Thursday, 2 April 2009

10 File Managers for Linux

Update: Added GNOME Commander and emelFM2 to the review, now the list contains 12 file managers.


Nautilus is the default file manager coming with GNOME, the popular desktop environment shipped by default in distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora or Debian. Nautilus has a clean and easy to use interface, and its functionality can be expanded using scripts. It features tabs, three view modes (icon view, list view and compact view), the possibility to sort items by name, size, type, modification date or even emblems (a feature specific to Nautilus), bookmarks, file previews, possibility to browse the network, and media devices support. However, the media support will only detect GNOME players like Rhythmbox or Totem, so you will also need to have those installed in order to use it.
Official website

Nautilus 2.26.0

Dolphin is now the default file manager in KDE4, and it definitely does a good job for an application which was designed with simplicity and usability in mind. It supports tabs, service menus, sorting by many rules, including permissions, ownership or modification date; it provides a modern KDE4 interface with the possibility to preview images, video files or documents; it supports splitting tabs vertically and browse the network. A few days ago I put up a full Dolphin review here, and I must say I was really impressed by this nice file manager.
Official website

Dolphin 1.2.1

I think that, at least for KDE users, Konqueror needs no introduction. Back in KDE3 it was the default file manager, web browser, image, document and man page viewer, and could even embed movies using kaffeine-part or songs through the Amarok 1.4 sidebar. Konqueror did not lose its features in KDE4, so it is still a powerful application and it offers every feature Dolphin comes with, plus several more. One of the big advantages Konqueror has over other file managers is its flexibility and the ability to integrate well with a lot of applications, not to mention the powerful tab handling by opening images, documents or archives in new tabs or splitting them. Just from a file managing point of view, and Konqueror is heck of a tool.
Official website

Konqueror 4.2.1

If Dolphin and Nautilus are default file managers in KDE and, respectively, GNOME, Thunar is the same for Xfce, the lighter desktop environment of those three. Thunar comes with a basic interface and features similar with the ones Nautilus has. Designed to be fast, Thunar's minuses are lack of tabs or local network browsing support, and the access to the location bar is done via a new window, which won't allow the main window to be focused. Nevertheless, Thunar may fit very well those users who need basic file management.
Official website

Thunar 1.0.0

Yet another popular file manager written in GTK, PCManFM is probably the preferred alternative to Nautilus for GNOME users, especially that it is reported to be faster. The interface is clean and easy to use, the configuration options are kept to a minimum, it features three view modes (icons, compact list, detailed list) and it also has tab support. Promoted under the slogan 'Speed is a virtue!', PCManFM is definitely a fine piece.
Official website

PCManFM 0.5

Krusader is a powerful, feature-complete, twin-panel file manager for KDE. The first time you launch Krusader it will search for external applications needed for the various functions this application offers, and then you will be prompted with the configuration dialogue. Krusader offers plenty configuration options, and you can change the look and feel, the way it handles sessions, colors, archives, general file management, user actions and many more. Krusader is definitely one of the most complete file manager regarding features available for the Linux platform.
Official website

Krusader 2.0.0 Beta

If I was to describe Xfe in one word, that word would be awesome. Xfe (X File Explorer) is built using the lightweight FOX toolkit and it comes with a pretty solid interface, with a tree view to the left and the file browser occupying the remaining space. Although it does not look too 'modern', it supports various themes (like GNOME2, Xfce4 or KDE3 to mention a few) and it allows the user to change the colours and the fonts used by its interface. The default text editor is Xfw (X File Write) while the image viewer is Xfi (X File Image), but you can change those in the Preferences window. There are four modes for arranging the widgets (panel, panel with tree, two panels and two panels with tree), but instead it has no support for tabs. The items can be sorted by name, type, size, extension and modification date, and it also provides the option to view files as thumbnails. Xfe is definitely worth a try if you haven't already.
Official website

Xfe 1.04

Although the first impression can deceive a user and make him think ROX-Filer is just a basic file manager, this is not true. In fact, it's true that the interface is the one which is basic, but ROX-Filer offers plenty features and configuration settings using right-click anywhere in the browser and going to Options. The way ROX-Filer is organised is simple: it has only a toolbar at the top (no menus) and the files area occupying the rest of the window. The view modes are icon view or list view, the files can be sorted by name, date, type, size and ownership. You can configure the icon sizes, make it show image and video thumbnails (for which you will also need the zeroinstall-injector package). Maybe the interface is not the best idea for a file manager, but ROX-Filer is pretty complete even so.
Official website

ROX-Filer 2.5

Midnight Commander
This is definitely one of the consecrated file managers on Linux. Midnight Commander is a terminal-based (it uses a text user interface), twin-panel file manager with powerful features and ease of use, and it still is one of the popular file managers out there, especially that it can be successfully used on a system which does not have the X Window System installed.
Official website 1
Official website 2

