, no matter how it is implemented.

    Also, the breadcrumbs should only show you the starting point relative to one of the places.

    2) I agree. When you’re browsing an ejectable device, it should show that and provide a means of ejecting it. This way, even users who hide the sidebar can eject the device. It would also make it quite obvious.

  19. Stéphane says:

    “You have a HUGE free and unused space on the toolbar now. How about bringing back all the useful buttons?”

    I disagree with that. The space in the toolbar isn’t wasted to me ; it acts as padding for the content, and makes the window look really clean.

    « La perfection n’est pas lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à
    ajouter, mais lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à enlever. » (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  20. blahman says:

    Hmm, somehow I am not convinced that dropping the reload button unconditionally is a good idea. Maybe a compromise would be to show it only on file systems (such as NFS, FTP) where file change notification is not available?

  21. nicu says:

    I somewhat agree with Aigars: while all my monitors have wide screens, I find the sidebars a waste of my screen estate, which can be better used by having multiple windows open (and I use Nautilus in “spatial” mode).

    For me the status bar is also useful, I get from it important information: from the size of the selected files to the number of files in the directory I just entered.

  22. nona says:

    I’d like to suggest one of the ideas in the comments to David’s posts, by Matthew Holloway.

    He made an “active” mockup here, try hovering over the Location Bar text:

    This gets you the breadcrumb and the location bar in one go. I guess it’s a little bit like Vista’s location bar, if you’re familiar with it.

    I’m sure you could improve the look and behaviour, but I like the idea of unifying breadcrumbs and location bar, because both are quite useful, but take a lot of screen real estate.

  23. Vasanth says:


  24. oliver says:

    Looks great!

    Some unordered notes about my impression:

    – the huge empty space in the toolbar is “irritating” 🙂
    – about the Icon Label debate: I would assume that if the user has “Show Icon Labels” enabled in Gnome Appearance, your Nautilus will show them, no?
    – putting the breadcrumb bar in the new place seems basically OK; but (as Jan mentioned) what happens if there are multiple tabs? Also, what happens if there is a yellow “info bar” like for Trash or Burn or folder? And what if the user has Detailed Mode enabled, with column headers? I guess it would get very crowded up there 🙂
    – IMO the Open Files dialog needs to be clearly distinguishable from a Nautilus window, otherwise people might wonder why a file manager pops up when they want to save a file
    – not sure about removing the status bar… I need the status bar mainly for getting info about size and number of selected files, so I’d be interested to see how a “show only when needed” approach works
    – for the record, I used a side bar in every single file manager I used so far (with folder tree in Windows Explorer and Konqueror; with Places icons in Nautilus…); it’s absolutely important for me.

    Thanks for working on this!

  25. Hylke says:

    nicu: Set “Size” to you Icon Captions in nautilus preferences. Works great for me! 🙂

  26. Duncan Lock says:

    As someone pointed out, there are currently global settings for toolbar icon size and text labels in Gnome. In what way would these user preferences fit into the current ‘streamlined nautilus’ discussion?

    It would appear from the current mockups that I’ve seen – both here and elsewhere – that these settings are possibly going to be ignored in Nautilus-future, or default to something more minimal?

    Any thoughts on this?

  27. I use the sidebar as a set of drag targets for moving files around: download/prepare some set of files/folders in my home directory and then move the prepared files/folders to my remotely-hosted folder listed on the sidebar.

    I also want to know how much free space there is on every volume I work with updated any time that figure changes. The status bar is great for a constantly up-to-date figure on free space (the only limit to this is using a protocol where determining free space is impossible like SSH).

    What I’d find most useful is a meaningful calculation of the amount of space a folder takes up on the disk. Knowing how many items are in the folder is useless to me. I understand it’s faster to compute that than to recursively add up all the filesizes in all the subfolders (and this can require network bandwidth too) but I’d sooner have a MacOS-style “calculate all sizes” option I can use.

  28. tmp says:

    I hate it. I left MS Windows only because all apps looked differently.

  29. garrett says:

    The sidebar would also be resizable. You should be able to shrink it down to just the icons (and see text on hover, perhaps suddenly growing larger), providing the benefit of having a sidebar and reducing the amount of chrome UI needed.

  30. garrett says:

    @tmp: Seriously? If that’s the reason you left Windows… I find it a bit odd (and interesting) that Linux (overall, at least) currently feels better for you in the area of consistent UI.

    Don’t get me wrong — there are lots of other great reasons to use Linux. (I’ve just never considered consistent UIs across the board as one of them.)

    Of course, it should be good to strive for consistency whenever possible, and where it makes sense. We can (and should) change the look of other applications too.

  31. atla says:


    Keep up the good work. I like the style of this mockups! 🙂

  32. Vasanth says:

    oops! … i was suppose to add more than just Congrats!

    Anyway Congrats! Great effort on nautilus.

    1) Regards to sidebar, i use it all the time and so do all my colleagues. Tried working without the sidebar and found it be a lot difficult to navigate.

    2) Would find it useful to have the labels in the toolbar or the icons should be consistent across major applications in the OS.

    3) Along with the Back & Forward icon, an interchangeable Refresh/Stop icon in the default view will help.

