the future of Nautilus

Hi everyone! I worked on a few different things during the Novell/SUSE HackWeek. One of these things was continuing my Nautilus redesign that I (Garrett LeSagestarted last year, continued with others (Allan DayHylke BonsMáirín Duffy, etc.) at the London UX meeting and at LGM2010… and then further talked about on the Internet. During the HackWeek this month, I worked collaboratively with others (Allan, Hylke, Lapo Calamandrei, Andy Fitzsimon, and more) using Inkscape, Google Wave, Dropbox, IRC, and IM and we brainstormed on ways to improve Nautilus — not just feature by feature, but how everything would work together. Our overall goals:

  • All the functionality that you need. Nothing you don’t.
  • Clean, simple, attractive
  • Well-suited to small screens
  • Makes many essential functions more discoverable than at present

Please note that this is a work in progress, and is not to be considered final. I am posting our design draft here to request feedback and discussion. To properly move designs forward in the community, we really need to discuss them in the open. We feel these concepts have matured enough to be seen outside of our cross-company collection of designers. The result of our discussions were summarized in another round of mockup explorations, as well as a document summary of key ideas we agreed upon. (This document needs to be moved to GNOME’s wiki at some point in the near future.)

Mockup notes: You can see the progression of the groups of the mockups. We also were playing around with ideas on how to integrate the two menus. (It was later determined that embedding the application menu in the titlebar caused two issues: First, people expect it to be a window manager menu. Second, it could only properly be done with client-side rendering with non-existing versions of the window manager and GTK+. Please disregard this placement in the mockups.)


Overall, this menu restructuring:

  • gets rid of the complexity of Nautilus’ menu system
  • provides the same general feature set
  • prevents us from designing multiple levels deep
  • makes Nautilus look much cleaner than it currently does by not having a menu bar
  • wins us much-needed vertical space

Actions menu

  • File management actions — now moving to an optional (but on-by-default) action bar at the bottom of the window.
  • This is a discoverable version of the right-mouse-button contextual menu.

Open With ###
Open With >

Duplicate Rename…

Dropbox > (and other extensions go here)

Move to Trash



Create > (folders, documents, etc.)

Select All
Select Items Matching…

Application menu

  • Whatever else, when you’re not actually managing files

[Application menu]
New Tab
New Window
New Administrator Window

Connect to Server…

Empty Trash



Close Window
Close All Windows

‘Side-step’ breadcrumb menus

  • Activated via click and hold on breadcrumb folders.
  • Display sibling folders (at the same depth as the folder represented in the breadcrumb).
  • ‘Root’ breadcrumb folder displays other possible roots:

[# Home]
USB Stick
Foo on share


Back and forward menus

  • The back button shall display all history in the past only, and the forward button shows all the future history (relative to present location). Normally, this means the forward button will be disabled until stepping backwards in history.

[ < ] [ > ]
# Foo
# Bar

Clear History

Places menu

  • This menu replaces the places sidebar and bookmarks.
  • When the places sidebar is hidden, it should show up to the left of the Breadcrumbs as a menu, in the same place.
  • It is to be determined if the places sidebar will exist in a toggled form, or if it shall be reduced to a only a places menu.

[ Places ⇩ ]
(All the places one would expect)

Edit Places…


Originally would be the only sidebar, but as of recent mockups, sidebars may go away entirely. Places would then be implemented as a slab-menu.

  • It acts similar to a normal menu.
  • You can click and slide the mouse down during that click to select items, and when you let go, it gets activated. (The eject icons are special cases, but work similarly.)

[FIXME: more info about places]

Actions Toolbar

Dynamic context menus show relevant actions for the selected item.

  • Make contextual actions discoverable
  • Super-easy! Removes the need for awkward right-mouse-button operations
  • Excellent for users with a single mouse/track pad button

Status “minibars”

(See the bottom-left mockup in nautilus-streamlined for now.)

  • Transient, display information only when needed
  • There is no “status bar” by default”
  • # of selected items are shown when files are selected
  • Network loading is shown (with a spinner on the left and stop icon on the right)
  • These minibars will be aligned to the right (unlike the streamlined mockup)

[FIXME: This was discussed in-length, in-person, at LGM2010. We still need a proper mockup.]


A quick and simple way to set up any type of share (eg: local, network, email, IM, Sparkle, Dropbox, Ubuntu One)

  • Reduces menu clutter by locating all sharing mechanisms within a single dialog
  • Makes sharing clear and simple
  • Fast: recent shares are listed first

[FIXME: We have ideas, but this still needs a proper mockup]

New widgets

  • There are no custom widgets in the Nautilus mockups… just new, standard GNOME3 ones!
  • Mockups like these should completely drive what it means to be GNOME3. We should not do one-offs in the software the mockups depict, but make widgets and set paradigms for the entire platform.
  • We should mock up other significant software that incorporate these features.
  • Let’s make sure all the core GNOME apps are new-style, and others will follow. We have to set the example.

Say goodbye to…

While we strive to keep the same featureset in future Nautilus, there are some things which are going away. Please note that almost all of these items in the list are being addressed elsewhere in the interface. We are removing:

