Comparison of Common File Managers



 

 


There are several good file managers available for Linux and they are all either installed on Fedora by default or available for installation through the standard Fedora repositories.

  • Midnight Commander
  • Krusader
  • Konqueror
  • Dolphin
  • Nautilus
  • Thunar
  • PCmanFM
  • XFE

I have used each of these at various times for various reasons and they all have qualities to recommend them. Ranging from very simple to feature-packed, there is a file manager here that will meet your needs. In fact, Midnight Commander and Krusader are my favorite file managers and I use both quite frequently, but I sometimes find myself using Dolphin or Konqueror.

Your choice of file manager should be the one that works best for you. The best part is that GNU/Linux provides several viable choices and one will most likely meet most of your needs. If not, you can always use the one that meets your needs for a given task.

This document looks at each of the file managers listed above and compares their main features. Other documents in this series will look more closely at the use and configuration of each.

Each of these file managers is configurable with Krusader and Konqueror being the most configurable of the GUI-based file managers. Dolphin is also very configurable, and Nautilus and PCManFM are the least configurable. Midnight commander, the lone text-based file manager is also quite configurable.

None of the file managers look by default like they do in this document. It will be necessary to perform some configuration on them in order to look like this. Except for Midnight Commander, the colors are managed in the “Application Appearance” section of the System Settings application and are not configurable within the applications themselves.

Midnight Commander

Midnight Commander is a text-based Command Line Interface (CLI) program. It is particularly useful when a GUI is not available but can also be used as a primary file manager in a terminal session even when you are using a GUI. I use Midnight Commander frequently because I often have need to interact with local and remote Linux computers using the CLI quite frequently. It is particularly useful and can be used with almost any type of text shell environment and remote terminals such as SSH or Telnet.

Midnight Commander

Figure 1: Midnight Commander can be used to move, copy, and delete files.

You can start Midnight Commander from the CLI with the mc command.

In Figure 1, I have launched Midnight Commander in one tab of the Konsole program. Konsole is a very powerful and flexible terminal emulator program that runs in a window on a GUI desktop.

User Interface

The primary user interface for Midnight Commander is two text-mode panes, left and right, which each display the contents of a directory. The top of each pane contains the name of the current directory for that pane. Navigation is accomplished with the arrow and tab keys. The Enter key can be used to enter a highlighted directory.

Along the very top of the Midnight Commander interface is a menu bar containing menu items for configuring Midnight Commander, the left and right panes, and for issuing various file commands. The bottom portion of the interface displays information about the file or directory highlighted in each pane, a hint feature and a line of function key labels; you can simply press the function key on your keyboard that corresponds to the function you want to perform. Between the hint line and the function keys is a command line.

Krusader

Krusader is an exceptional file manager that is modeled after Midnight Commander, in that it uses a two pane interface but uses a graphical interface instead of a text mode interface. Krusader provides many features that enhance the functionality of a file manager such as tabs along the bottom of the directory panes, which allow the user to have multiple directories open in each pane and switch between them by clicking on a tab. Krusader not only allows you to use the same keyboard navigation and command structure as Midnight Commander, but it also allows you to use the mouse or trackball to navigate and perform all of the standard drag and drop operations you would expect on files.

Krusader
Figure 2: Krusader is much like Midnight Commander, but uses a GUI interface and provides significantly more flexibility.

User Interface

The primary user interface for Krusader, much like that of Midnight Commander, is two text-mode panes, left and right, which each display the contents of a directory. The top of each pane contains the name of the current directory for that pane. In addition, tabs can be opened underneath each pane and a different directory can be open in each tab. Navigation is accomplished with the arrow and tab keys or the mouse. The Enter key can be used to enter a highlighted directory.

Each tab and pane can be configured to show files in one of two different Modes. In Figure 2, files are displayed in the detailed view which, in addition to the file name and an icon or preview, shows the file size, the date it was last modified, the owner and the file permissions.

Along the very top of the Krusader Graphical User Interface are a menu bar and tool bar containing menu items for configuring Krusader and managing files. The bottom portion of the interface displays a line of function key labels; you can simply press the function key on your keyboard that corresponds to the function you want to perform. At the bottom of the interface is a command line.