    4) The current status bar is of not great help, except to find the free disk space. Could something be done to get more info than just to show the disk space, file size and the no. of files in a folder.

  33. Michael says:

    I really really hope nautilus will evolve to something like this in GNOME 3… 3.0 even. Yes, I think we should delay 3.0 6-12 month to make stuff like this possible.

  34. John McHugh says:

    #1 This is awesome and it would make my summer if people started working on this.
    #2 I cant be the only one getting sick of some peoples elitist attitude in free software “Aigars”.
    #3 I currently do not use the sidebar or any toolbar other than the address bar. This is due to an overdose of buttons on the other toolbars which results to wasted space and being completely uncustomisable does not help.
    The current sidebar to me is like a crooked picture, its unorganized and cluttered. A combo box on the sidebar should be a complete no no and if a design like the one in your mockup was used then I would be ecstatic at being able to take advantage of the functionality I am currently missing.
    .3 With regards to what could replace the combo I would suggest a drop down list similar to what banshee and rhythmbox uses, because your sidebar uses separators it would not be necessary to indent the subcategories, I would suggest instead using a bolder font for the parent category. With the work which is going on within gtk centered around animations I think it would be great to have a simple animation for the list similar to what you see in faq’s created with javascript on some websites.
    #4 Is it obvious I have been messing with css too much recently 🙂
    #5 I just need to reinstate before I continue that I think its incredibly important that nautilus receives some of your love before gnome 3.0.
    About a year ago I saw a similar mockup of the sidebar which was designed to emphasise the need to declutter it.
    There was never any code and that is a shame. Nautilus needs some initiative like this, making things simpler and more refined might help to extend nautilus’s functionality easier before gnome 3.0 and hopefully butter the zeitgeist team up enough to start integrating with nautilus rather than having multiple applications within gnome for managing our files. Using the sidebar as the main form of navigation could help ease this migration, having it dynamic would surely help to show relevant forms of navigation on the sidebar dependant on the type of view the user has chosen, If you imagine for a second switching to time based view or zeitgeist mode having the entries in the sidebar change accordingly showing you tags and months etc. Just out of curiosity Aigars how would you suggest integrating tags in nautilus without a sidebar? This leads me onto my next point.
    #6 The hig is still horribly outdated, some work was put in recently to getting it up to date but it should not currently be taken as gospel. The hig was designed in a different time, it was designed around what application developers currently knew about usability. Novell has put a great deal of effort towards studying usability and although I do not always agree with some of the usability enhancements they make, with regards to this particular mockup I completely agree. Yes icons for your grandmother and grandfather might not be the best way of communicating what a specific function does but your grandmother and grandfather have not been exposed to IT as much as the generations after them, computer literacy of future grandmothers and grandfathers will be higher. Having text take up as much space as it currently does in the ui might help someone learn how specific functions work but after they have they take up valuable space. And if you compare the amount of time it takes for someone to realize what a button does over the amount of time that the text is displayed below the icon I cant help but feel its a waste. If like you said the text with the icon is easier to learn how about a small option in the help of the application to switch on all text overlays to learn the application or let people save space by simply hovering over the button and seeing the tooltip.
    #7 All in all I think this is an important step if nautilus wants to add some more functionality, you cant just continue to add without taking a step back once in a while to understand how your applications increased functionality will be used and how the usability might need to be rethought. If I were to hazard a guess I would say that this is the current reason why the zeitegest guys will not merge with nautilus, if they were in nautilus’s current state it would just seem bloated and the usability would most certainly take a hit.
    #8 Amazing mockup, lets start some code 😀

  35. Linus says:

    I love the design; but I also can’t see how you’d integrate tabs in there (and I really use tabs a lot)

  36. garrett says:

    I should note that if you’re a power user concerned with the top bar eating up extra space, then you can simply hide it and browse using the shortcut keys. With the pathbar being attached to the view (it would show up underneath a tab if you use tabs, btw), then you can still use a pathbar without the toolbar, for a lighter-weight Nautilus experience.

    Now I need to make another version of the mockups with a lot of the ideas from all the discussions. Most of it is glowingly positive, with constructive feedback. There are a lot of valid points as well (which, thankfully, so far, have clear solutions!)

  37. NickG says:

    I mentioned some tweaks to the way the breadcrumbs could work back in the original ubuntu papercuts thread and really love these ideas.I think showing the stop button on network browsing would be a good idea rather than the loading popup (the throbber should suffice no?).

    I saw the refresh button (i think) in the mockups… surely that should be redundant as nautilus should ‘know’ a directory has changed?

    As an addition to your mockups, I would love to see a ‘Trash’ icon added to the bottom left of the side pane (Yes the sidepane is used!) that could serve as a way to:
    o Go to trash
    o Delete a file by dragging it here
    o Unmounting media by dragging it here (this one isn’t such a major request, a bit macish)

    But by it’s addition it’s another thing that can be removed from the desktop and/or bottom gnome panel.

    Other than that, definitely the way forward. And using a nautilus-esque file browser – GENIUS! I can rename a file before I save a new one with its name! Thank you!

