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4 Excellent Alternative Graphical Linux File Managers

There is a world of file managers beyond GNOME's Nautilus and KDE's Dolphin. These are perfectly good file managers, but they're fairly heavyweight and drag in a ton of dependencies. Gentoo File Manager, Rox-filer, Xfe, and PCManFM are some excellent alternatives that are lightweight, powerful, very configurable, independent of any particular desktop environment, and well-maintained. All of them have complete graphical functionality, and also support keyboard shortcuts and command-line operations. If you're looking for something a little different, give these a try.

Gentoo File Manager

The Gentoo File Manager has nothing to do with Gentoo Linux. It was named for the Gentoo penguin, and has been around longer than Gentoo Linux. Gentoo is lightweight and fast, and a tweaker's dream cram-full of functionality. It has two panes, and you can configure each pane independently. If two panes aren't enough you can split them horizontally or vertically.

gentoo

The default sheet of buttons across the bottom is just the beginning. You can edit the existing buttons by changing the button or font color, and changing the command. There are two steps to creating a new button with a new command, or editing an existing button. First you go to Configure ._ Buttons -> Definitions, select an existing button or create a new row, and click the Command icon. This brings up a list of commands to choose from, for example new_shell for opening an X terminal. The default is xterm. If you prefer a different X terminal, then go to Commands -> Definitions to change the definition of the new_shell command. This allows multiple commands, and the button will execute all of them. You can also create new custom commands here.

Gentoo file manager is designed to do everything with a button-click or right mouse click, and also allows performing complex operations using regular expressions. Filetypes are color-coded, delete really means delete, and configurable context menus open files in whatever app you want. Once you get it arranged to your liking it's very fast to work in.

ROX-Filer

ROX-Filer is a fast graphical file manager with a deceptively simple interface. It relies on context menus, configurable buttons, and right-click menus. A lot of the buttons are toggles, for example show/hide thumbnails, change sort order, and show/hide extra details, so it's very fast to see what you want.

rox filer screen shot

Left-click opens a file or directory, middle-click opens in a new window, and right-click opens the main menu. The main menu includes the Options dialogue for configuring ROX-filer. Left-click drag draws a box around a group of items to select them, and pressing the Escape key un-selects. Use Control+ left-click to select an arbitrary group of items.

You can open multiple windows and drag and drop files between them, and save file locations in the Bookmarks menu. There is a slick trick for quickly returning to a previous directory: Press Ctrl+1 on the directory you want to bookmark. Close it, and then return to it from any ROX window by pressing 1. Make multiple saves with 2, 3, and so on.

Hit the up arrow or Backspace key to return to the parent directory, Home and End navigate to the start and end of the directory, and Page Up/Page Down navigate up and down a screen at a time.

The Pinboard gives you a place to drag selected files, and Pinboards are automatically saved. Pinboards are directories with symlinks to your selected files, so it's a fast and ingenious way to save arbitrary batches of files.

ROX-Filer supports mounting removable media, running shell commands, virtual filesystems, batch operations, and lots more. Find out all about it in the excellent ROX-filer manual.

Xfe

Xfe, the X file explorer, is a little-known gem that includes multiple panes, an editable location bar, and a navigation panel. It has buttons all over the place, so you're never far from whatever you want to click, and my favorite feature is the panel focus indicator, which is a little green light to show which panel has focus.

xfe file manager

You can have a single panel, two panels, and a tree pane in any combination. It supports image thumbnails, though it does not support thumbnails for RAW photo files. It's one click to open it in a root session, open a terminal, and to run scripts and commands. You can create files and directories, symlinks, mount and unmount filesystems, and copy and move files. It includes a nice batch of configurable keyboard shortcuts, and multiple themes, including Windows 95 for any recent Linux converts who want a familiar interface. Xfe, like ROX-filer, also has some good documentation.

PCManFM

PCManFM is a nice tabbed file manager with a clean, uncluttered interface. It is the default file manager for the LXDE desktop. You can open directories in new tabs or new windows, and drag-and-drop files between them. It has an optional sidebar that displays either Places or your file tree. It also supports two panes, and the pane without focus is shaded.

pcmanfm Linux file manager

PCManFM comes with a more complete default configuration than the others in this roundup, with good right-click menus already set up with useful Open With, Open in New Tab/Window, Properties, Rename, and other common commands, and it handles removable music and movie media nicely. It even has an application launcher. It's pretty easy to find your way around PCManFM, and there is a bit of documentation on the LXDE wiki.