  • computer:///
    • The items displayed in computer:/// are already present in the places side pane and will also be present in the breadcrumb dropdown when that is completed
    • computer:/// isn’t as useful as Places or the dropdown because it is one step removed – it’s essentially hidden
    • ‘Computer’ isn’t a good description of the contents of computer:/// anyway. ‘devices:///’ would be more appropriate.
  • “filesystem” in the UI
    • Nautilus should focus on serving real people’s needs. People do not need to manage system files in a file manager. However, that said…
    • We’ll have a hidden gconf key to enable filesystem for über-geeks (or better, wanna-be-uber-geeks, uber geeks use the terminal… or ctrl+L), who are the ones who want this feature in the first place.
    • It will also be possible to navigate the filesystem by hitting Control-L and typing locations, just as it is in current Nautilus.
    • remote directories mounted in /opt/ (and other random places) will be exposed under network
    • any location Nautilus can see is “bookmarkable”, and these bookmarks will show up in places
  • Split pane (“extra pane”)
    • Split panes would prevent many of the features being advocated here, including the single toolbar and actions toolbar.
    • This design removes many of the reasons for split panes in the first place, however. For instance: Non-directory specific controls are kept to an absolute minimum.
    • Split pane mode really calls for better window management.
  • Everything in the sidebar other than Places: including Tree, History, Emblems and Notes.
  • User specifiable backgrounds, emblems and custom icons.
    • Spatial mode as a distinct UI. The Nautilus future design is the perfect combination of the spatial and browser UIs. Its minimalism should feel comfortable and familiar to spatial users.
    • Spatial mode could still be retained as a preference, of course, as: ☑ Open folders in new windows

Many aspects of Nautilus’s UI are extremely old-fashioned and are barely used. The maintenance burden they represent outweighs their usefulness. Nautilus bugzilla is choked up by reports about backgrounds, custom icons and spatial mode. Many of these never get touched. Better to have a minimal UI that is complete and well-maintained than a plethora of half-finished features.

TL;DR (Summary)

A number of us designers in the community are brainstorming and proposing changes to Nautilus. We’re going all the way and suggesting more than little fixes here and there (which is what Nautilus been doing for years.) We’re building a vision of what better file management could be. Read the results of our design discussions above, and check out the latest round of mockups. If you’re a designer, you can also grab the source SVG for editing in Inkscape. Also, please feel free to change the file contents in the mockup to something else. (:

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85 Responses to “the future of Nautilus”

  1. garrett says:

    It’s worthy to note: I didn’t address tabs in the mockups yet, but those would go above the bar.

  2. Hylke says:

    This turns Nautilus Elementary into Nautilus Bulky in one go… 🙂

  3. Mike says:

    Looks good (compared to other gnome nautilus ideas recently floated [1]). I’m assuming it would still be possible to use a spacial-type layout whereby windows are used instead of tabs (in which case, it might make sense to allow “close parents windows” to be as prominent as some of the actions, since I find Ctrl+Shift+W by far my most used key combination in the current incarnation).

    Also, I realized I don’t use the status bar except for knowing the total disk space of a selection. The number of items is useful, but knowing the size in Mb of the selection is invaluable. Presumably this would be part of the mini-statusbarlet thing, and would stay visible for the duration of the selection?

    I’m looking forward to the new nautilus if this is how it’ll end up…


  4. Eumel says:

    Hey, i like most of the ideas. But something makes we worry about the Vertical space problem. In the last month’s we have the approaches to save as much vertical space as possible and making general cleanup of apps to let them look more UI-friendly. So the last one is perhaps the most importent and the community makes great steps into it. But the first one isn’t good at all IMO.
    There are differen types of users so there should be different types of views.
    – User 1 sitting in front of an older notebook with WXGA resolution. With current nautilus he is more or less satisfied. It is usable.

    – User 2 sitting in front of an shiny new netbook. He currently installed his favourite distribution with the gnome desktop and introducing problems with nautilus while his screen only shown 600px in horizontal view.

    – User 3 is using a desktop pc an has recently bought a new 27 inch widescreen with a native 1.920 x 1.080 Pixel resolution and he doesn’t care about window sizes anymore. It seems there isn’t any natuilus because the white area makes nautilus’ menu/panel to disappear somewhere on top and the left.

    – User 4 which I’m belong using a resolution which have between 800px and 1200px vertical and are satisfied with both, natuilus and nautilus elementary (as to horizontal with).

    Ok, there are other screen-setups but i think it’s enought.

    IMHO, only user 2 with the netbook is in trouble with it’s netbook’s resolution and the vertical space.

    So my proposal is not to extend as much vertical space we can but to improve the user interface and interaction to the best.

    I think your approches are going the right direction but maybe we should differ between netbook usage an normal usage. This could possibly are nautilus-full and nautilus-netbook or nautilus-light packages.

  5. Paul says:

    Great work guys! So many great ideas! Especially love the context menu in the statusbar 🙂

  6. Selly says:

    The action bar just seems like pointless wheel re-invention, to me. Nothing there that couldn’t be done with a simplified menu bar and/or a toolbar, both of which would put everything in a more familiar place with more familiar controls.

  7. Selly says:

    Oh, and where are the real, documented user requirements that are driving this? Or are you just falling into the usual open source ‘designers and developers know best’ trap?

  8. Dread Knight says:

    Neat mock-ups. Some work on Nautilus is long time due. I’m using nautilus-elementary atm.

    Anyway, check this blog post as well

  9. hb says:

    While you do have some very nice points that would definitely make Nautilus better, I don’t agree to the overall picture of the features that you want to remove.

    I mean – no filesystem browsing? It’s nice if you never need to move around outside your home directory, but that’s definitely not an exotic thing to do (/opt, /home/my_wife/our_wedding_pictures, /var/log/, /srv/our_shard_music_repo, …). And also, no sidebar tree anymore?

    Are you sure you actually designed a _File Manager_?

    You say the split pane conflicts with “the features advocated here”. What features? Is “looking slick” the killer-feature for a file manager, rated over actually managing files?

    And anyways, your proposal removes none of the reasons for the split pane. I ought to know, I wrote it (after discussing it on the Nautilus mailing list, btw).

    It’s also objectively wrong that better window management would remove the point of split panes. I already explained this several times, e.g. [1] or [2]. You may not agree that this use-case is important enough for a file manager (and I would definitely disagree with you here), but saying that split pane functionality is trying to work around window manager’s window placement shortcommings is simply not true.

    Also, wasn’t there a few Nautilus UI meetings recently that Allan even initiated? Weird that I haven’t heard much of this there. Neither on the Nautilus mailing list.