  38. Marko says:

    I like it.Gnome should be very simple by default, but customizable for “power”users (a nice toolbar editor in this case).Those three lines under search box, is it a view button?
    Prehaps menubar could be ditched and used some sort “tools/preferences” button (like google chrome or firefox 3.7 mockups)?

  39. John McHugh says:

    Hmmm…. I just realized that my combo box replacement was not such a great suggestion. What horrible timing:)
    How about an arrow pointing to the right for the places category, when you click this it changes the content of the sidebar by sliding to the right so say it slides and changes the places category to the information category and also changes the main content of the sidebar accordingly.
    Now the information category would have an arrow to the right which would bring you to the tree category and and a left arrow would also be added to the left of the information category which would slide the sidebar content back to the left back to places.

    While I am at It I might as well ask, how useful are the current sidebar categories like tree etc and what type of category’s would you and others like to see added or removed.

  40. garrett says:

    One huge (and simple) data point gleaned from the BetterDesktop usability sessions is that people actually will hover over things they do not know about and read the tooltips. This was consistent across all backgrounds of people.

    If done right (where there is good, helpful text for toolbar icons), having a default of icon-only could possibly work.

  41. Opoho says:

    It looks nice! But please don’t remove the “Up” button: it’s something I always find missing when using Windows.

  42. @Aigars: Sidebars are fantastic. I put all of the deeply nested directories on network shares in favorites so they show in the sidebar.

    @garrett: I sent you the exact same comment as Stéphane in an email to your address. Having any buttons without the others that are often used such as up and home is a real waste. All or nothing.

  43. I do like the idea to combine ‘Stop’ and ‘Reload’ buttons into one button that would become ‘Stop’ when there is an activity going on that can be canceled. Mind you, just spinning a spinner is nowhere near enough indication that such spinner can be clicked to cancel the action. It must actually become a red stop button with the label changing to ‘Stop’ for it to be discoverable. There is an add-on in Firefox to do just that. That is a good way to save space without any sacrifices.

  44. garrett says:

    @Marko: I was also wondering about possibly ditching the menubar in that manner. Between that concept (following Chrome and IE’s menu bar button), David’s screenshot, and the fact that the menus need to be reworked anyway, I decided to omit them from my mockups.

    The three lines is a placeholder icon for editing the path. Perhaps I should’ve made it more obvious that it is a placeholder icon (although I did write about it).

  45. A. Walton says:

    That’s not Nautilus. That’s a screenshot of Finder using a GTK+ theme.

  46. crb says:

    Love the Nautilus mockups. Do agree that the empty space in the button bar, while clean, is underused. I also like having an option (maybe by clicking the breadcrumb bar) to type /var/whatever in my file viewer.

    Buttons as breadcrumbs in the file selector (e.g. are horrible to look at now. I love the more muted look of Path > To > File, but will it translate neatly to the available widgets?

  47. Marko says:

    Ops, sorry.I didn’t read the additional comments about mockups.Then how would user switch between icon,compact and list mode if there is no menubar or a button for that.

  48. […] Nautilus semplificato. Stavolta sono solo bozze, interessanti, di Garrett LeSage… Ma mi sapete dire per quale strano motivo fanno la gara a rimpicciolire gli stramaledetti […]

  49. Jon Wood says:

    Remind you of anything?

    While I do like the mockup, I think you should probably at least acknowledge it in the inspirations.

  50. Jakub says:


    « La perfection n’est pas lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à
    ajouter, mais lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à enlever. » (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    What a perfect quote 😉 Like it was made for this situation.

  51. John Drinkwater says:

    Replying to #18 and the mock-up,
    Please don’t use brackets (<) or quotation marks (») for breadcrumbs, as to users in some locales it would be the same as using a ” for a right arrow.
    Arrows (→) fit for purpose already exist!

    It does appear a little Mac-y, but it is much clearer than the exist app. I love to know my disk free space though – something the filesystem icons could display if you dont want to use chrome for it?

  52. Hylke says:

    Jon Wood: I can ensure you it’s not. We took nautilus as a base and discussed every control in there and basically came to this.

    Personally I think when a product looks like an other product not through copying but by design it’s a good thing in most cases.

  53. Richard says:

    Looks great. Would love to use it 🙂

  54. Zack says:

    Small suggestion: use forward slashes (/) to separate path components in the bread crumb area; this will probably be familiar to users already, and hints that you can use them when typing names for files…

    I don’t generally use the sidebar in nautilus windows, but I don’t mind its being there. I do use it in file chooser dialogs, but only to switch among folders I have added to the list. I would like to be able to prune entries from the list to reduce clutter, and (pie in the sky) have the name of a custom entry be different from its name in the filesystem (specifically, to be able to tell apart .hg/patches directories in several different source trees at a glance)

  55. Clemens Stolle says:

    Hey Garret,
    i tried to pick up on some of the comments here and created my own little mockups based on your work.
    I just noticed that since i started an hour ago there are like 50 new comments… 😉

    If you’re interested in my changes take a look:

    By the way, i like the directions in which your initial work is going a lot.