Midnight Commander 4.6.2

Vifm is a twin-panel, ncurses-based file manager which uses the keyboard shortcuts from Vim, the powerful text editor for Linux. If you are used to Vim, Vifm may be just the right choice for a terminal-based file manager.
Official website

Vifm 0.4

Addition: GNOME Commander
GNOME Commander is yet another powerful twin-panel file manager for the GNOME desktop environment, with support for Samba networks and FTP. It also has an option to start it as root (the same as gnome-commander or gksu gnome-commander, not recommended though).
Official website

Addition: emelFM2
Built in GTK+2, emelFM2 features a simple, two-pane interface with easy access to mostly all the important functions and an integrated terminal. Most of its functionality lies in the available plugins which come bundled by default with it.
Official website

As a conclusion, some say that ls and cd make up a file manager too, and I certainly won't argue against that ;-)

Updated: September 26, 2010


Anonymous said...

MC rulez!

Anonymous said...

I love MC with all my heart. Its in my mind much better and faster when doing file operations than any GUI based file manager to date thanks to its two pane approach, key-bindings and its overall speed at doing stuff.

If anyone could come close to translating MC into a graphical app i would use it but most ive used isnt even close.

MC was the biggest reason i stuck with Linux since it enabled me to do stuff easily as a newbie long ago.

Craciun Dan said...

Maybe give a try to Krusader (if you haven't already)?

DoctorPepper said...

I don't always use a file manager... but when I do, it's 'vifm'.

I love vi and Vim, and use w3m as my console web browser. Since vifm has nice vi key bindings, it just makes life that much easier! :-)

uLySeSS said...

What about gnome commander? It's my favourite and useful.

Anonymous said...

MC is a requirement on all my installs!

Craciun Dan said...

Yeah it's true, I forgot about GNOME Commander, but I'll include it as an addition soon. Also, older file managers like xfm or filerunner (of which I didn't know until reading a comment somewhere else).

Anonymous said...

My personal favourite is EmelFM.

EmelFM is a fairly lightweight, GTK+-based, two-pane file manager.

It's simple, and does almost everything I want in a file manager. When it doesn't, it's easy to add file types, applications, or custom commands, just by clicking the "configure" button. Lastly, it has an entry box for CLI commands, which automatically run in the directory being viewed.

It isn't for everybody, of course, for example, the fact that the interface is not drag-and-drop will turn some people off.


Anonymous said...

Tuxcommander is another gtk based twin panel filemanager similar to midnight commander. Worth a try:

Craciun Dan said...

Thank you all for the additions guys, I added GNOME Commander and emelFM to the article, and I will have a look at Tux Commander too ;)

PastorEd said...

You also might want to take a look at Double Commander ( It's about the closest thing I've seen to a really graphical replacement for MC. Personally, I've grown accustomed to seeing file types reflected as their own icons (ala Konqueror or PCFileMan), which DoubleCommander doesn't do, but it's pretty powerful nonetheless.

Craciun Dan said...

I'll have a look at it, thanks.

Ferk said...

And what about Dired?
The first visual directory editor (since 1974!)
And probably the most extensible text-mode filebrowser, by using emacs Lisp.

Anonymous said...

the reason why MC is so good is that it's NOT a GUI app, and it therefore handles differently and in many areas and operations in a superior manner.

Anonymous said...

Ever heard of gentoo? Yeah, the distribution uses the same name (you heard it right, they got the name first ;))

Craciun Dan said...

Didn't know about this one either, but I can see it is included in Ubuntu's repositories. It's good to know this list has got so far, with two more suggestions, Dired and gentoo. Thanks for all this quality feedback!

Anonymous said...

I have grown to like Worker. Light and fast for good basic file management.

Anonymous said...

filerunner - This is a very small footprint wish/tcl/tk file manager with alot of utility. Excellent for a minimalist graphical user environment.

Codifex Maximus

Tyler Mulligan said...

But I think Thunar is the only one that supports drag and drop out or archives to list view. This has been a bug for ~2 years with nautilus. Thunar doesn't have tabs. "Oh just switch to icon view then you can drag and drop" -- not very productive. I wish something would be done about this :-\

Anonymous said...

lfm, a cli file manager. A mix of mc and vifm.

karateka said...

I am mostly a KDE guy (version 4 notwithstanding) but I have to put in a good word for Thunar. I really love it's built-in bulk renamer. I think this is essential for handling modern media files.

For example, I think the naming of music files is one of the best way to keep track of them. I typically use something like "artist ~ CD or website ~ track number ~ track name". This makes it really easy to keep track of music as it gets transferred to different folders, external hard drives, and music players. When I need to clean up names or artists, the bulk renamer comes in really handy.

