What is a good file manager for Linux?

One of must-have utilities on Linux desktop is file manager (or file browser). A typical file manager can not only handle common file management operations, but also offer advanced functionality that differentiates itself with others. If you are not happy with a default file manager that comes with the Linux desktop you are using, don't worry. There are plenty of other file managers to choose from.

In this post, I will showcase 13 popular file managers available on Linux. For each file manager, I am going to briefly mention its notable features.

1. Dolphin

  • Default file manager for KDE4 desktop.
  • Transparent access to files, web sites and other resources via KIO (KDE Input/Output).
  • Support for undo/redo operations.
  • Tabbed user interface for different folders.
  • Support for dockable panels.
  • Official website: http://dolphin.kde.org

2. Double Commander

  • Support for unicode encoding.
  • Support for batch renaming.
  • Tabbed user interface for different folders.
  • Built-in file viewer for content in text, binary and hex format.
  • Transparent browsing for archives (zip, tar, gz, tgz, bz2, rpm, deb, rar).
  • Logging for file operations.
  • Support for full text search in files.
  • Official website: http://doublecmd.sourceforge.net

3. GNOME Commander

  • GTK+ version of Midnight Commander.
  • Connect to SSH, Samba, FTP, Windows Share, WebDAV (http), secure WebDAV (https).
  • Built-in file viewer (for text, binary, hex, image).
  • Support for batch renaming.
  • Official website: http://www.nongnu.org/gcmd/

4. Konqueror

  • Highly customizable universal viewer for KDE desktop.
  • Transparent access to local files, remote FTP/SFTP/Samba servers, websites and mountable media.
  • Extensible functionality via plugins (e.g., ad blocker, webpage translation, image gallery creation, shell command panel).
  • Support for VNC viewer and web browser.
  • Official website: http://www.konqueror.org

5. Krusader

  • Versatile file browser for KDE desktop.
  • Support for KIO slaves via Samba, NFS, FTP and SSH.
  • Directory synchronization over networks.
  • Transparent archive browsing for bzip2, deb, iso, rar, rpm, tar, zip and 7zip.
  • Comes with internal viewer/editor (KrViewer),
  • Support for mounted file systems (MountMan).
  • Built-in disk usage tool (filelight).
  • Bookmark organizer (BookMan).
  • Support for batch renaming (KRename).
  • File content comparison (KDiff, Kompare).
  • File encryption and decryption (KGPG).
  • Transparent browsing for archives (tar, zip, bzip2, gzip, rar, ace, 7z, rpm).
  • Official website: http://www.krusader.org

6. Marlin

  • GTK3-based lightweight file manager optimized for speed.
  • Tabbed user interface for different folders.
  • Customizable toolbar.
  • Plugins for Dropbox and UbuntuOne.
  • Connect to SSH, FTP, Windows Share, WebDAV (http), secure WebDAV (https).
  • Official website: https://launchpad.net/marlin

7. Midnight Commander

  • Terminal interface with mouse support and keyboard shortcuts.
  • Built-in viewer and editor with syntax highlighting.
  • Support for archive browsing and unpack (rpm, deb, tgz, iso, rar, cpio).
  • Unicode support.
  • Support for undelete on ext2 and ext3 filesystems.
  • Official website: http://www.midnight-commander.org

8. muCommander

  • Support for remote file systems (FTP, SFTP, Samba, NFS, HTTP, Amazon S3, Hadoop HDFS and Bonjour).
  • Support for archive browsing, creation and unpacking (zip, rar, 7z, tar, gzip, bzip2, iso, deb).
  • Tabbed user interface for different folders.
  • Multiple language support (27 different languages).
  • Bookmark and credential manager.
  • Official website: http://www.mucommander.com

9. Nautilus

  • Official file manager for GNOME desktop.
  • Connect to SSH, FTP, Windows Share, WebDAV (http), secure WebDAV (https).
  • Tabbed user interface for different folders.
  • Extensible functionality via Nautilus extensions or scripts.
  • Maintains a history of visited folders.
  • File preview (text, image, audio, video).
  • Support for bookmarks.
  • Official website: http://projects.gnome.org/nautilus

10. PCManFM

  • Default file manager of LXDE desktop.
  • Available as GTK+ and Qt versions.
  • Support for remote file systems (GVFS, SFTP, Samba, WebDAV).
  • Multilingual support.
  • Tabbed user interface for different folders.
  • Support for bookmarks.
  • Official website: http://wiki.lxde.org/en/PCManFM

11. Sunflower

  • Plugin support.
  • File previews for jpg and other media files.
  • Support for opening a native terminal within panels.
  • Support for bookmarks.
  • Official website: http://code.google.com/p/sunflower-fm/

12. Thunar

  • Default file manager of XFCE desktop.
  • Written in GTK+ 2.
  • Extensible functionality via extensions (e.g., bulk renamer) or scripts.
  • Support for mouse gestures.
  • Customizable keyboard shortcuts.
  • Custom actions for removable media.
  • Official website: http://docs.xfce.org/xfce/thunar/

13. Xfe

  • MS-Explorer like interface.
  • Built-in text viewer and editor, and image viewer.
  • Built-in rpm/deb package viewer and (un)installer.
  • Multi language support (17 languages).
  • Trash can for file removal operations.
  • Support for bookmarks.
  • Official website: http://roland65.free.fr/xfe/

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Dan Nanni is the founder and also a regular contributor of Xmodulo.com. He is a Linux/FOSS enthusiast who loves to get his hands dirty with his Linux box. He likes to procrastinate when he is supposed to be busy and productive. When he is otherwise free, he likes to watch movies and shop for the coolest gadgets.