  10. On the topic of what to do with the search bar. I like it replacing the places bar as it represents a different mode of using Nautilus (search vs. navigation). I would possibly think about making that clearer to the user though by having an icon to represent going from search mode to navigation mode. Currently the search icon more represents toggling search mode and I think it make more sense to represent search->navigation and navigation->search than search->on and search->off.

    I also strongly like the drop-down menu for places as I am not a fan of having space wasted by a side pane. Even the space wasted by the window title bar and menu bar annoys me (in current apps).

  11. Bob Hazard says:

    >> Better to have a minimal UI that is complete and well-maintained than a plethora of half-finished features.

    This should be the mantra of Gnome3. Also Shiny. But mainly this.

  12. dextro says:

    Looks good but I personally think the places sidebar is important. At least it’s the way I currently use Nautilus and something I would sorely miss. Since I’m on my phone I was unable to check the mockups but one thing I think is missing currently in Nautilus is a easy to find and access place to see disk space usage. I resort to conky for that but it’s not something a regular user would do. Actually these are 2 of the things Microsoft actually fixed rather well in vista/7: the disk usage in “My Computer” and the explorer sidebar (but this last one comes straight from Mac OS-X finder).

  13. Jimbo says:

    It makes me squeee like a school girl seeing this.

  14. Vincent Untz says:

    Where can I buy it? 😉

    More seriously, are the nautilus maintainers happy to work in this direction?

  15. Tobias says:

    Not kickass. First you argue for previous vertical space and scrap almost everything and then you introduce a »discoverable« context menu strip. Sorry, but context menus don’t need to be discovered in 2010 anymore. They are discovered.

    If you want to argue for a tired gran’ma use case, then Nautilus is not the place to introduce it. It’s disappointing that an actual Gnomer proposes to break consistency with the rest of the desktop like that. I don’t see how this is different from all the other layman’s deviantart/gnomelook if-I-were-king mockups.

  16. Mike says:

    My not so worth comments on the screenshot:
    – The use of the sidebar and putting it besides the toolbar when hidden is great.
    – Having the context menu always available is clever, it means less right clicks 🙂
    – I did not understand what the icons “file-manager” and “file” represent beneath “back”/”forth”.
    – The search utility is perhaps exaggerated, first because I never search for files and if I do it is usually a find inside a console (so count this comment for biased).
    – I’m not enthusiast about the idea of replacing the toolbar with the search bar. The last time I was surprised by a nice search “box” was in Google Chrome.

    I’ll hopefully take time to read through your blog post.

  17. Seif Lotfy says:

    I love it. Tell me when the hacking starts 🙂
    I wouldn’t mind integrating zeitgeist and tracker into it 🙂

  18. Rodney Dawes says:

    Why isn’t anyone actually looking at just getting rid of the file manager/browser? What do we need one for?

    For all the desire to be bold and different, why is no one actually doing so?

  19. ammonkey says:

    @garrett: great mockups, the “Less is more” are my favorites, i like the Places buttons, if it’s support popup on drag and drop you don’t even need a sidebar. The bottom bar is interesting too for people not aware of context menus (like my dad). But it should be an option for people used to context menu, they don’t have to pay this vertical pixel “price”. Great work, let’s hope nautilus gonna take this direction.

    @hylke: you’re so cute! what you consider the future of nautilus is the present of nautilus-elementary. 90% of theses mockups can already be done via the different options (preferences + toolbar editor) in nautilus-elementary (plus we support split-view). Cheers.

  20. Duncan Lock says:

    Not sure what you mean about getting rid of emblems – are you just suggesting removing them from the sidebar, or removing emblem support from Nautilus completely? As emblems are heavily used everyday by anyone who uses Dropbox, UbuntuOne, or any of the SVN, GIT or other CVS integration things – I assume that this is just removing them from the sidebar. If that’s the case – then it would merely be impossible to set your own emblems via Nautilus, as programmatic support would need to remain. I have some workflows that more-or-less rely on emblems and I think a few other people would probably miss them too, possibly in a ‘fork you’ kinda way.

    Also, isn’t symlinking remote stuff into the filesystem _specifically intended_ to make the remote stuff blend in and _not_ look like remote network stuff? If Nautilus is then going to go to the trouble of pulling apart the users remote sysmlinks, so that they revert back to looking like different, remote, networky stuff – isn’t that a bit backward? Not to mention disrespectful of the users intentions, perhaps? Think about the kind of users who do a remote symlinking stuff – novices who need hand-holding, or not?

  21. pt says:

    While you are cleaning up nautilus can you seperate the code that draws the desktop background, so third party applications/ Window Mangers like Compiz can draw the desktop background and nautilus can layer the Desktop files on top. This will allow users to have different wallpapers for the workspaces, allowing for easier recognition on which workspace they are currently at.

  22. Rob J. Caskey says:

    How about having two modes for the places bar (perhaps tabs), one with custom places and the other with auto-places that would, at a minimum, include all the items normally held in breadcrumbs?

  23. David Regev says:

    I love how much this is going in the right direction. I have many notes:

    The single simplified application menu in the title bar is really great, not only because of the space saved but because it nicely fits with many emerging conventions: Firefox’s Firefox button, GNOME Shell’s Application menu, Windows 7’s “File” menu, and Ubuntu’s Unity’s combined window-title/application-menu. I hope this direction isn’t abandoned due to difficulties with client-side decorations.

    Speaking of client-side decorations, I think many will agree that tabs in the title bar are a much cleaner and more discoverable design.

    Most of the items in your Application menu seem to be superfluous. If you have tabs persistent in the title bar then New Tab is handled by pressing the New Tab button (something Nautilus does not currently have). New Window is handled either by tearing off a new tab (something currently not possible in Nautilus) or, better yet, tearing off the New Tab button to create a new window. New Administrator Window is just a work-around for the fact that PolicyKit isn’t properly integrated. Empty Trash is already shown when viewing the Trash. And both Close commands are obviously redundant.

