Monday, 6 July 2009

Thunar File Manager Review - Good, Lightweight Alternative to Nautilus

Thunar is a lightweight file manager included in the Xfce desktop environment. It has a simpler interface compared to Nautilus, the default file manager which ships with GNOME. So, what are the features which come with Thunar, and what makes it a viable alternative to Nautilus? First of all, it is lighter on resources and offers less functions than its GNOME counterpart, making it a very good choice for users who don't need advanced features, and prefer speed over those. Being the default file manager in Xfce, Thunar also comes included in lighter distributions like Xubuntu, which is the Xfce-based distribution of Ubuntu. The version of Thunar I used for this review is 1.0.0, tested in GNOME 2.26.1, as they come with Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope.

Thunar 1.0.0 running in Ubuntu 9.04

I think Thunar interface couldn't be more simple than it already is, and it will also satisfy users who like intuitive and easy-to-use applications. Except for the menus, it has no toolbar, but only a sidebar with the common places, like Home, Trash, Desktop, Filesystem or Floppy drive. The rest of Thunar's main window is occupied by the files and directories widget itself. The side panel can be configured to show direct shortcuts, or display a tree view of directories.

Thunar allows you to set emblems to files or folders, it permits modifying permissions with a simple and clear method, and it will allow to choose default applications for opening different types of files.

By default, the location bar is available in Thunar as a separate window using Ctrl+L. This way the new open location window steals focus and prevents access to the main window. Instead, you can choose to change this behaviour with the View -> Location Selector menu entry, from the Pathbar Style to the Toolbar Style. I think the default behaviour may be less confusing to new users, but the second approach is better in my opinion. Also, a very good thing to have them both and the option to toggle between them.

Image previews, file properties and the toolbar style location bar

A powerful feature of Thunar is the ability to create custom actions, for example for extracting compressed files, comparing files etc.

Files and folders can be sorted by name, size, type, modification date, ascending or descending, and the size of the icons can be increased or decreased. They can also be shown as icons, as a detailed or compact list. Besides these, Thunar also allows image previews. There is also the option to set the current file as wallpaper, if it is an image, but it didn't seem to work for me.

Tree view and preferences

The Preferences window allows to configure single or double-clicking to open files/directories, icons sizes, emblems behaviour and the displaying of thumbnails.

Documentation is available as a HTML file on the local disk (if installed properly) and it is accessible via the F1 keyboard shortcut (or the Help -> Contents menu entry).

I noticed Thunar will not offer the possibility to mount volumes (like separate partitions) like Nautilus or Dolphin do, so you will have to do this manually from command line.

What can I say? Thunar is a lightweight application, but under the hood there are many features and an impressive approach. It's true, most of them are typical for any file manager and are a must-have even for a lighter application of this kind, but Thunar succeeds in implementing everything in a nice, compact and intuitive interface. A very good alternative to Nautilus and probably the perfect file manager for Xfce users.
Official website


Reed said...

Thunar will mount volumes - you just need the thunar-volman plugin.

Unknown said...

Amo a Thunar.

Grant McWilliams said...

But it doesn't do network volumes like Nautilus or konq (ie. ssh://) unless they're mounted outside of Thunar.

Anonymous said...

The best feature in Thunar is the powerful Bulk Rename. Select a group of files and hit F2. You get a range of options for inserting, numbering, renaming, changing case and formatting within file names, and a preview window shows file names before and after the action. It was Bulk Rename that converted me from Nautilus to Thunar!

Reed said...

Ah, network share. Well, there's a thunar-shares-plugin as well, but I haven't used it so I'm not sure what all it can do. But I know it doesn't have network discovery and browsing.

ashgtx said...

Won't the XFCE libraries be loaded in GNOME while using Thunar? What's the total size of the packages you pulled out from the repositories while installing Thunar?

Not4Prophet said...

I want to like Thunar. It's great if you are only managing files on your local hard drive, but it is a royal pain if you use lots of removable and network volumes.

Zona de Slumbergod said...

Thunar is great. It is really fast, responsive, and does everything I want it too.

Of course, there are still a few things I miss like a dual pane and and in-built copy-to/move-to. Thunar improves with each new version so eventually the things I miss might be included.

MilanK said...

Reed: i wonder how one could get thunar shares plugin _mount_ network shares.
The plugin is supposed to create a share of local folder only so that others can connect to it.