How to Bring Back Nautilus ‘Type-Ahead Search’ in Ubuntu 18.04

GNOME Developers removed Nautilus’ type-ahead feature way back in 2013 in favor of a recursive search that searches files in the current folder as well as sub-directories.

Type-ahead makes it possible for users to start typing the name of a file or directory to select it without searching any sub folders. This made it really easy to find something if you know what you’re looking for.

For example, if you’re in the Downloads folder, perhaps looking for a file you recently downloaded, you can start typing the first few letters of the filename, and it’ll jump to the first match it finds in the current directory. If multiple files or folders match the search query, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move to the next match and vice versa. And when you do want recursive search, you could use the search button or hit Ctrl.

When this feature was removed in upstream Nautilus, it caused a huge controversy which led the Ubuntu development team to patch Nautilus so that it retains the type-ahead feature. This patch was maintained up until Ubuntu 17.10 when it was dropped along with the Unity desktop.

How to get the Type-Ahead feature in Ubuntu 18.04

One way to get type-ahead back is to switch from Nautilus to an alternative file manager such as Caja or Nemo, since both Nautilus forks retain type-ahead.

But if you don’t want to do that, you will be glad to know that this feature can easily be added back to Nautilus in Ubuntu 18.04 thanks to a new third-party PPA that provides a custom build of Nautilus with type-ahead enabled.

Note: using this PPA will replace the standard version of Nautilus 3.26 used in Ubuntu 18.04 with the custom build.

To get started you need to add the PPA to your system sources.

1. Launch the terminal from the Activities overview, then enter the following command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lubomir-brindza/nautilus-typeahead
sudo apt update

2. Once you’ve confirmed the addition of the PPA, Ubuntu will automatically refresh your system sources. As soon as the refresh is completed, run the following command to install all available updates for your system as well as upgrade Nautilus to the custom build.

sudo apt dist-upgrade

3. After the ugrade has completed, close all open instances of Nautilus and launch it again. Type-ahead search should be working now.


Revert to stock Nautilus

If you decide to return to the vanilla version of Nautilus that ships with Ubuntu at any point in time, open the terminal and run the following commands:

sudo apt install ppa-purge
sudo ppa-purge ppa:lubomir-brindza/nautilus-typeahead

I hope this article has helped you get type-ahead back in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. If you found this article helpful, don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Ayo Isaiah
Ayo Isaiah

Ayo Isaiah is a freelance writer from Lagos who loves everything technology with a particular interest in open-source software. Follow him on Twitter.

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