Monday, 30 March 2009

Review: Dolphin 1.2.1 File Manager

Dolphin was intended to replace Konqueror as the default file manager in KDE 4. The scope of Dolphin was to only provide a compact and easy-to-use file manager, without all the features and uses Konqueror has. And (I think) it succeeded. In the beginning most of the users were reticent regarding this idea, since Konqueror provided anything one could possibly ask from a file manager. Besides, most KDE fans thought Dolphin looks too much like with Nautilus and may be limited regarding usability and configuration. However, I see in Dolphin an appropriate manager for day-to-day use.

Dolphin is split in three main components (except for the menubar and toolbar). The first one would be the Places widget, located by default to the left, and containing shortcuts to the most important places like home directory, root, trash, and mounted devices. The center is occupied with the file browser, while to the right there is the file information widget. The good thing is that the Places and Information widgets can be moved and grouped wherever one likes. Another plus is the way the icons in the Places tab resize depending on the tab's width.

Dolphin comes with tab support (the usual CTRL+T and CTRL+N shortcuts by default, also the KDE-specific CTRL+, and CTRL+. for switching to the previous and, respectively, next tab). Although not visible by default, the location bar can be shown using the standard CTRL+L shortcut.

Regarding configuration, Dolphin offers all the necessary and specific options for a regular file manager: from sorting files by name, size, date, type etc to file previews, a huge number of zoom levels for icons (with a zoom slider which can be shown or hidden via Settings -> Configure Dolphin -> General tab), the ability to browse through archives (by embedding Ark) and several more. It allows three view modes for files: icons, details and columns, and it also includes the option to split tabs vertically (left/right). Basically, all the important features in Konqueror's file manager can be found in Dolphin too.

Split left/right

As in every standard KDE application, you can configure the shortcuts in the Settings -> Configure shortcuts menu option.

If you miss buttons like Up (Alt+Up) or Zoom In/Out from the toolbar, you can add these by right-clicking on the toolbar and going to the Configure Toolbars... option.

Since my main system is Debian Lenny (KDE3) I must say I did not have much time to test KDE4 (although lately I spent some time with Kubuntu Jaunty Beta), but I was impressed in a pleasant way by Dolphin. What I've read before was mostly how crappy of a file manager it is, how limited it is and so on. Although I prefer Konqueror, I must say this isn't true: Dolphin is actually pretty feature-complete and easy to use.

It's true that once you get used in Konqueror, for example, to open pictures, text files etc. in a new tab, it will be hard to get unused to this when in Dolphin. But Dolphin's purpose is not to be Konqueror and that's it. And it is not so 'basic' and tiny as some make it look. In time, it will probably become the file manager of choice for the majority of KDE4 users (if not already).


Do you use Dolphin on a daily basis? Do you prefer it over Konqueror or use another file manager in KDE4? Please share it in the comments below.



Anonymous said...

I've been using Gnome for almost a year, but needed an easy-to-use, feature complete file manager for sorting files. You know; something with two panels like gnome commander etc.
Unfortunately gnome commander lacks the usability I desired, so in a last ditch attempt, I turned to dolphin (I don't like using non-gtk stuff on gnome for some strange reason). It was everything I needed and more, and trumped nautilus.
Konqueror is good, but trying to do too much. Better to have a simple, complete, and fast file manager than a bulky piece of software that wants to be a web-browser at the same time.
Great Job Guys.

Dan Craciun said...

You can also try Xfe (X File Explorer), it probably blends better in GNOME. By the way, I didn't like to use GTK applications in KDE, but that was in KDE3, where even with gtk2-engines-qtcurve installed the applications were looking kind of ugly. But I see in KDE4 everything blends in better.

Anonymous said...

sorry, i've tried, but i can't use kde4.

Jeff D said...

I much prefer dolphin to konqeror for 99% of my filemanager tasks. Once in a blue moon, I'd like to have one or 2 more "splits," but seriously, that's the only feature I like in konqueror that dolphin can't do. I'll trade a vastly improved UI vs. opening up another window any time.

Dolphin, Konqueror, and Nautilus (up until gnome 2.24, recently) have all fallen down on my pet bug, but like other things, everybody has one. ;)

sims said...

Bulky??? Dolphin is the bulky one. I use KDE4 and hardly ever touch Dolphin. Now Dolphin has many of the things like ioslaves that Konqueror has. Therefore making it usable. However, Konqueror is much lighter and more flexible. It's closer to a command line tool than Dolphin. Dolphin looks kind of flashy though. I'll give it that. I guess it's a tool for the masses - making KDE more mainstream and modern and I guess that would also mean more gehy. Yawn...

tracyanne said...

quote::I much prefer dolphin to konqeror for 99% of my filemanager tasks.

There is no damned difference. The file management part of Konqueror is Dolphin.

Konqueror has been eviserated. So now you get Dolphin or Dolphin.

Nautilus which I've started using after dumping Mandriva and moving to Ubuntu, because Mandriva arrogantly dumped the useless KDE4 on us, has much better usability than Dolphin.

Fabrice said...

tracyanne> Mandriva arrogantly dumped the useless KDE4 on us

arrogantly ? Last time I checked, most mainstream distro move to KDE4 ... KDE 3 and KDE 4 was both available in the 2008.1 and 2009.0 release.

Maybe you know people maintaining the KDe 3 codebase ? last time I checked, I see no announcement concerning KDE 3 on ...

Dan Craciun said...

tracyanne: Probably it does, but let's not forget that Dolphin is relatively new, while Nautilus has been around for years.

lvbertalanffy said...

Dolphin is a sensible success.
It's the g-spot for file managers.
It's minimal, usable, cute, modern yet not crippled or bloated .. I'm still internally amazed by all this.

kudos to the designers / developers / and everybody else involved in it