  56. This is actually less useful than Mac OS X finder – even finder has a status bar.

    Accessibility also needs to be considered in design – not everyone can position a mouse pointer precisely enough to unmount a volume even in the current design. In this mockup there are more such ‘tight places’ – the reload button and the bottom corners of the window that one needs to hit in order to resize the window.

    Removing the title bar would create a major accessibility problem when trying to move the window.

    About label usability – I have observed my mother when she tries to do something: if I tell you to click the ‘Reload’ button and there is no visible label, then she can not find the button. If I show here how to do something, she has to write down the sequence of actions. She can not write down ‘Reload’ if there is no such label, because she will forget how that icon looks like by the time she will need to use those instructions again. She has to draw that icon into her notes – ugly. Removing labels by default means that all instruction manuals will now have to include screenshots for every action. Hover text is a bit longer explanation of what something does, it is not a substitute for a label.

    Everything that ‘Places’ sidebar is showing is already available in ‘Places’ system menu AND in ‘Go’ or ‘Bookmarks’ window menus.

    BTW, cleaning up ‘Go’ and ‘Bookmarks’ menus would be much more welcome. Possible by replacing it with ‘Places’ and ‘History’.

    @John McHugh – tags should be integrated via search for ‘tag:kernel and tag:urgent’ and add/remove tags to files via file properties and a separate dialog like ‘Edit->Backgrounds and Emblems’ now, but at the same time it also can be in a sidebar. My argument is that having sidebar open means that one less file fits on my screen in each line. All other space optimizations and decluttering options discussed here have in total provided less benefit than just switching the sidebar by default.

  57. J.R. says:

    If you want to save the space for the sidebar, why not make a toolbar-button for Home-directory with a dropdownlist that give every item in the sidebar?

  58. jpobst says:

    Very nice, it looks similar (layout wise) to the one I published earlier this week -> here.

    I think I prefer the breadcrumb bar moved up into the empty space left by the toolbar as in my mockup. Either way, this is a huge improvement.

  59. Vinicius says:

    This is just great :D.

    Based on this mockup we can already start to figure out what is missing in GTK+. Sidebar (Bug #307044) and breadcrumb widgets are obviously on top of the list.

    Also, changes in the toolbar behavior (we just shouldn’t allow “text bellow icon” in this case) and padding properties (like the widgets position in the Open Dialog) need to go directly to the draft of the new HIG.


  60. John McHugh says:

    @ Aigars
    Unfortunately I suppose we will need to agree to disagree, I for one believe that tags have not lived up to there full potential due to their confinement to search.
    As for personal observations on usability, however convincing it may be, in reality it is still essentially subjective unless you have performed a great deal of usability tests on a great deal of people and thus in turn gather a substantial amount of information to base any convincing argument on.
    I would like to see the results of the usability tests which Novell conducted though, if only to gain some insight and to compare their usability results with your own.

  61. Andy says:


    I think adding a single labeled button for an action on the right side of the breadcrumb bar (in place of just the icons, which seem to fulfill a similar purpose) would work for special folders (like Trash and CD Burning).

    As for the tab bar, I’m playing around with the idea of having tabs integrated into the window frame (and possibly the window manager, to allow them to easily be docked/undocked).

  62. t.b. says:

    Interesting mock-ups.

    I really like simplifying interfaces. Though I got to admit I think just forward and backward is a bit low on the button-front and considering adding a “new tab” and a “reload/stop” button would be a pleasant addition even in the default. I’ve had enough cases where I had to refresh the nautilus view to get an updated folder-listing and the tab-functionality should be better exposed to the user. It helps organize the windows and have a less cluttered window-list. Sadly many “John Doe” users don’t know about it until somebody shows them at which point I never had a negative response from my clients until now.

    About cramped breadcrumbs:
    Dolphin has an interesting concept for that. If a folder is below a bookmark/place in the hirarchie then it starts the breadcrumb at the bookmarks level, while providing a button at the beginning to select higher placed folders. I liked that concept a lot since it just felt natural. If I click on my “Pictures” bookmark I don’t need to know it’s in /home/user/mountedresource/ — I’d rather want to know where below the Pictures bookmark I am.

    Statusbars are useful to some extend. We just got to ask ourselves whether we want to extend its usefulness or extinguish it by default (so that it can be enabled by people who can’t live without it).

    A way to extend the functionality of the statusbar might be to add context-related functions based on the file/files selected on the right side of it.
    If I select a file and have buttons for move to trash, cut, copy, open with maybe execute if applicable that would possibly greatly expand the mouse-only navigation. Offering a standard set of icons (paste, for example) if the context (file in the clipboard?) calls for it and no file is selected).
    Of course, that functionality is available via right click, too, though right-click menu’s tend to be cluttered by many useless/advanced things while the status-bar buttons would be kept to the bare essentials.

    Extending the statusbar functionality might just be the better way in the case of a file-manager.

  63. Ryan says:

    I think it looks great, although I like having the status bar shown as well.

    One thing that has always kind of bugged me in Nautilus is in Places you have your Bookmarks. If you Bookmarks are network shares then when you click one it gets mounted and placed in the above section of Places. So now its like you have duplicates in Places, the mount point and the bookmark.