 

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  • Tehmasp Chaudhri Said:

    man; you just showed me something i haven't seen/used for 12+ yrs (Gentoo File Manager)

  • lupus furyo Said:

    o.O Ja, it's been good 12 years since I have seen this, an Ind/Pak dude addressing a woman as a 'man'. ^^

  • Mohammed Masud Said:

    What about Thunar? That's a very capable file manager from the XFCE camp.

  • Jesus Eguiluz Said:

    I like the Double Commander, I use a lot of tabs in the panels

  • 4N0NYM0U5 Said:

    Gnome Commander is also worth mentioning

  • akmal Said:

    Yes, my Favorite is Gnome Commander.... the old style double tab Norton Commander file manager. You can run it as a root instead of regular user.

  • Harold Said:

    What about Rodent? That's the first graphical file manager that really leverages the power of the command line! http://xffm.foo-projects.org/

  • ggallozz Said:

    I like Thunar specially for its bulk rename feature, very powerful; its little shame, instead, is the lack of showing multiple panel side by side, but only tabbed

  • hvc Said:

    It's nothing great with it. All of them have limitation not accepted in current OS generation.

  • Eddie G. Said:

    I guess because I'm old school...the "standard" file managers work best for me....Nautilus......Thunar....and the standard for Gnome 3.x...I mean using the ones listed here I can imagine would be great....but since all I do is drag-and-drop, an the usual right-click copy/paste...all the rest is stuff I don't need...and I have alredy pared down my XFCE driven openSuSE, and my Unity Ubuntu...so what more do I need?....Great article though!....

  • veggen Said:

    Did you purposefully list only ancient file managers? I think suggesting modern ones like SpaceFM and Sunflower would make for a lot more useful post.

  • sicofante Said:

    I was wondering the same. It's more a "Museum of File Managers" article, rather than a true "Alternative File Managers" article.

  • Albin Said:

    I've found Thunar and PCManFM virtually identical. I've replaced Thunar on my XFCE installs with XFE, since I like dual pane along with the side tree, rather than tabs. It's very fast and has some pretty themes. Toolbars and panel views are removable and configurable. The only odd thing is it installs its own little group of tiny, crude apps for viewing and editing various file formats, and sets them as default instead of recognizing defaults already set. I had to manually replace them, easy enough but confusing at first.

  • yorik Said:

    Also worth trying: Marlin, Sunflower and SpaceFM (my favorite)

  • Ignacio Garcia Said:

    Thanks for your great article. One thing I've been looking for years in file managers is the ability to cue copy operations. For instance, on most managers when I try to copy a large file that might take minutes, and then I want to copy another one to the same drive instead of queuing the second one, it will copy both at the same time. Do you know if there's any file manager that can do that?

  • Alan Said:

    Ignacio Garcia, to the best of my knowledge, the copy priority is handled by kernel mechanisms. A file manager merely requests the copy action and then monitors it.

  • Zeniff Said:

    I know it's probably not what you want, but the only thing that I've used which comes to mind which will queue copy operations is WinSCP... Besides that, I guess a plugin/custom command could be made which can check for running cp processes started from the file manager and won't start another until it finishes?

  • jocker Said:

    Krusader is the only one (under linux) that I know to have this very usefull functionality.. It's a pity, since Total Commander (for windows users) has had this for ages...

  • QuiteASmallPerson Said:

    I'm always a bit amazed that muCommander doesn't get more love in articles like these too. I know some people don't like Java, but it's cross-platform and very full-featured.

  • Boblinux Said:

    For power users, konqueror, being able to manage a lot of internal windows, a lot of file protocols, is a must have !

  • Nemes Ioan Sorin Said:

    sorry but we are in 2014 I would like to propose other 3 good filemanagers - the uncluttered Thunar FM from XFCE, the uncluttered Nemo FM (from Cinnamon DE) and the uncluttered Pantheon Files (from Elementary OS)

  • RoseHosting Said:

    Great article. Also worth trying: Midnight Commander (mc). It is fast and powerful Linux file manager with many useful features, capable of running both from the CLI or GUI environment.

  • boblinux Said:

    and as far as I know, mc may be the only easy tool to extract rpms contents (if one wants to spare the effort of using rpm2cpio etc)

  • Erinn Said:

    "ANNOUNCEMENT 2014-04-28: Most development and maintenance on the SpaceFM and udevil projects is indefinitely suspended." :( http://ignorantguru.github.io/spacefm/

  • Zeniff Said:

    I really prefer Eagle Mode (a ZUI) when using a GUI. It's easy to customize or write/edit plugins, is well-documented (which you need to at least skim to make the most of it), has helpful forums, and seems very stable. On CLI I use MC, which has a lot, but is really buggy for me.

  • s Said:

    krusader - the best for me, highly customizable and fast


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