Navigating the Filesystem with Dolphin



 

 


The term “navigating the filesystem” is a fancy way of saying that you are moving from one folder (directory) to another to locate and manage files or other folders.

Figure 1: The Dolphin interface provides a number of options for navigating the filesystem.

Figure 1: The Dolphin interface provides a number of options for navigating the filesystem.

Using Dolphin to navigate the file system is quite easy. There are several ways to navigate to folders in order to locate a file with which you want to work in some way. The Dolphin Interface contains a number of elements directly related to the process of filesystem navigation and locating files you need to find so that you can work with them.

  1. Location bar
  2. Places Panel
  3. Folders Panel
  4. Filter Bar
  5. Workspace

These elements of the Dolphin user interface are discussed in some detail below. Refer to the document The Dolphin Interface for more complete details of the various elements of the Dolphin user interface including several that are not discussed in this document.

Location Bar

The Location Bar shows the path to the folder(s) being viewed in the Workspace(s). There are two styles which can be configured. The style of the Location Bar in Figure 1, above, is a standard text entry field in which you can type the complete path to a folder and which displays the path in command line interface (CLI) style to the directory displayed in the Workspace.

The other option for the Location Bar is a new “bread crumb” style in which each folder (directory) in the path is displayed as a button. You can click on any folder button in the path to navigate immediately to that folder. Once you do so, however, the buttons for the deeper levels of the directory tree are no longer displayed. The deepest level of the tree shown is the one currently displayed in the Workspace. Figure 2, blow, shows this type of Location Bar in the right hand Workspace.

Places Panel

The Places Panel is a configurable list of folders and other places such as permanent and removable drives to which you may need to navigate. To add a new place to this panel, simply drag the folder from the workspace to the location you want it in the Places Panel. You can move items up and down in this panel by dragging them up or down in the list. Click on the desired folder in the Places Panel to display its contents in the active workspace.

The Places Panel is not hierarchical. It is a single layer of places. I typically add places to which I frequently navigate. To navigate to any of the folders in the Places Panel just single click on it.

The Places Panel can be moved. Grab its title bar and move it to another location in the stack of panels or move it to the opposite side of the Dolphin window. It can also be dragged out to the desktop and undocked from the Dolphin window completely. Clicking on the diamond icon also undocks the panel.

Any panel can be removed completely by clicking on the X button in the upper right corner on its title bar.

Folders Panel

The Folders Panel is somewhat similar to the Places Panel in that it allows you to navigate to folders displayed in it. This panel, however, is a complete directory tree of the entire file system. This tree cannot be changed as it reflects the exact current state of the filesystem. Click on the desired folder in the Places Panel to display its contents in the active workspace.

What you can do with the Folders Panel is click on a folder to display the contents of the folder in the active Workspace. You can drag and drop folders and files from the active Workspace to any folder displayed in the Folders Panel to move them to that target folder. You can also drag and drop folders from one place in the Folders Panel to another in order to move them.

The Folders Panel does not display files. It only displays folders. Files are only displayed in the Workspace.

The Folders Panel can be moved. Grab its title bar and move it to another location in the stack of panels or move it to the opposite side of the Dolphin window. It can also be dragged out to the desktop and undocked from the Dolphin window completely. Clicking on the diamond icon also undocks the panel.

Any panel can be removed completely by clicking on the X button in the upper right corner on its title bar.

Filter Bar

The filter bar allows you to type in a name or filename extension and filter the display so that only files and folders whose names match the typed string of characters are displayed. The Filter Bar also accepts some regular expression characters such as the period (.) to denote that any character can occupy a place in the text string. Note that this string is not case sensitive.

Figure 2: Using the Dolphin Filter Bar can reduce the number of files you need to look at in order to find the correct one.

Figure 2: Using the Dolphin Filter Bar can reduce the number of files you need to look at in order to find the correct one.

Figure 2 shows the results of using the Filter Bar in the left Workspace. Other than the fact that I have typed a string in the Filter Bar, this is the same directory (folder) as in Figure 1. In Figure 2 I typed the string “d.v” so that only files which have the characters “d” and “v” but separated by a single place which can be any character at all. In this case the files now displayed include the strings “Dav”, “dav”, “dev”, and “drv”. The period (.) in the filter string I typed stands for “any character.”  Two periods would mean any two characters. This is called  regular expression and it provides the ability to make very specific yet flexible matches with a single matching string.

Other regular expressions you can use might look like “d[ae]v” in which case the results would contain only files with the strings “dav” or “dev” but not “drv” or any other string in which “d” and “v” are separated by any other single character besides the specified “a” or “e”. The square brackets represent a single character place in the string, but the (in this case) two characters within the brackets represent the characters allowed in that position. So “d[ae]v” is a three character string, but only “a” or “e” are allowed in the second position.

