Using the Nautilus file manager

At one time, file managers did little more than let you run applications, create data files, and open folders. These days, as the information a user needs expands beyond the local system, file managers are expected to also display Web pages, access FTP sites, and play multimedia content. The Nautilus file manager, which is the default GNOME file manager, is an example of just such a file manager.

When you open the Nautilus file manager window (from the GNOME main menu or by launching a directory), you will see a sidebar in the left column and the files and directories contained in the current directory in the right column. Figure 4-3 is an example of the File manager window displaying the home directory of a user named jake (/home/jake).

igure 4-3: Move around the file system, open directories, launch applications, and browse the Web from Nautilus.

Icons on the toolbar of the Nautilus window let you move forward and back among the directories and Web sites you visit. To move up the directory structure, click the Up arrow. To refresh the view of the folder or Web page, click the Refresh button. The Home button takes you to your home page and the Web search button lets you search the Web.

Many data files are represented by icons that indicate the type of data they contain. The contents or file extension of each file can determine which application is used to work with the file. Or, you can right-click an icon to open the file it represents with a particular application or viewer.

Some of the more interesting features of Nautilus are described below:

Sidebar — The left column of the screen consists of a sidebar. From the sidebar, you can click on tabs that represent different types of information you can select. The Tree tab shows a tree view of the directory structure, so you can easily traverse your directories. The News tab lets you select from a variety of news sites and has headlines displayed from those sites.

The Notes tab lets you add notes that become associated with the current Directory or Web page. The Help tab opens links to the GNOME Help system. The History tab displays a history of directories and Web sites you have visited, allowing you to click those items to return to the sites they represent.

Web browsing — By typing a Web address (URL) in the Location box on the Nautilus window or by clicking on a link, Nautilus acts as a Web browser by displaying the requested content. Select Web search to have your favorite search engine displayed to search for Web sites ( is used by default).

MIME types and file types — To handle different types of content that may be encountered in the Nautilus window, you can set applications to respond based on MIME type and file type. With a directory being displayed, click a file for which you want to assign an application. Click either Open With an Application or Open With a Viewer. If no application or viewer has been assigned for the file type, click OK to be able to select an application. From the File Types and Programs window, you can add an application based on the file extension and MIME type representing the file.

Cross-Reference For more information in MIME types, see the description of MIME types in the "Changing GNOME preferences" section later in this chapter.

Drag-and-Drop — You can use drag-and-drop within the Nautilus window, between the Nautilus and the desktop, or between multiple Nautilus windows. As other GNOME-compliant applications become available, they are expected to also support the GNOME drag-and-drop feature.

If you need more information on the Nautilus file manager, visit the Eazel Web site at Eventually, support for Nautilus will move to the GNOME Web site (

Continue reading here: Changing GNOME preferences

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