    I like the side-step breadcrumb menus. Since there aren’t many details about the interaction for these objects, I have a few recommendations. First, when displaying the menu, make sure to place it such that the folder being clicked on is displayed directly above its breadcrumb (in other words, the way comboboxes in GTK+ are aligned to the current selected item). So, if I click-and-hold on Pictures, the menu that pops up has Pictures directly beneath the pointer, with Music and Public right above and below it, respectively. This serves two purposes. First, it removes any repercussions from any accidental click-and-hold, since letting go in the same spot will do nothing. Second, it allows you to make the hold delay very small—long enough so as not to show the menu when quickly clicking on breadcrumbs, but short enough so that there is no significant wait when you want to see the menu. This also makes side-step menus more discoverable. Another suggestion I have is to make it possible to navigate through a folder’s children from the menu, since this would be much faster than manually (double-)clicking on folders until you find the right one.

    I just realized that there’s some redundancy between the Places menu and the root “folder”. I suggest experimenting with combining Places with the breadcrumbs by making it the top-most node in the hierarchy. It would have to be pretty prominent, so as to remain discoverable. Clicking on it could display the ex-sidebar directly in the content area, perhaps in a more informative manner.

    You point out that the Forward button is usually going to be disabled. I have one small tweak that would make it more useful: don’t delete Forward history when going back and navigating elsewhere. For example, say I start in Home, go to Pictures, go back to Home, and then go to Documents. All browsers that I have seen would have a disabled Forward button here. Instead, I would place Documents directly after Home, with Pictures remaining after that, in the Forward history. This makes it easier to return to folders you recently viewed—without needing a Go or History menu.

    The Actions Toolbar is very clever. I like that it’s horizontal and takes up so little space. I would make sure that it appears when nothing is selected as well, so that the current folder can easily be acted upon as well.

    I don’t see any sort of zooming widget or any way to switch views. There was some talk recently of merging zooming and view-switching. A simple slider like that in Nautilus Elementary combined with ticks for zoom levels at which the view changes could work well.

    My last suggestion is the biggest: combine the breadcrumbs and Search. I briefly explained how to do this in my comment (last point) on your older redesign, and DanRabbit later had that idea as well, but more fleshed out. Basically, get rid of the Ctrl+L mode altogether. Instead, encase the breadcrumbs in a text box, so you can type in the area to the right of the box. In that area, you can type anything, and Nautilus will use Tracker to find any object within that folder and any subfolders, displaying a list of the best results as suggestions. At the end of the suggestions will be something like ‘See more search results…’, which will take you to a full-blown search in that window. Thus, searching for a file and navigating to it become the same quick action. Moreover, hitting Backspace will delete the trailing ‘/’ character from the path, causing Nautilus immediately to navigate up a directory and to display the old directory as plain text and selected, so you can easily delete it and move upwards more or start searching for something else in the new directory. I’d offer a more specific example to demonstrate this, but I think DanRabbit already did a good job of explaining how this would work (though it’s not completely identical to what I described). Finally, this will solve another problem in your mock-up: the Search button’s lack of discoverability for some users. Some people will simply not notice anything other than an always-visible search field. Having one unified field will make it even more discoverable for such people.

  24. Jones Lee says:

    @rodney: Maybe just because our grand father come up with that File Manager idea and now everyone use and accept it even though it could not be the best thing in the world

    @garret: for the Places drop down tab, what behaviour should we expect if the list of items is longer than the application window height?

  25. Jones Lee says:

    I love the MacOS X icon zoomer slider widget, I think Nautilus should have this too.

    Have you thought about having the slideshow mode like Finder?

  26. Michael says:

    This is awesome… I really hope the nautilus people will pick up this design!

  27. claudiodsf says:

    Have you thought about Miller columns?

    See for example:

  28. liam says:

    So, we added split-view on the last cycle, and on next (well, I’m guessing you have in mind 3.2?) we lose it? Aside from the appearance of poor product vision, the split view is actually very useful. Now, while it is true that better window management would fix SOME of the issues, we don’t currently (or even in the near future, as far as mutter is concerned) have such management.
    Personally, I would like to see Nautilus dropped in favor of better search (tracker) and such tools as the Activity Journal. I think the idea of actually managing files is… quaint, but clumsy. It seems a stop-gap for more efficient measures. Obviously this isn’t yet possible, so we still need to actually arrange our files (please don’t make me go to the commandline for such things, when a gui is so much more efficient in this case). To make such chores easier, a split-view mode was added. Please don’t remove this option completely.


    PS: I confess I haven’t read your entire post, so if you addressed my concerns, and I missed it while skimming, color my face red:)

  29. Iswan says:

    Nautilus is going to be cool!

  30. phocean says:

    It looks so GREAT !!!

  31. Simon says:

    What will happen to the desktop?
    Since Nautilus will continue to “draw” the desktop in GNOME 3 maybe some design fixes are in order there as well. For example icons and thumbnails should have consistent sizes like in the folder view. Remove manual resizing of the icons (is anyone even using that?) which will allow the desktop to stay aligned properly.
    This is a major pain in current Nautilus, especially because every other file manager does it right.

    I like the work you did with Nautilus mockups there, maybe you could have included the preview sidepane with useful information like the new Windows explorer has on the bottom ( )

  32. Hylke says:

    @ammonkey “what you consider the future of nautilus is the present of nautilus-elementary. 90% of theses mockups can already be done via the different options (preferences + toolbar editor) in nautilus-elementary (plus we support split-view). Cheers.”

    I know, but it’s not like that by default. It’s important having good defaults, but you know that because you started Elementary. btw, i was more joking and this wasn’t an attack on Nautilus Elementary, I like what you are doing. I just think we can push it some more. 🙂

  33. Hylke says:

    @Simon the drawing of the wallpaper is going to be moved to the shell/window manager, but this is kind of offtopic.

  34. Allan says:

    I *love* these designs. They’re not primarily about aesthetics – functionality and usability come first. Unecessary interface elements are hidden or removed. Common functions are made visible. It’s as simple as that.