    I don’t really have any ideas on how to fix it, but I thought I would mention it 😉

  64. Dylan McCall says:

    Looks nice!

    I was thinking a nice goal for 3.0 would be richer applications of startup notification. As it is, “$application is loading” just appears at the bottom of the screen, hidden away in a corner that the user doesn’t expect. (It’s like clicking an icon at the bottom right and having a small dialog box appear at the top left).

    Would it be possible for Nautilus itself to use startup notification, for example with a “Loading” indicator (such as the one shown here) that appears directly on a file icon when it is being opened?

  65. haxxor says:

    it would be just fine and easier a customization like (many) other programs have (didn’t read previous comments), so everyone can do what they like best (the mockups are nice but waste space and usability, imho)

  66. Eric says:

    Looks nice and overall I think a step in the first direction. One suggestion though… the top right and left curved corners I think would look better (especially when two windows are next to each other) if they were about 10-20% smaller.

  67. frustphil says:

    Absolutely BETTER!
    This is why i LIKE GNOME… 🙂

  68. xfuser4 says:

    A really nice concept. It is clean, simple and pretty. To give you some feedback:

    1. Toolbar

    Although I like the idea of having only two toolbar buttons, I think you have to place a STOP and a RELOAD button (at least for network file systems). Otherwise the user couldn’t stop hanging file systems operations. The Reload buttons is needed, because not every file system provides change notifications.

    2. Tabs

    Did you’ve planned tabs into it? I really like the tab feature of nautilus. It makes things much easier. (Of course tabs could be obsolete, if Mutter provides tabs inside the window manager).

    3. List view

    You also should plan mockups for the List view inside nautilus – because this is the view mode, most people will use.

    4. Path view

    I also like to have an editable path view, like Nautilus currently has. Sometimes I just want to enter the path I want to go directly. I think there are two possibilities:

    – One could enter a path into the search field to open a certain directory
    – It is possible to edit the path list

    5. Status bar

    I miss the the statusbar. I often need the information, how many files are inside a directory and how big they are in total. I know, it would clutter your interface – but perhaps there is another solution for this problem, than a status bar…

    However – I really like your ideas. It is way superior to Finder 🙂

  69. David #2 says:

    It’s amazing just how much I love about these mock-ups. I’d like to add a few ideas.

    1. Instead of worrying about all the space that Stop and Reload take up, if there’s a small combined Stop/Reload button (possibly further combined with a Go button that shows up instead when the location has been edited) at the end of the location bar, it never takes up much space at all.

    2. The view chooser seems to be missing. How would one choose between list and icon views? If you do restore that widget in your next mock-up, I suggest making it a grouped set of buttons (like in Finder), rather than a drop-down.

    3. Much space can be salvaged by moving the location bar before the search bar. The latter could be made smaller, expanding as necessary when search text is entered. Even better would be to merge the search and location bars.

    4. The Places sidebar could be made even more useful by allowing one to expand individual entries into a tree. I find myself switching often between ‘Places’ and ‘Tree’, and this modification would effectively merge the two. Bookmarks could also be added directly into the sidebar. If the sidebar version of Places were more modifiable, many other things would become unnecessary, such as much of the menu bar and several of the buttons on the toolbar (which you smartly removed). I imagine this sidebar should also be fully accessible from the ‘Places’ panel menu.

    5. In fact, I think the side bar should be made permanent. It’s that useful. The deal with the space issue, it can be set to work like a “slidebar”, where it slides away into some sort of minimized mode when it loses focus.

    6. I would love to see another small bar for choosing how to sort files—just like the header that shows up in list view. Its visibility and accessibility is a big advantage of list view, and I don’t see why it shouldn’t appear in icon view as well (albeit in some visually-altered form to match the different context). After all, you’ve already cleared up a ton of space.

    7. As people mentioned, tabs in the title bar. No ideas here. I just think it would be great. Also, the whole chrome area should be unified, without differentiating between the title bar and the rest (like in your mock-up), allowing one to drag the window from any point there.

    8. By far, my biggest Nautilus gripe is with the location bar/bread crumb trail hybrid: it’s modal. You must press a button to change modes and you must manually press it again to change back. This is just a huge pain, and I actively have to think to myself every time whether I need the hassle to change modes in order get to a certain location. My solution is to merge the two modes into a much more intelligent location bar. Get rid of the toggle button (thus freeing up even more space). Enclose the bread crumb trail inside a text area, which will blend into the background when not focused. When one focuses the location bar, the buttons remain. One can type in text to add to the location (or search the current location!), or one can modify it by pressing Backspace, which will turn the last button into plain text (with the trailing ‘/’ now deleted). Finally, after pressing Enter, the whole path becomes fully buttonized.

    I hope my last idea was clear. Perhaps I should try to create a very crude mock-up to explain it.

  70. Igor says:

    want it 🙂

  71. Gabe says:

    For the Stop button, put it on the “Loading…” notification pane. We do need a way to stop long-running operations, but they should only be visible when long-running operations are happening. 😉

    What you’re doing here is very web-like, nice and clean. Won’t you please wade into the HIG and see what can be updated? We need to have a set of guidelines that prioritize both minimalism and discoverability.

