5 of the Best File Managers for Linux

One of the pieces of software you use daily is a file manager. A good file manager is essential to your work. If you are a Linux user and want to try out file managers other than the default one that comes with your system, below is a list of the best Linux file managers you will find.

Let’s start with a definition first to make sure we are on the same page. A file manager is a computer application that you can access and manage the files and documents stored on your hard disk. In Windows this application is called Windows Explorer, and in macOS, Finder. In Linux there is no one standardized file manager application for all distributions. These are some of the best Linux File managers.

linux-file-managers-01-nautilus

Nautilus, now renamed to GNOME Files, is the standard file manager of the GNOME desktop environment. Since GNOME is a very popular desktop environment, this automatically means Nautilus is also among the most used file managers. One of the key features of Nautilus is that it’s clean and simple to use, while still offering all the basic functionality of a file manager, as well as the ability to browse remote files. This is a file manager suitable for novices and everybody who values minimalism and simplicity. If the default functionality is too limiting for you, you can extend it with the help of plugins.

linux-file-managers-02-dolphin

Dolphin File Manager is the KDE counterpart of Nautilus. Similarly to Nautilus, it is intended to be simple to use while also leaving room for customization. Split view and multitabs, as well as dockable panels, are among its core features. You can use Dolphin to browse both local and remote files across the network. For some operations Dolphin offers undo/redo functionality, which is pretty handy for those of us who have (too) quick fingers. If the default functionality of Dolphin is not enough, plugins come to the rescue.

linux-file-managers-03-thunar

Thunar might not be as popular as Nautilus or Dolphin, but I personally like it more. It’s the file manager I use on a daily basis. Thunar is the default file manager for the Xfce Desktop Environment, but you can use it with other environments as well. Similarly to Nautilus and Dolphin, Thunar is lightweight, fast, and easy to use. For an old computer, Thunar is probably the best file manager. It is a relatively simple file manager without tons of fancy (and useless) features, but again, it has plugins to extend the default functionality, if this is needed.

linux-file-managers-04-nemo

Nemo is a fork of Nautilus, and it’s the default file manager for the Cinnamon desktop environment. One of the special features of Nemo is that it has all the features of Nautilus 3.4 that have been removed in Nautilus 3.6, such as all desktop icons, compact view, etc., and tons of configuration options. Nemo also has useful features, such as open as root, open in terminal, show operation progress when copying/moving files, bookmark management, etc.

linux-file-managers-05-pcmanfm-2

The last file manager for Linux on this list – PCManFM – has the very ambitious goal to replace Nautilus, Konqueror and Thunar. PCManFM is the standard file manager in LXDE (a distro developed by the same team of developers), and it’s meant to be lightweight, yet fully functional. I don’t have much personal experience with this file manager, but from what I know, I can’t say it’s groundbreaking, breathtaking, etc. It does have the standard features a file manager offers, such as thumbnails, access to remote file systems, multitabs, drag and drop, etc., but I don’t think it has really outstanding features. Still, if you are curious, you can give it a try and see for yourself.

There are many more file managers for Linux I didn’t include because I don’t think they are as good as the ones listed. Some of these managers are Gentoo file manager, Konqueror, Krusader, GNOME Commander, Midnight Commander, etc. If the 5 file managers I reviewed are not what you like, you can give the rest a try, but don’t expect too much from them.

11 comments

  1. The file manager programs themselves may be lightweight but they do not exist in a vacuum. If you take into account all the dependencies that must be installed along with the the file manager, all of a sudden it can gain a lot of weight. For example, if you try to install Dolphin (designed for KDE) into a GNOME Desktop Environment or Nautilus into KDE.

    “from what I know, I can’t say it’s groundbreaking, breathtaking, etc.”
    What may be “groundbreaking, breathtaking, etc” about PFManFM is that it works in three different DE’s, not just in one as Dolphin, Nautilus and Thunar do.

  2. I was on Nemo (via Mint/Cinn) before. Currently on Thunar, which I find very responsive and covers most of what I need. The one thing I really miss is how Thunar (and PCManFM, from the image) handle the SIZE column vs the way Nemo does. I can’t tell how Nautilus or Dolphin handle the size column because they’re both in ICON view mode in the screenshots.

    Both Thunar and PCManFM display the SIZE of the icon of a folder (I guess) when displaying in detailed view. On Thunar, all I see is 4.1kB for every folder listed. On the image of PCManFM (above), I see it displays 4.0kB. The info, while accurate, is useless (and redundant) to me.

    Nemo goes the extra step and provides useful information. On the image in this article, you can see it tells you how many items are inside each directory listed (or whether it’s empty). Maybe there’s a setting (or tweak) for Thunar I haven’t come across yet?

  3. I have found it best to stick with the Desktops default file manager. While you can run other like Dolphin on Gnome, it is always better to stick with Nautilus. Use Ubuntu Mate so stick with Caja.

  4. Nautilus is garbage. I’ve never had it work right in all the Linux distro’s I’ve used since 2000. Dolphin is the screwed up version of ‘fixing what wasn’t broke’ by the KDE people from what it was – Konqueror. Thunar…no one has enough money to pay me to use that escaped abortion ever again more than the few times I tried. The other two I guess ‘work’, but they’re nothing special.

    You missed Krusader though in the article. True, it’s now a part of KDE, but it works just exactly the same as it did when it was a separate app. It works well, does a slough of things and does them well, and if you have a great memory for things like this, it is powerful in the extreme. It’s also still fast and far easier to use than those others, and IMO, far more intuitive.

    • Exactly, if you are looking for a truly powerful File Manager that goes way beyond being just a File Manager, you are looking for Midnight Commander which is an excellent swiss army knife of tools.

  5. Nautilus is now a very average file manager after so many features were removed. I can’t believe Caja did not get a mention.

  6. Dolphin is the best, full featured, file manager IMHO but it is far too slow.

    So I, after trying many alternatives, I converted to SpaceFM which is very configurable and much much faster

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