    The whole Nautilus crew needs to get together to talk over where we want the project to go. Now’s the time to set our direction. Let’s make it happen!

  35. […] poi sono sempre quelle giuste ^^La prima segnalazione punta al lavoro, più o meno ufficiale, di Garret LeSage (grazie Riccardo!) che già avevamo discusso l’anno passato qui su pollycoke, più o meno in […]

  36. Simon says:

    I wasn’t talking about the wallpaper, I don’t care about that, I was talking about icons and thumbnails on the desktop which are now a mess. I was hoping that it would be changed.

  37. Stu says:

    So advanced users shouldn’t manage files with a file manager? But GUIs are nice !
    Could we maybe have a better plugin system so we can do this… Or should we switch to thunar or something?
    Surely custom icons can’t be too much of a burdern… Are there that many bugs caused by this?

    Anyway… Love the redesign ideas in general, I think you can reach a happy medium where it’s still usable for advanced users.

  38. nfilus says:

    NAK. Sorry, don’t like it. The direction Nautilus elementary is going is the right one for me. I’m using it because it offers polished and simplified UI without making look in childish.

    I dont like
    – the embedded context menu,
    – the embedded application menu,
    – the placement
    I need the detailed view and never used the icon view.

    It would be ok, if this were the “simplified netbook mode”, but not for every days usage.

  39. Rehdon says:

    I like many of the proposed ideas, but also have a couple of nitpickable items:

    – isn’t it contradictory saying that you want to save precious vertical space, then adding an “on by default” Actions menu at the bottom of the window? which, btw, looks like an old style file manager tool bar (you know, those were actions were tied to F keys …);

    – getting rid of Tree and History altogether seems wrong to me, although I could see the point wrt History if a time-based file management functionality were to be integrated into Nautilus;

    – getting rid of Tree seems particularly bad because you also want to prevent to manage files … in the Filesystem! this doesn’t make sense to me, at least with Tree the actual file system would always be exposed and easily reachable;

    – finally, you’re dead wrong about split panes: the issue is only marginally tied to that of better window management, and it’s not true that you would remove any need for it with the proposed changes (I really don’t see how that could happen, second bullet point seems to be more about spatial browsing than split panes); if you’re concerned about main and actions toolbars you could double the main toolbar and make the actions one vertical, saving vertical space as a bonus.

    My 0.02 cents, keep up the good work 🙂


  40. I approve of the more minimalistic approach to the Nautilus redesign. I wrote a post a while ago about redesigning Nautilus: and this simplifies the UI even further. Like Seif mentioned, I reckon it would also be good to get some Zeitgeist integration in there.

  41. Rodislav Moldovan says:

    looks good!

  42. […] Post acerca de si Nautilus deberia cambiar por completo su GUI. Y yo he enbcontrado en el Blog de Garret unas curiosas propuestas sobre una nueva interface de Nautilus. Nota: las imagenes son mockups pero […]

  43. […] Ver más detalles en:Nautilus […]

  44. Jan Jokela says:

    Icons plus names aren’t good enough at describing files when you have lots of them in a folder. Nor is a popup menu or menubar with actions a good enough approach at getting more file info or discovering what actions to perform.

    Why not have a mechanism where single clicking an icon “opens” the file in the folder view area giving a preview (as in MAC OS Quick View) plus relevant metadata and actions. Click close and you’re back to your folder. This would obviously require a plugin architecture for supporting various file types.

    I created a five minute mockup:

  45. anechoic says:

    doing away with split-pane?!!
    this is probably one of the best features added to Nautilus since I’ve started using it and makes moving stuff from folder to folder hella-intuitive. I’ve needed this feature for years and now you’re doing away with it?!

    Also, just FYI: I use the file navigator as root often instead of the command line when setting permissions and moving stuff around in my system AND I always have ‘view invisible files’ switched ‘on’ — sometimes typing stuff in is more of a chore than just firing up a window as root and doing stuff there.

    please do not Disney-fy Nautilus for the people who use it in conjunction with the command line?

  46. Juanjo says:

    I like the mockups, although the “Nautilus should focus on serving real people’s needs” alike comments makes me feel uncomfortable.

    I think you’re right, but let’s make the change easier without saying what are the people’s needs in such enlightened way 🙂

  47. Chris S. says:

    Looks great! I like where this is heading, though I’m not sold on the idea of removing emblems / custom icons. I think assigning emblems to files or folders helps to distinguish certain items quickly and easily, and is a tool that I use to organize my files.

  48. james says:

    Nice work. I personally like first pass, and first pass 2, but with different (but few) buttons.

    You might want to also test with a different gtk theme/style. One that doesn’t use the window title style in the toolbar area. It seems like your designing around your gtk theme a little (maybe not on purpose though).

  49. Rovanion says:

    I would like to add an idea that was originally made by Dan Rabitt.
    When a user types on the keyboard in any situation, it will be into a searchfield. It will by default just as usual, match the names of folders and files in the current context. If no match is found, it will start searching in a broader context such as Zeitgeist history.

    Tough now that I think about it, well it sounds rather annoying if I would loose my current context just because I mis-typed, I must be quoting him wrong in some way.

    It might just be that I’m blind but in what way does split pane prevent any functionality proposed here? The only difference would be that the menus and buttons only reflect the active pane. I am using split view right now as I’m working on restructuring filesystems on a couple of harddrives for one of my friends, it does come in handy.

  50. Nautilus says:

    This design is beautiful. I really like the search bar in the top right corner. Keep up the great work.

  51. John Baptist says:

    Very glad to see you included an Undo command. This has been missing for a loooong time. I hope you follow through.

  52. Mirek2 says:

    Wow, great job.
    On the menu arrangement: how about instead of the ambiguous “Actions” and “Application” menus (e.g. “Close Window” or “Empty trash” is an action and “Undo”/”Redo” has a lot to do with the application) having “Selection” and “Application” menus. “Selection” would depend on what is selected and would include most of what you list under “Actions” except “Paste,” “Undo,” “Redo,” “Create,” and the selection options. The “Application” menu would now contain these, as well as what you have listed.