    I know you’re a fan of the Mac-style global menus. What is really amazing is how little I actually use application menu bars.

    It would be really interesting to profile Nautilus users’ use of actual menu items over time. I’m guessing 90% of the options are never touched.

  72. It was mentioned somewhere in this long (and quite awesome thread, in terms of friendliness and constructiveness!) that the status bar would be only shown while an item is selected: I love this idea. I was playing around on Windows for a few days this week, tried Google Chrome and it does a similar thing which struck me as really nice, especially on my netbook’s tiny screen 🙂

  73. John McHugh says:

    @Jonathon Roberts – Epiphany also has this new style status bar and its gtk 🙂

  74. @Jonathon Roberts – currently when nothing is selected the status bar shows number of items in the current folder and amount of free space. It is useful to a lot of users, even right here in this thread.

    One other bug I noticed – If you are in /home/user/somedir, then the breadcrumbs bar that you have drawn only allows to go up to /home/user and then provides no way to go to /home . In the current version there is a left arrow button before the first breadcrumb that (when pressed) adds higher level breadcrumbs up to root.

  75. John McHugh says:

    Aigars – Couldn’t the same functionality be integrated in the status bar shown in the mockup? optional of course?
    And also worth noting that you can achieve similar functionality in the sidebar under information though it doesnt seem as useful in its current implementation.
    In fact if the discussion was about how useful the sidebar is today I would agree its not very useful at all, allot of the functionality should be removed and rethought.
    Information doesnt really show useful information, this information should probably be in the status bar though I dont see why it cannot be in the status bar in the mockup, the emblem section is also pretty useless imho as I tend to add emblems through the menu.
    The history section should probably be removed in favour of a zeitgeist view(with its own sidebar contents attached to said view).
    As for the notes section of the sidebar, well I have never used it mostly because I do not know what exactly I am attaching notes to. Is it the folder/file I am currently highlighting or the parent folder? Also these notes don’t seem to branch out anywhere else other than nautilus, maybe having the ability to integrate them through tracker would be better.
    I can think of much better alternatives to populate the sidebar, tag clouds, proper metadata etc.
    Garrett, I would love to hear your opinion on the other parts of the sidebar other than places and any ideas you might have for them.

  76. tvst says:

    Just dropped in to say that I like what you have done with the file selector.

    Why not write a “file selector mode” for Nautilus that can be used in Gnome instead of the default GTK selector?

    (Of course, the default file selector would still show up in GTK applications outside of Gnome as already happens today.)

  77. james says:

    Nice work!

    I’d love to see the Places/Tree/etc. drop down menu in the Side Pane disappear though. Tree seems like the most useful thing in there besides Places? Maybe Tree could go somewhere else? With that gone, then maybe some headings could be added.

    While these changes do make Nautilus more Finder-like… who cares! It’s hard to be original when your making something that’s essentially the same.

    A customize toolbar option would be nice. However, I was told Nautilus has had a bug open for 10 years for a Customize Toolbar option.

  78. Martín says:

    It’s really nice and implemented with clutter whould be even more nice.
    I dont’t like the idea of loosing the statusbar much, but it can be compensated
    I like where this is going

  79. Matt says:


    I love it and i definately +1 Martín’s idea of tastefully using clutter.

    My only thought is that any future work on nautilus also consider how things like the sidepanel and filebrowser-view can be widgetized and made standalone parts of gtk+ and thus easily used in other apps.

    For instance a standard low profile sidepanel/filebrowser combo widget would be very useful for the likes of any future version of the open/close dialouge, or brasero, or gedit.

    Something to keep in mind…

  80. naesk says:

    Looks rather swish 🙂

    I agree that the Open With should resemble to some degree with that of Nautilus, although I do have some reservations as to the degree of similarity & the available options therein.

    One feature I would like to see implemented is a tooltip showing basic properties of said folders & files, when hovered over.
    Example of tooltip;

    File MIME type:
    Default opens with:

  81. frustphil says:

    I think tabs should be implemented like Google Chrome’s…

  82. yfel says:

    if nautilus could work without gnome dependency would be nicer!

  83. […] or in IRC. (I prefer Twitter and IRC over email, by-the-way)… or you could post a comment on this blog post […]

  84. Anton Kerezov says:

    I like these mockups a lot because they are my vision coming alive. I tried to achieve similar look with my theme New Wave[1] but was limited by the current Nautilus internals and not being able to design very successfully. I really hope that smth very similar will happen and finally Linux will be in the game. Btw right now I’m trying to design a animated preview of a new idea of menus that I have[2] so your post gave me additional info to think over. Thanks 🙂


  85. Rabe says:

    Great solution. 🙂 Like it.

  86. Yay! You guys (and girls, any?) rock!

    Is this already possible with the current trunk of Gtk+ 3? Or does it need some coding? If so, I hope it is going to be implemented.

  87. Livio says:

    Interesting mockups but I can give you $100 that it won’t get into GNOME.

    Just like your 1click-install mockups didn’t get into YaST.