Konqueror

Konqueror was at one time the default file manager for the KDE desktop. It is still available and is quite powerful. It has one feature that none of the other file managers do — it is also a very good web browser.

Konqueror is another powerful and flexible file manager with many features. The main thing that sets it apart from the crowd is the ability to open multiple tabs, each of which can have one or more directory navigation panes. In Figure 3, below, one tab has been divided into three panes; one on the left side and two on the right. The sidebar at the far left is used to provide rapid navigation of the entire filesystem.

Konqueror with Multiple=

Figure 3: Konqueror has a sidebar that provides easy filesystem navigation, multiple directory panes and tabs. Note the tabs at the top of the directory panes.

The thing I particularly like about Konqueror is that it provides a better high-level view of your directory structure, both in the sidebar and in the directory panels. This makes it easier to locate and delete files and directory trees that are no longer needed. It also enables easier reorganization of the directory structure.

User Interface

The primary user interface for Konqueror, much like that of Midnight Commander and Krusader, is text-mode panes which each display the contents of a directory. Konqueror, however allows multiple panes and the default single pane can be split both horizontally and vertically as many times as it makes sense to do so. Konqueror also supports multiple tabs (at the top of the directory panes this time) and a different set of directories can be open in each tab. Navigation is accomplished with the arrow and tab keys or the mouse. The Enter key can be used to enter a highlighted directory. The Location widget near the top of the Konqueror GUI contains the full path of the currently selected pane.

Each tab and pane can be configured to show files in one of two different Modes. In Figure 3, files are displayed in the detailed view which, in addition to the file name and an icon or preview, shows the file size, the date it was last modified, the owner and the file permissions.

Along the very top of the Graphical User Interface are a menu bar and tool bar containing menu items for configuring Konqueror and managing files.

Dolphin

Dolphin is very much like Konqueror and Krusader. It has two directory navigation panes and a sidebar that allows for easy filesystem navigation. It does support tabs.

Figure 4: The Dolphin file manager uses two directory navigation panes and a navigation sidebar.

Figure 4: The Dolphin file manager uses two directory navigation panes and a navigation sidebar.

User Interface

The primary user interface for Dolphin can be configured to be very similar to Konqueror and Krusader. Using two panes which each display the contents of a directory, it does not support multiple tabs or splitting the panes. Navigation is accomplished with the arrow and tab keys or the mouse. The Enter key can be used to enter a highlighted directory. Dolphin also supports expanding the directories (folders) in both the sidebar navigation pane as well as the directory panes.

Nautilus

Nautilus has a single directory pane with which to work.It does also have a sidebar for navigation. Nautilus is a decent file manager that is good for many beginners due to its simplicity.

Nautilus File Manager

Figure 5: The Nautilus file manager has a single directory pane and a navigation sidebar.

User Interface

The primary user interface for Nautilus is fairly simple with a navigation sidebar and a single directory window in which to work. It does not support multiple tabs or splitting the panes. Navigation is accomplished with the arrow and tab keys or the mouse. The Enter key can be used to enter a highlighted directory.

Thunar

Thunar is another lightweight file manager. It is so much like Nautilus in the way it looks and works and that there is little else to say about it.

PCmanFM

The PCManFM file manager is intended to replace Nautilus and Thunar. In fact, based on the way they look and work so much alike, they may actually share some common code. These three file managers have the fewest configuration options and all share the simple interface.

PCManFM01

Figure 6: PCManFM is intended as a replacement for Thunar and Nautilus.

 

XFE

XFE is one of the more interesting of the file managers as it has an interface all its own and is a bit more flexible than Nautilus, Thunar and PCManFM.

XFE FileManager

Figure 7: The XFE File Manager

User Interface

XFE may be configured to display one or two directory panes and the navigation bar is optional. It performs all the expected drag and drop functions, but it requires some manual configuration to the correct applications like LibreOffice with specific file types. It has a reasonable set of configuration options, but nowhere near those of Konqueror or Krusader.

XFE is also quite anal about retaining its own set of “themes” and has no option to use the desktop color scheme, icons, decorations, or widgets.