  53. Mirek2 says:

    By the way, any changes that would ease single-click navigation?

  54. Mirek2 says:

    BTW, now that I’ve had a second look, here’s what I’m missing: A view changer. I’m still waiting for Nautilus to get Miller columns and better single-click selection, but meanwhile I use a combination of the List and Details views.
    The arrows on the right bother me: I’m used to having those on the left, and it’ll just feel weird to have these on the right when my web browser has them on the left. The contextual toolbar on the bottom would also feel more natural at the top.
    The menu buttons seem like launchers: you should add a down arrow to indicate their “menuship” 🙂 like Chrome does. And again, they’d feel more natural on the right.
    The address bar should be intuitively editable (so not with unobvious shortcuts) — that’s especially useful for copying location, which I do all the time (into Terminal).
    I’d really like the address bar and the search bar to be merged into an omnibox of sorts. Being able to do search AND edit location just by simply typing from anywhere would be awesome.

  55. […] Post acerca de si Nautilus deberia cambiar por completo su GUI. Y yo he encontrado en el Blog de Garret unas curiosas propuestas sobre una nueva interface de Nautilus. Nota: las imagenes son mockups pero […]

  56. Adam says:

    Wow… really liking the current nautilus as a lot of great work has gone into it.

    I really don’t like the “simplification” you are doing as it makes my life more difficult.

  57. MH says:

    I’d copy the search approaches from browsers. The most elegant find is probably in Chrome (slide down from top-right). Alternatively, the Firefox one is quite good.

  58. /b says:

    wow, i didn’t even know there was a split view in nautilus until i read this!

    also, doesn’t the search bar already replace the “places” bar? i mean, that’s what my nautilus does.

  59. M says:

    This is cool and all, but a really massive factor is being consistent across the entire desktop; application and all.

    In fact, /for me/, it is more important that UI is consistent everywhere than it being the best, as the former makes things faster to use.

  60. […] would be a good time to read this blogpost by Garrett LaSage, which puts forward some of the proposed design changes being complained about […]

  61. Required says:

    “Nautilus should focus on serving real people’s needs. People do not need to manage system files in a file manager”

    Who are these real people? I’m an actual, real person. I need to manage system files. I have a plethora of image viewers for browsing pictures. What I need is a File Manager that does a good job of Managing Files, including system files. The most important use case I have is transparently manipulating files and directories across hosts using SFTP URLs. If that isn’t among the capabilities of your Nautilus I assure you I’ll never use it.

    Nautilus doesn’t need to be further devolved into grandma’s picture viewer. Please stop perpetuating that trend.

  62. Mårten W says:

    In a browser you go UP and DOWN in a Tree!

    Why would I ever want to go Back where Back isn’t Up in a browser? Especially in a browser without a browser tree! Have a history button instead if you really want that functionality.

    When I select files I assume the status-bar will show me the combined size of the selected files (or the number of folders selected), the discoverable option is just messy.
    Fix this bug instead:

    Pressing CTRL-L is a hidden-key and should be UN-hidden by allowing the adress field become a text-path field when clicked uppon. See Windows 7 Explorer for a good solution.

    Removing split pane is a no-no for now. If you are bringing back mc’s action row at the bottom you should keep split pane as well.

  63. garrett says:

    Hi everyone!

    As stated before, this isn’t final… it’s a draft. We’re reading what you’re writing, and we’re considering alterations to the design. (For instance, yesterday, a few of us talked about the infamous split pane concept, and how it might be integrated in a way where it might make sense.)

    If you’re not happy with certain aspects of the designs, please explain why, and how you currently manage files in a way this does not address.

    You can still go up and down a tree with this design with no problems. There are breadcrumbs on all the mockups (the search mockup is a toggle and not the default state). It’s explained in the text that I posted.

    We are not suggesting removing SFTP support or anything like that, either. It still would exist in this mockup. (Most of us designing this use SFTP support in Nautilus every single day, by-the-way. It’s super-useful.) We are also not making it a picture viewer. Also, we do want to support multiple modes of viewing files (such as details view)… that was simply an omission in this round. (Sorry about that.)

    As far as a sidebar tree view… we would like to hear from people how it is useful. It could be the case that people using it would benefit from a multi-view approach (called “extra pane” right now). If that’s the case, there’s all the more reason to consider how to enable that feature in an intuitive way without bogging down the UI for everyone else.

    Copying paths to a terminal is as simple as it is now: You can drag and drop any path from the breadcrumb or file/folder from the view to the terminal, and it will paste the path. We could consider copying the path from the path’s right click menu too, to make it a little more obvious.

    The actions bar is on the bottom, as it is context-sensitive to whatever you have selected (which if nothing is selected, it’s context-sensitive to the folder you’re currently viewing).

    Zeitgeist integration would be great, but not simply for the sake of Zeitgeist integration. We should think about how we could best use Zeitgeist in the context of file management. (In this round of mockups, we’re attempting to get the core of Nautilus designed right. I personally would love smart folders in places and could see that filtered searches could be really useful too.)

    Also, the whole “Nautilus should focus on serving real people’s needs” doesn’t mean that it isn’t doing that right now, it just means that we should be careful about adding features that don’t make sense in a file manager. In the context of not exposing the filesystem in the UI by default, one can do the following: 1) Use “Administrator mode”, which has access to the filesystem by default. 2) Navigate to the path by hitting alt-up to jump up. 3) Hit control-L, type a path, and press enter. 4) Work from a place bookmark that one has previously made after performing one of the previous actions.

    Thanks for all your feedback (this includes the constructive complaints, too) — also we’re glad that most people are overall very happy with the designs so far. (:

  64. Mårten W says:

    Thank you Garrett,

    Many of your solutions are using hidden alternatives… Alt-Up is another hidden button-combination, just like Ctrl-L.