  88. name surname says:

    First… I use sidebars. A LOT. Bookmarking folders is so much more convenient than tree. The only people that don’t like it are people who just use sidebar as is. closing sidebar once and file manager to remember that for future reference is much easier for uneducated user than finding out how to enable it.

    now th bad…
    Why not call it osx finder while you’re at it?
    you even use same colors.
    ok, you’ve thrown Vista path widget inside.

    If you try to go with this… well… you can expect whole lotta “linux just copies XYZ”.

    and the good…
    as much as I don’t like the copy/paste from other file managers, idea how to make dialogs and manager the same is wonderful and that part is probably one of best mockups ever

  89. Thura says:

    I also think chrome-like tabs would be nice to see in nautilus …

  90. @John McHugh

    I just tried Epiphany but couldn’t see it. What version is it in? I tried epiphany-2.26.3…

    Intrigued if it is, that would be pretty cool 🙂

  91. Mel C says:

    Nice job….display file size too

  92. I implore you, please, don’t make Nautilus play sound when you hover over it 🙂

    Oh and incase you didn’t see it

  93. ves says:

    Hahahah it actually is just OSX’s Finder.

  94. I don’t know how much it could be useful, but here[1] is a GtkBuilder file that mimics the Nautilus mockup using actual and currently available GTK+ widgets and styles.


  95. Shawn says:

    Is it me or does this look a lot like Thunar? Which I think should have been a joint effort. Make nautilus more light weight and make Thunar more flexible. The ideas are cool but they mean nothing if there is still bloat in the core functionality and operation. And I think that is one area where nautilus needs to continue it efforts; performance and consistency.

  96. Dorian says:

    Awesome, it’s just fantastic.

  97. John McHugh says:

    @ Jonathan Roberts – make sure your using epiphany webkit. Its in the latest stable build, its been in for a few months now.

  98. I like it a lot; it’s way simpler and straight to the point compared to the current file browser.

    Keep up the good work!

  99. Rowan Lewis says:

    I’m sure this has already been said, but I have to do so again it even with the risk of repeating what many other people have already said.

    The status bar is a requirement for me, I cannot live without it. I will _not_ right click on a folder and view its properties to examine disk space because that’s taking me well away from my actual goal.

    The toolbar is useless, the backwards and forwards buttons are basically the same thing as the breadcrumb, only not as useful, get rid of them and you’re left with just the search box. I’m not sure what should happen with that, but it shouldn’t be the only thing on the toolbar.

    I really love everything else mind you, the sidebar is a huge improvement over the existing, I’d actually _not_ hide it as soon as I launch Nautilus if it was as practical as yours appears to be.

    If the open dialog could become a normal nautilus window, I’d be happy to donate to that cause (so let me know!)

    Thanks again for making this, I really love the interface improvements we’ve been seeing happen around the place.

  100. Ewan says:

    I agree with much of what Aigars said, but I do use the sidebar in Thunar and Finder.

    I highly recommend dropping the icon view. It’s absolutely useless in comparison to the detailed views. At the very least, make it default to detailed view or make it very very easy to switch the view and defaults.

    Shawn has a good point though: otherwise it looks much like Thunar.

  101. Alexandre says:

    @Aigars Mahinovs

    “I have yet to see a single person that actually uses sidebars.”

    Where do I send my picture? 🙂

  102. Brian says:

    I thing your work is fantastic, and would like to make three suggestions to save even more space and (maybe) make it look even better:
    1) the Breadcrumbs trail could be moved up to the space freed up in the now-empty toolbar, thus saving a whole horizontal line of space;
    2) tabs could be opened in the title-bar, a-la Chrome, saving yet another horizontal line of space. This is really a window management issue, and I know the Gnome-shell people at one time talked about redoing tabbing in windows after the Boston Hackfest in 2008. At that time they said that all tabs across all programs should be handled by the window manager, and not be dependent on individual programs for a solution. But since then, I have not heard anything more on the issue. All the same, I have always wished the default window manager in Gnome would handle tabs like Chrome, as it would save so much space.
    3) The side panel itself could stand to have a re-designed widget look. I personally love the look and feel of KDE4’s highly attractive folder navigator side panel. I wish Gnome could do something like that.

  103. Paul Moore says:

    I really like the minimalist idea. The only buttons I ever use are back forward and up. However I think we can even do away with the sidebar, or at least make it auto-hide.

  104. seeker5528 says:

    Looks good as far as I can tell from the picture.

    I still kinda prefer the tree view, but as long as I can get quick access to go to any point along the path to the current location, in addition to browsing to any point from the side bar, that’s OK.

    Also hope there is some effort to improve efficiency for those who actually use the file manager to mange files, as opposed to just browsing the files minimal amounts of copy/paste/delete/etc… in particular with large amounts of files. Having to wait minutes to index a directory then wait a similar amount of time to prepare to delete/move the files before the operation actually begins is not nice.

    Later, Seeker

  105. Jones Lee says:

    I am so upset with Aigar attitude, in an open source world, selfish and negative view could not be endured.

    I love your mockup but just wondering:

    1) How the breadcrumb show the Tab?
    2) Status should be visible to show how many files and free space available. This statusbar could be disabled by default.