You don’t have to use regular expressions. You could simply type “dav” in the Filter Bar to display only those files which have the specific string “dav” somewhere in their names.

Regular expressions can be very complex and there are entire books written on using regular expressions. Needless to say a complete exposition of regular expressions far exceeds the scope of this book. If time permits I may add a document or two describing some of the simpler forms because they are so useful.

Note that it is possible to configure Dolphin so that the Filter Bar is not displayed. If you need to add or remove the Filter Bar you can do so. See the section Configuring Dolphin for details of adding or removing the Filter Bar.

Workspace

Last but not least we have the Workspace. This is the center of your interaction with Dolphin. The Workspace displays the files in the folder you are viewing.You can have one or two Workspaces. The default is one, but it is easy to add the second. On the Tool Bar locate and click on the icon that is an icon of two Workspaces with a green plus sign (+) on one side. This will add the second Workspace. If you hover the mouse pointer over this icon the tooltip says “Split.”

Figure X: The Dolphin Split and Close Workspace Icons.Figure 3: The Dolphin Split and Close Workspace Icons.

Note that the background color of the current, active Workspace, that is the one in which you are working, is lighter than the background of the inactive is shaded a little gray. To close the active Workspace locate and click on the icon in the Tool Bar that has two workspaces and a red minus sign (-). The previously inactive workspace now fills the window and becomes the active workspace. Hovering the mouse pointer over this icon shows a tooltip that says “Close.”

Displaying Files

There are a number of options for how the files are displayed. The default view is Icons so you simply see the icons of the objects and their names. The difference between the Icon view and the Columns view is that the columns view lines up the icons in one neat column.

The Details view shows more information about the files and folders such a their size, the last time and date they were modified, who owns them, the file type and the files’ ownership. Using this view could tell you that the reason you cannot edit a file is that it does not belong to you and the permissions are set to disallow anyone but the owner of that file from changing it. Only the owner of the file or the root user can change the permissions of a file.

See the document Linux and Security for more information on file ownership and permissions.

You can choose from among these options using the Menu Bar or the icons on the Tool Bar. To use the menu bar, select View=>View Mode and then Icons, Details or Columns.  I personally prefer the Details view because of the additional information it provides me.

Opening a File with an Application

Generally you can just use a single left click on a file such as an OpenOffice document or a Word document or a spreadsheet to open it in the appropriate application.If this works as you want it to then you need do nothing else.

However this is not always the case. In some instances the wrong application is used — at least wrong for what you want to do with the file — or no default application has been specified. You can also right click on the icon of the file you want to open and get a context menu that offers some additional options.

Figure 4: Selecting a different application than the default one with which to open a file.

Figure 3: Selecting a different application than the default one with which to open a file.

In Figure 3 you can see the context menu shows multiple applications that you could use on this file. The one at the top is the default. Since Okular is only a viewer you may want to open the file with OpenOffice.org Writer in order to edit it. Simply right click on the file, then click on Open With and then select OpenOffice.org Writer.

You can easily change the default application to use with any given file type, or add a new one. See the section Configuring Dolphin for details of how to do this.

You can also use the context menu to move, copy and delete the files.

Selecting Files

You can select multiple files to open, move, copy ore delete. There is no need to do those things one file at a time. To select all of the files in a sequence, click on the file at the top of the list in the Workspace then hold down the Shift key and click on the bottom file in the list. All of the files in between will also be selected; then you can perform the same operation on all of them.

You can also select a number of files that are not contiguous in the list. Select the first file, then hold down the Ctrl key and use the mouse to select the additional files you want to manipulate.

Selecting any one of the previously selected files deselects all the others, or you can use hold down the Ctrl key and click on selected files to deselect them. Clicking on any unselected file without holding down either the Shift or Ctrl keys deselects all the other files and selects the one on which you click.

Moving and Copying Files

After having selected one or more files you can move or copy them to other locations (folders). Simply locate the target directory, i.e., the directory (folder) to which you want to move or copy the files. You can use either the Folder Panel, the Places Panel or the second Workspace. Then drag the selected files to the new folder and drop them. A pop-up menu appears and you have to select whether you want to move or copy the files; select move or Copy and the operation proceeds. You can also choose to cancel the operation.

There is a fourth possible operation, which is to create a link in the target folder to the original file. This means you only have one copy of the file but the link in the target directory allows you to manipulate it just as if it were actually in that directory. This allows you to have the same file available in multiple folders, but not have to worry about keeping them all up to date when you change it. Most people will not need this option.