Tuesday, 7 July 2009

PCManFM Review - Yet Another Lightweight GTK File Manager

PCManFM is the default file manager in LXDE, the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment. Its goal is to offer a fast execution speed, providing in the same time enough functionality for a file manager of its class.

PCManFM has a typical interface for a GTK file manager, which looks a lot like Thunar, the default file manager used by Xfce, reviewed yesterday here. By default it has a left side panel which provides access to all the important locations in the system, including unmounted partitions. I noticed that PCManFM will also automatically inherit Nautilus' bookmarks and show them in the Bookmarks menu and in the side panel. The toolbar offers buttons for the most popular actions (Back, Forward, Up, Reload and Home) as well as a location bar, accessible via Ctrl+L. The side panel can be configured to show location shortcuts or the classic tree view.

PCManFM 0.5 in Ubuntu 9.04

Files and folders can be visualized as icon view, detailed list or compact list, they can be sorted by several attributes, including name, type, modification date or permissions. Thumbnail previews for images are also available. Another feature is the Find files function available under the Tool menu or using the F3 keyboard shortcut. You can search by content, file size, modification date too, and the search field supports wildcards.

It supports tabs, but I couldn't find a way to switch between them using the keyboard (Ctrl+PageUp and Ctrl+PageDown don't seem to work, neither does Alt or Ctrl + arrows).

The preferences window allows to customise the size of icons, to change opening files from double-click to single click, preview images, change colours, set a wallpaper for the place where the files are displayed.

Tree view side panel, detailed list for files/folders and preferences window

PCManFM also allows to archive files to tar or compress them to tar.gz or tar.bz2, and another feature it comes with is the ability to drag and drop files from one tab to another, focusing the new tab when the mouse pointer is above it.

As a conclusion, it's good to know there are so many alternatives out there for the default Nautilus in GNOME. Of course, this may not be of great interest for a KDE user, who will use either Krusader, Konqueror (or even Xfe) as a replacement for Dolphin, but for GNOME users PCManFM deserves a try if you want to switch from Nautilus. If you're looking for a simple, basic and lightweight file manager built in GTK, you can't go wrong with PCManFM.


Zona de Slumbergod said...

A while back I was looking for a better file browser (preferrably one with dual panes or COPY-TO/MOVE-TO already on the right-click context menu).

One of the file managers I tried was PCManFM. In the end it didn't offer anything more over thunar, which I have by default in Xubuntu. In fact, it had less so for thunar uses there isn't a compelling reason to change.

That said, it was just as fast, did the basics well enough, and definitely lived up to the small footprint objective.

A nice alternative if you really don't want to use Thunar.

yorik said...

Switching to other tabs is with CTRL+TAB! I also use it 50%/50% with thunar and until now couldn't decide which one I like most. Cheers

denkku said...

Switching tabs in PCManFM can be done with Ctrl+Alt+PgUp/PgDn (at least with version 0.5).