    If I press Ctrl-L will I have a new location bar text field or will the Bread-crumb thing be replaced by the text?

    I prefer the second one, this is also educational for people that if they by happenstance press ctrl-l they see that the /folderx/foldery corresponds to their folderx>foldery when they remove it.
    I’d also prefer the Windows 7 way of just clicking to the right of the last folder bread crumb and you get the path pre-selected instead. Some of us are actually used to Ctrl-C&Ctrl-V instead of moving the mouse dragging and dropping everywhere.

    What do you mean by “Administrator mode” and access what filesystem?

    If I’m not in “Administrator mode”, press Ctrl-L and type “/” and press enter I will end up in my home folder instead of the root folder? If so, that’s just ridiculous.
    How can I tell “Administrator mode” apart from “User mode”?

    if I understood you correctly under “Whatever else, when you’re not actually managing files”
    Is that if I have a file or folder selected I will not be able to go into nautilus preferences?
    Do you know how hard it is NOT to have a file selected in nautilus list view?

  65. garrett says:


    Yes, Control-L would show a location bar text field, and it would be selected by default, so you can easily Control-C to copy the path, Control-V to paste in a new path, hit backspace to clear it, or just start typing to replace the text.

    It would replace the location, since it’s a different representation of the path. (Nautilus currently does this right now too.)

    Administrator mode would ask you to authenticate with root credentials somehow (PolicyKit, for example) and would display a version of the same window, but with administrator privileged. This “root” privileged window will show the entire filesystem.

    “/” in whatever mode will take you to the real “/”. When you hit Control-L, you will see the absolute path, not the pathbar’s relative path.

    The administrator mode would have a warning at the top to make it very clear that you are acting as an administrator, and may provide a way to switch back to a normal user in the same directory. At the very least, closing the window will close that session. It’s sort of like Chrome’s privacy browsing mode, where the window has self-contained special privileges, except for running things as an administrator.

    That’s true, in details mode. In icon mode you can select the background. I imagine that it would be easy to click on the pathbar, on the current path, and it would select that folder. (Nautilus doesn’t seem to work like this currently.) However, if you do traverse up a level with alt-up, it will select the folder you were just inside of. (It should respect clicking on the last item in the path too, however.)

    You could always “select all” and “invert selection” or “select items matching…” and type gibberish. Those are not *real* solutions however. Perhaps we should have a “select none”? (:

  66. Mirek2 says:

    “Copying paths to a terminal is as simple as it is now: You can drag and drop any path from the breadcrumb or file/folder from the view to the terminal, and it will paste the path.”
    For me, on my netbook, this is much less simple than the keyboard shortcuts (which, I assume, will still be there, but, unfortunately, hidden). I have to resize and position the Nautilus window to be able to drag the breadcrumbs bar. (“Ctrl+L,” ) “Ctrl+C,” “Alt+Tab,” “Ctrl+Shift+V,” is a lot faster.
    I’m adding my voice to the people that want the same “Edit location” behavior as in Windows Vista/7 — put a blank space after the location breadcrumbs for editing it.

  67. garrett says:

    @Mirek2: We’ll think about it.

    I do remember that I tried this in Explorer once (while testing a website on IE) and was very confused where I should click. Sometimes it worked as a button, other times it changed to text. It doesn’t forgive an accidental slightly-off click. People often move the mouse slightly (even by a pixel) while clicking.

    Perhaps we can do this better.

  68. jstultz says:

    Very nice looking! Glad to see some more visible development in nautilus.

    Just to throw another idea into the pile, here’s an idea I had awhile back that might be interesting (or not):

    Direct link to the slides:

  69. TheReviewer says:

    Looks sweet but the buttons are on the wrong side in the mock up. (Just kidding)

  70. Required says:

    “As far as a sidebar tree view… we would like to hear from people how it is useful”

    Sidebar tree view, for lack of better a term, directly reflects the structure of a file system in a concise manner. This is valuable for the same reason the GUIs generally have value; the capabilities are surfaced which imparts understanding. Having zero or one siblings is profoundly different than having 75. Having twelve ancestors is much different than having only one. Tree controls convey these things instantly.

    For a modest amount of real estate you get to navigate two dimensions; one vertical (sibling folders) and one horizontal (child folders.) You get a cursor (highlight) that even makes keyboard navigation straightforward and intuitive.

    The ‘sidebar’ part is critical. Placing the tree control on the side, separate from the folder contents, efficiently and intuitively separates ‘location’ (the tree) from folder content. It is not sufficient to provide only a detail view (no sidebar) with expandable folders. Both Konqeror and Nautilus have attempted this and it fails badly.

    Dolphin attempted to obviate the traditional tree navigator with its ‘columns’ mode. Each opened child folder creates a new ‘panel’ to the right of a stack of panels. This fails badly in at least three ways;

    1. displays are limited so you get only a few visible panels, whereas a tree control efficiently conserves space by placing folders in tiers.
    2. The rightmost panel is the child of some difficult to spot parent among many possible parents in the previous panel; the relationship between parent and child folders is CRITICAL.
    3. How does one navigate this stack of panels with anything other than a mouse? The fact that the answer isn’t obvious is an inherent design problem.

    “multi-view approach (called “extra pane” right now)”

    I could be wrong but that sounds suspiciously like Dolphin’s ‘columns’ mode.

    Hierarchies are not evil and trying to visually flatten them out of some sense of elegance is a mistake. The file system is a hierarchy. The best tool is the one that reflects this in an efficient, concise, intuitive manner. Whatever alternative you envision should have to meet several criteria;

    1. Does it visually maintain the relationships between sibling and child folders at least as well as the traditional tree control?
    2. Does it use the same or less real estate as the traditional tree control?
    3. Can it be navigated with the same efficiency and intuitiveness with BOTH a keyboard and mouse as a traditional tree control.