Now, it is certainly possible to do this from the command line. I used to do it this way, using quotation marks and such. But, the GUI way that Thunar does it makes it extremely easy. I really wish that other file managers would implement this ability. Props to the Thunar developers.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget worker!
has a great two-panel interface, configurable buttons, compressed file browsing with AVFS and recently tabbing was added.

CrowB said...

After a year searching in Linux-land for what I consider to be a decent file manager, today I found Xfe - a wonderful find, and your post got me there. Gnome Commander, Tux -, all the Norton C knock-offs are fine, and were wonderful- 15 years ago. Today I have had better for ages. I've been using Konqueror on Gnome, 'coz it is the only other FM that does two panels with a tree that I've found. Until now. I also found 4Pane today, which also looks good, but it isn't working on my box (dependency issues). Imo, the creme de la creme of FM's is still xplorer2 in Windows. It does ALL the things everybody's comments talked about here. Bulk rename, tabs, multiple panes, command line, and much more, but xplorer2 does NOT work with Wine. Xfe gets me a LOT closer to the functionality I need.

CrowB said...

Xfe is every bit as good as you say. IMO, the creme de la creme of fm's is on Windows - xplorer2. But now I'm working on Linux, and it doesn't work here. I've tried in vain to find an equivalent - Konqueror came closest - until today and your post about Xfe. I found another fm as well that might do what I need 4Pane, but it has dependency issues for me. Xfe is way better for what I do than Nautilus, Thunar, PCmanfm, and all the commander knock-offs.

RobC said...

Thanks for the Heads up on XFE.
Screenshots look exactly like I want.
I am new to Linux, and have settled on using Puppy Live from the CD, but with Retention on one of my hard drives.
Will Xfe work in Puppy ?
Any advice for hoe to install it
(it will be my first ever install of a program, in a Linux distro)

Unknown said...

I would disagree with that final comment though, one thing that ls and cd LACK is the manager aspect of the file system, you need cp and mv and rm to minimally manage your system.
Now that being said I humbly ask a question to my fellow linux brethren, what is the most configure friendly file manager out there. I am collecting quite a stock of third party apps and I would like to use MY music player, MY text editor and so on with my file manager...any suggestions?

RobC said...

Me again 6 months later same question, but now I ask for Lucid Puppy 5.1.1
Can I use XFE in Lucid Puppy ?
Is there an easy way to Install it ?

Hope I get more responses than I did before ?
Perhaps the Linux community is as friendly as their OS's ?

ansi said...

Perhaps, I added some file manager's:
1)muCommander(java-based) - is a cross-platform file manager
with a dual-panel interface (a'la Total Commander).
It runs on any operating system with Java support
(Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, *BSD, Solaris...).
2)BeeSoft Commander(BSC) - is a graphical file manager
(similar to the Gnome Commander, but based on Qt 4.3.x)

cicas said...

RobC: I (as many others here) do not know nothing about puppy and instaling in it.. you are at a wrong place to ask, buddy.. try some puppy forum (certainly on their home website), youtube tutorials and stuff like this.. a know you are kinda lost in linux world but i was also lost, couple of months ago.. but maybe i'm open to learn;) start with google is my advice for your life. take care buddy

MeanEYE said...

Great list! Some time ago I was searching for file manager that would suit my needs for options and aesthetics. Unfortunately I didn't find one so I decided to give my take on creating a file manager.

If you are willing to try something new and perhaps give me some feedback, I'd be really happy to hear what you have to say about it.

Please note it's still in early alpha and am releasing weekly in order to get stable out as soon as possible.

p.s. I agree with others, MC is a must have on any system, especially servers. :)

Anonymous said...

You might also check out Endeavor Mark II file manager. We have used that one for years.

Willi said...

Long time ago when I was looking for a flexible file manager, I came across TkDesk, and I have been using it ever since. Configuring TkDesk is possible in almost any imaginable way (e.g. adding a toolbar button for opening the selected files with an external application) and unfortunately highly addictive... I even changed most of the icons to give it a more modern appearance (which can be done in the users home, without having to touch the installation itself).
The only downside for me is that there is no directory tree, which is a feature I mainly need for setting up a PC for some people with Windows-only background right now. After all these years I was expecting to find some really nifty programs that could outperform TkDesk easily, but to my surprise among all programs I tested only XFE comes close. Maybe I will give it a try myself some day... once it has evolved a little more ;-)

tekdude4850 said...

For Linux file managers opening multiple tabs, Nautilus/Caja really lacks the ability to open/remember multiple tabs by one command/click!!! I've got lots of files to work with at any time so I need to switch between lots of folders/partitions... but Krusader is way overkill for me.

Finally I've found SpaceFM! It can't open multiple tabs by one command,
but it can REMEMBER those tabs I left off!!
(Files > Save Session + Save tabs)
You can also save certain folders/partitions as Bookmarks...

It's keyboard shortcuts are mostly the same as Nautilus/Caja.
And you can change its background color, too!