Using Marlin File Manager As Nautilus Alternative [Linux]

Regardless which OS you are using, the file manager is one of the most important app that you have to use everyday. Without a file manager, you won’t be able to find and open files, or even move them to another location. In Linux, there are plenty of file manager applications that you can use. Nautilus for Gnome, Thunar for XFCE, Dolphin for KDE and PCman for those who prefer something light. Marlin is a new GTK3-based file manager for Linux, and it looks pretty slick and fast.


On Ubuntu, you can install via the following PPA:

You might also want to install the Marlin plugins for Dropbox and UbuntuOne

Once installed, you can right click on any folder and select “Open with Marlin File Manager”.


The first impression of opening Marlin is that: it is fast. Usually when I open Nautilus, it will take about 3 -5 seconds, even on a high-end PC, to open. On the other hand, Marlin opens up instantly. To me, the speed difference is noticeable and significant.


On the left pane is the “Places” menu where it lists the main directory and mounted devices. Unlike Nautilus, there is no Bookmarks feature where you can save your frequently accessed folders, but the menu is collapsible so you can hide the places you don’t want to see.


Marlin supports “Open In Tab” feature and you can color tagged each file and folder to distinguish them from the rest.


One of the things that work right out of the box is the ability to right-click on a file or folder and select “Open in Terminal”. This is one function that I use very frequently and I am glad it is built right into Marlin.

Personally, I find the toolbar rather well-organized and slick, but in case you don’t like it, you can reorder the icons and add/remove icon to/from the toolbar.



When it comes to the configuration section, it doesn’t seems to have as many options as Nautilus. There are only three tabs: Behavior, Display and Extensions.

Under the Behavior tab, you can choose whether to single-click to open file, mouse auto-selection speed, use modal window for Properties dialog (the window that pop up when you right click a file and select “Properties”) and to set it as the default file manager.


This is what you will see for the Properties dialog window:


The Display section allows you to customize the sidebar icon size and the date display format. Nothing too special here.


Lastly, the Extensions section is where you activate the installed plugins. Currently, there are only two plugins available: Dropbox and UbuntuOne.


Preview Files in Marlin

If you have installed Gloobus-Preview, you can also get it to work in Marlin. Here are the steps:

Press Alt + F2 and type dconf-editor.

In the dconf-editor, navigate to “apps -> marlin -> preferences“. Under the “previewer-path”, enter:


Press Enter, and exit the dconf-editor.


If you prefer a lightweight, slick and fast file manager, I would definitely recommend Marlin. I have always used Nautilus, not because it is the best, but because it is the default in Gnome. After using Marlin, I have not looked back at Nautilus anymore.

Try it out and let us know if you like Marlin.

Damien Damien

Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.


  1. trying to install it in linux mint 11, but cannot add repository. says file not found for marlin repo natty edition. any hint ? thanks in advace

    1. The Marlin PPA is available for Oneiric and above. Since Linux Mint 11 is based on Maverick, you would not be able to install Marlin on it. You will have better luck with Linux Mint 12.

  2. I’ve been trying Marlin for a bit since I read this, and it certainly is fast and has some nice features, but there’s one feature of Nautilus that I can’t seem to find in any other file manager.  

    I have a lot of media files.  I want to be able to right click a directory and do “Open with VLC” or similar.  So far Nautilus is the only Linux file manager I’ve tried that can do that.  

    Are you aware of any way to make that work in Marlin, Thunar, PCManFM, or pretty much anything faster than nautilus?

    1. My version of Marlin allows me to do so. I can right click on a media file and go to Open with -> VLC Media Player.

  3. I’ve been using sudo nautilus xxx/yy via console in ubuntu. Is there an altrernative to mint?

  4. Faster than Nautilus and it has some really nice features, one of which I wanted since I started using Macintosh at work (giving the folder name a bg colour). :)
    Since it’s in development, it is missing functionalities like searching but it’s not a biggie. I will keep both file managers till then (Marlin as my default). Thank you for letting us know this wonderful application. :)

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