Redesign the nautilus filemanager (Part 1)

With the latest Gnome releases, a lot of work has been done on Nautilus UI and more improvements are coming in the future. Below you can see how the current implementation looks like:

I believe that file managers have lost their importance in the last few years: modern interfaces and integrated search tools (such as Unity on Ubuntu and Finder on Mac) organize contents in a simple and intuitive way, avoiding in the majority of cases file manager usage. However, this couldn’t be an excuse for a poor designed file manager and that’s why gnome guys are paying attention to the outdated Nautilus interface. Current nautilus design direction doesn’t satisfy me. That’s why I decided to extend the original gnome team mockups and create my own concepts. This is the first of some posts where I’m going to present my works.

I would love to see Nautilus with these features implemented


Modern & Clean interface

Compared with older versions the current nautilus design is a big step forward but I think elements should be reorganized in a different way. The philosophy is that each element has its own place

online Integration

Online integration is a critical feature on modern filemanager. The Nautilus Send-to plugin doesn’t suit anymore with the social media needs. Cloud support should also be improved

Search & Tags

The last nautilus version has introduced inline search. This a first step but it isn’t enough. Advanced search criteria and tags could be helpful when you look for a file


Modern & Clean interface

Concept of a new Nautilus UI

The design of the main toolbar is minimal and contains only global elements: as you can see above, the “navigation bar” is placed under the contents section. The reason is simple: current position gives local information (it refers to the current directory). Moreover, in a multi tab environment navigation should be local for each tab.
A contextual menu has been introduced to avoid right clicks. The benefit of this menu is questionable and in a future post, I will present a new way to interact with files and folders.

Nautilus Multi tab view


Online integration

Nautilus Online accounts integration

Nothing about online integration has been said on the Nautilus roadmap. A modern file manager should be integrated with online services giving the ability to share files on the Web. Cloud support still needs improvements: Ubuntu One is the only Cloud Service which is well integrated on a Linux machine.

Search & tags

In the near future semantic file browsing could even replace the old file system hierarchy structure: in such a scenario, users may forget about directory organization. I think that tagging system, at least at the beginning, shouldn’t replace but integrate the hierarchical file system structure. A lot of users (and I’m one of them) are new to tags and feel comfortable with hierarchical directory design.

Nautilus tags & inline search

Unfortunately tags and semantic file browsing have never been successful on the linux desktop. The problem is not in the idea of tag (content related organization instead of hierarchy organization) but in the implementation: tagging system experiments under the linux desktop all sucks. In order to be used, tagging should be immediate, easy to discover and well integrated in your gnome desktop. Makes tag visible in the nautilus left panel together with drag & drop support (tag a file by moving it over the right label) could really bring semantic file browsing over the Nautilus filemanager and more general over the entire gnome desktop.

Inline search should be integrated with a powerful and unobtrusive advanced search like the one shown in the picture below (first one).

Nautilus new and old inline search feature

When a new search is started the left panel shows advanced search criteria in a clear and smart way.

That’s all. I hope you enjoyed the post and will be there again for the second part of my nautilus redesign.


4 thoughts on “Redesign the nautilus filemanager (Part 1)

  1. WoW, you are a pro 😀

    I really much like your mockups, but do you think the ambiance theme in its current format is good enough?

    What do you think about Pantheon-Files, aka the old “Marlin” ?
    or what do you think about Dolphin, which has Nepomuk integration?

    Do you even think that you can do such nice animations with GTK?

    • Hi Eduard thanks for your interest.

      1)I’ve never tried the Phanteon file manager but I had some experience with Marlin. I like it but my impression is that it looked too much likes the Mac OSX file manager. Nothing bad in tihs but I strongly believe that Linux and Ubuntu Design (which also has its own brand) should be as original as possible.

      2)I’m not a KDE user but I wonder if people using Dolphin likes the way tags are handled.

      3) Of course yes (have a look at Gnome shell if you don’t believe me 🙂 ) . When I create a new mockup I try to be as relevant as possible to the guidelines and platform UI components.

  2. Pingback: Redesign the nautilus filemanager (part 2) | Christian Martellini

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