    If these criteria aren’t met then your best plan is to bury the hideous tree control somewhere the power users can find it and attempt NO replacement. A buried tree control that works well is better than some inadequate alternative.

  71. RainCT says:

    By Rovanion
    >> When a user types on the keyboard in any situation,
    >> it will be into a searchfield. It will by default
    >> just as usual, match the names of folders and files
    >> in the current context.

    Please not. One of the features in GNOME I like the most is precisely that you can select a file/folder just by typing how it starts (which is incompatible with what you are proposing).

  72. […] el año pasado Garret LeSage, junto con otros diseñadores, se han dado a la tarea de rediseñar el aspecto de la interfaz gráfica de Nautilus, el administrador de archivos de GNOME, y varios de […]

  73. Paradiesstaub says:

    I would love to see something like the ‘Further Actions Menu’ integrated:

    The ‘Nautilus Further Actions Menu’ shows different actions depending on the files you have selected.

  74. Arkadi says:

    Very impressive!

  75. Benjamin says:

    Nice one. Although I’m gonna miss Treeview. But nevertheless: this is excellent work and I would get used to it 🙂

  76. Mel says:

    I love it, I hope it actually comes alive. i’m not going to et too exited about this because most muck-ups end up dying.

  77. Marcus says:

    >> We’ll have a hidden gconf key to enable filesystem for über-geeks (or better, wanna-be-uber-geeks, uber geeks use the terminal… or ctrl+L), who are the ones who want this feature in the first place.

    I really hope so. There are cases when it makes sense to be able to access folders other than home with a file manager like Nautilus. For example I sometimes want to change something from a user defined icon set and I need a file manager to show me how the icons look like. Yes I can copy this icon set via the terminal to a temp folder inside home and have a look there, but that is really going a bit to far when I actually want to have just a look at it first. It’s also nice to open a configuration file quickly with a graphical editor just to have a look inside, true, this is also possible via a terminal and an editor like nano, but sometimes it is a bit more convenient to use via a graphical interface, and I do not want to open a terminal window every time I want to do a trivial thing.
    That said, I agree that these are just a few cases and the use of a file manager like nautilus for “big actions” inside root is often even inconvenient. The “wanna-be-uber-geeks” sounds a bit “smart alec” to me though, I know it was not meant that seriously, but I can’t do other than see a tendency in it…

    The split view was something I liked for example in Dolphin, I was really happy to see it in 2.30. If there is a way in the new design to make this (more or less) obsolete ok, but doubts remain for now…
    One thing I also like about Dolphin is that it remembers for each folder whether I want to see the hidden files or not.

    Even tough I usually have mixed feelings about the GNOME approach to reduce things often to a great extent, I have to admit that I never used emblems or user backgrounds, but some people seem to use at least the former for other than ornamental use, so even if it might be a minority this would have to be considered.

  78. Matthew says:

    I like the designs: I especially like that the UI inconsistencies between spacial mode and browse mode will disappear.

    Considering the ‘split pane view’ (and please forgive any misunderstandings on my part): the main use cases for it seems to be:

    a). to give two different folder views that actually know about each other (i.e. to act as the target of the “Copy to >” and “Move to >” menu items)

    b). ensure that if you have one view focused you have easy access to the other view (as opposed to be hidden and difficult to find under a stack of windows)

    To solve the problem addressed in a). I would suggest that Nautilus should know about all open folder views and should present all these open Nautilus windows as targets of the “Copy to >” and “Move to >”. The menu itself should contain only a short list (5 items? There must be usability studies that will provide the ideal number. Maybe this could be a preference?) of the most recently focused folder views plus a “Other open folders…” item which would open a better interface for picking between many open folders (something like the Scale plugin for selecting windows in Compiz?). I also suggest that updating the GTK file picker (not sure if I am using the right term here) so that it is also be aware of all open Nautilus views in the same way would be a usability win (I often have a Nautilus view of the folder I want to save a file to, deep in the folder hierarchy, that I have to expend some time navigating to in a “Save as…” dialog)

    I would the suggest the solution to the problem b). is addressing above is a more general case of ‘finding windows’ touched on in what I propose for a). above but should not actually be specific to Nautilus at all: i.e. there should be easily discoverable methods of finding another window of the currently focused application (again the Scale plug-in to Compiz seems a good example of the functionality, even if it does not fit the criteria for discover-ability– being bound only to a hot key that is configured in an obscure preferences application, and off by default)

  79. Maki says:

    – In my opinion the emblems shouldn’t be over, they are really useful for seeing easily the different folders (without them, every folder look the same at first sight).

    – The sidebar must be visible all time, because you need to change between certain folders easily and fast. Some people found the “tree” view really useful, for this reason, should be possible change the sidebar from the standard “places” view.

    – It should be possible seeing the location bar as a text, because lots of times you need writing the direction (when you have to go to a known folder into a big folder, for example the system folders, writing the direction is so fater than search for it.

  80. Emichan says:

    I’d like to chime in and add my support for split view. I use it all the time and it is a god-send for actually managing files efficiently. I’m a designer (though not a ux designer) and I don’t really understand the hostility to split pane from the gnome ux designers. Having two breadcrumbs may add “clutter” to the interface, but it is easy to see the relationship between each breadcrumb and its associated pane, and the extra bit of ux clutter is worth it for the convenience of the feature.

    I’d also like to know how or if there will be any file/directory previewing improvements. I’ve been impressed with some of the improvements in icon view over the past few iterations, notably music previewing. But video previewing is sorely lacking, and I’d love to see integration of gloobus or something like it. The better file previewing is, the faster and easier it is to identify files and thus to manage them. Of course, zeitgeist integration will help with that as well.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas, and for listening to ours!

  81. melodram says:

    i don’t understand why the sidebar is gone… it was so essential for a overview, a fast and easy switching between folders/favorites. without, you have to click much more.

  82. […] Garrett LeSage: the future of Nautilus […]

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