  106. Stu says:

    WRT Statusbars…

    In the filemanager this is useful when you are selecting a lot of files for copying; (“24 Files, 3gb” for instance)
    I’m not sure when else it’s useful.

    Perhaps the statusbar would only appear in these cases (could even look a bit like the notification area proposals).
    Possibly it could even come in with nice transitons (fade in) and look nice too.

    WRT text beside icons….
    This new design does look clean; we should still have consistency and global defaults though – maybe it’s time to look again at what these defaults should be ?
    – Possibly since the HIG was written more users are familiar with the desktop metaphor (or not).

  107. Rowan Lewis says:

    Even when the status bar is only showing ‘# items’, I still want to see that.

  108. maxauthority says:

    I love this mockups, look very nice!

    @statusbar issues: Couldn’t one just put “23 items” in gray text at the bottom right INSIDE the white file view? I mean, then it looks like part of the folder. The only problem is, with detailed view it would probably not work with too many items.

    And do people really check every day how much space they have left on their HDD? Then it’s probably time to get a new one. Or nautilus could warn with a passive notification (like firefox sometimes does), when <10% of space is free on the device.

  109. Calum says:

    “One huge (and simple) data point gleaned from the BetterDesktop usability sessions is that people actually will hover over things they do not know about and read the tooltips.”

    Sure they will, if they have to. But from my recollection of previous studies, the point is that doing so is somewhat less efficient for the user than just showing them the label in the first place.

  110. John McHugh says:

    @ Calum – yet providing that information 100% of the time is wasted space for people that know what the back button looks like.

  111. Rogu says:

    I like the mockups very much! Particularly, matching up the interfaces of the file selector and (browser) nautilus is a killer.

    Question: What would be the look of the spatial nautilus?

    On tabs: As mentioned in many comments, it would be a good idea to let the window manager handle the tabs, see e.g.

  112. wyrfel says:

    Hei, bit late, but just stumbled into this and want to give my 2…

    1) It’s beautiful. It looks great.

    2) good things: inline search, reduced buttons in toolbar, clearer looks, less irritation, consistency, discoverability

    3) But is it really much more useful than current Nautilus? Your mockups are still having almost as bad a widget/content ratio as current nautilus does.

    4) The thing that actually gets me to comment: please DO NOT make the file requesters look the same (or closely the same) as the file manager. People will get awefully confused. The newer GTK save dialog that by default hides the browser part was a total improvement. Thinking for open/save dialogs should go down further that line, not revert back to the file manager perspective, because file management is not the task at hand when saving or opening a file.

    5) Your mockups don’t deal with one of my biggest annoyances in Nautilus: the “Places/Tree/History…” switcher. These capabilities would be really useful in Nautilus, if they were more accessible. That switcher is a total annoyance. Your mockups at least fix the layout issues the current switcher implementation has by putting the location bar at level with it. But the real issue with it is that for instance attaching notes to folders/files is just behind a too long pathway (click, move/select, click, find input box, click, type note). The notes facility should be there right away. Likewise, switching between places and tree views is too annoying to be productive. Hence, please turn this switcher into somethink like Evolutions “Mail/Calendar/Contacts/…” switcher or find different solutions like stacking the most important stuff vertically. And make it configurable for the user, as well.

    I did actually start producing some glade mockups, but got too busy with other stuff to finish them off.

  113. mahir says:

    i am using ubuntu karmic alpha 3
    i installed it
    but i see no difference in nautilus??

    what did i do wrong

  114. Mark says:

    (re-post to get past the url filter)


    I like your mockups but i think they can be better.
    I made a relatively quick mockup (rough edit of your image).

    You can find it here:

    The things i changed.

    Nautilus – standard
    – Folder navigation right after next/prev
    – No search (use that same bar like vista ir just CTRL + F) no need for a extra field.

    Nautilus – network
    – same as my standard mockup
    – When loading, center that message in the file/folder space
    – Blur (aka make the file/folder part inactive) and display that loading message on top of it

    – More space for you files and folders
    – Looks even more clean then your mockup
    – (to me) looks more intuitive

    Hope you like it,

  115. Jones Lee says:

    @Mark: IMHO removing the search bar is bad because people now tends to do not care where their files are places and rely much on the search tool just like Mac ppl rely on Spotlight.

  116. […] most of the time the GNOME Art team spent was in the hacking rooms, working on icon drawings, user interfaces mockups, new ideas for streamlining the desktop and coding the new website […]

  117. Mojo says:

    Hi guys,

    look at this screenshot to see, what is possible with just a good theme and a small nautilus patch:

    The theme “eGKD Simple” can be downloaded here:

    And here you can get the Nautilus-Simplified patch:

    I’d really like to see a search/filder bar in the toolbar. But afaik that’s no possible up till now.

  118. Shane Fagan says:

    I like the look its a lot nicer than the complicated one at the moment. Id quite like music and video information to be displayed like track title, album, genre etc.. too. Also if their are pictures in a folder id love if nautilus would randomly select one to put as its icon.

  119. […] hackergotchi on PGO… and probably post something about SUSE Studio sometime… and perhaps update that Nautilus mockup as […]

Leave a Reply