52 thoughts on “What is a good file manager for Linux?

  1. Using nautilus, but it too slowly populates, doesn't handle nfs (or many other gvfs plugins, not to mention it doesn't interface with thing like Google drive yet) well. The interface is a bit confusing. For instance I often have two windows open (since they removed the old split pane view) and I want to drag down from the top panel BOTH windows, like you can do when there's a single window. But when there are two windows it won't let you do this. The interface is just...inconsistent. So, I use a plugin that lets me group/tile windows, but I still can't grab from the top bar and move the windows as a group.


    Anyway, the fastest file manager I've ever used was, surprise, PCManFM. The nicest file manager I've ever used was Dolphin. That is some of the best software the KDE project has ever produced, IMHO.

  2. Dolphin. When it first came out, I thought it was an overly limited POS compared to Konqueror with the filemanager profile loaded.

    Now: it's simply the best. On a really limited system I like Thunar as a second. Nautilus... still a POS.

  3. Does Dolphin have support for kioslaves for networking protocols and the like? I have typically been embedding dolphin in konqueror with kfmclient for this purpose. If it has this native, I'll use it on its own.

    • Sure! Since plasma 4.10, dolphin have a native supports for kio and mtp. And it works good. Some little troubles but not so much.

      • I just gave it a try. Not too bad. I wish KDE would give better support for SSH and its configuration.

        • i can't help you... I just began to use SSH with raspberrypi and i work with konsole. I never look at the instruments of dolphin about SSH.

          • Right, the only person that can help is KDE team. When referencing SFTP connections, it does not handle configuration in .ssh/config well.

  4. I use KDE Dolphin mostly and the Nemo version of GTK3 Nautilus. I use Thunar on all my Rescue USB tools.

  5. What I really want is a port of Total Commander for Linux... Sadly, just about everything I've tried like it comes up waaay short.

    • Nemo is what Nautilus should have been :P
      I understand why the changes to Nautilus were implimented (I'd argue that the way Nautilus searches files for example, is easier for a first-time user), but for someone like me, I'm just used to how it used to work, and that's how Nemo works . . .

  6. Dolphin works really great for me. I really just want the ability to have 2 panels and SSH connectivity.

    • Yep, that's easy in Dolphin.

      Just press F3 for split view.

      For SSH just type fish://example.com

      Dolphin really is a great piece of software; if you just want a basic file manager it's really fast but it also supports all sorts of useful extra features.

  7. I personally LOVE PCManFM. I use Fedora with a Cinnamon GUI, but for file management, I go with PCManFM because it allows me to do everything I want to. I get to easily copy and paste the folder-path and if I need to jump quickly into a terminal, I can paste the path into terminal by copying it from PCManFM.

    I have always said that one of the killer apps of any OS is their file manager. PCManFM is the killer app for me. I've been using it for years.

    ...and no I am not working for the company. I just like it best.

  8. What about bash?
    File browsers are better for picture handling, but for most other tasks is bash much faster.

  9. Rox-filer is perfect. It's the first thing I look for when I install a distro that doesn't already have it.

    • +1 for ROX. A file manager should not annoy me with unnecessary crap, abstraction layers, or a "recycle bin".

  10. I primarily use MATE or recently KDE so that puts me at caja/dolphin. Having said that, back in mate 1.4, i replaced caja with nautilus as default due to bugs that i could not look past. Marlin has come a long way if you haven't seen it or looked in a while. Nemo is solid.

  11. Yep seems many agree with my fav which is Dolphin.
    But when someone asks about file manager I ask for what distro or desktop environment?
    As Gnome it's Nautilus. For KDE it's Dolphin and Cinnamon it's Nemo. Xfce is Thunar. And other's listed may be developed for Gnome or xfce,etc.
    You can add any of these to any DE but run the risk of pulling in a lot of additional libs and files specific for the desktop environment they were originally designed for.
    I run KDE for the simple fact that when I was running Gnome or Cinnamon I ended up pulling half of the KDE environment libs anyways for apps like Amarok or Clementine, K3b for DVD/CD burning and best file manager IMO Dolphin. Okcular for pdf's,etc.
    So bit the bullet and moved to KDE. And have no regrets about the move. Like I said you can use any of the file managers with any other DE but you will be adding significant amount of packages and taking up space on the hardrive. Also means more frequent updates from two separate desktops.
    But something I just find a bit messy from an aesthetics stance for the root file system.
    I like to use file managers designed for DE i'm using if at all possible.
    And hate to populate root with multiple DE files & libraries.

  12. No one mentioned pantheon-files but it has definitely improved recently. I also used SpaceFM for a while which was pretty good.
    Tbh I rarely jump into a graphical file manager anymore since I'm faster with the command line (zsh is awesome). I use a bookmarks script to mark directories as aliases and jump around that way. Ranger is pretty good also, but text-based.

  13. cd, cp, mv and ls (among others) with a good set of aliases. Otherwise midnight commander or Ranger. In my opinion most File Managers are terribly bloated.

  14. Krusader with a good set of keyboard shotcut is my tool. Even if Dolphin has improved a lot, I save a lot of time with Krusader, and that's good, because I don't want to spend my life in a file manager.

  15. Maybe it's me, but I just don't like file managers. Not just Linux, but Windows or Apple too. Just not a fan of clicking around my file system.
    A shell with decent tab-completion means I can move around pretty quickly, more so than by clicking and waiting for a UI to update.
    cp/mv/rm/find/whatnot handle the basics
    I don't much like double-clicking to open files. When I can remember the command to open a UI program (like evince, or vlc), I can just run it from the shell; otherwise I open the program and then use its Open File utility to open whatever file I need to in a given app.

  16. For me, Caja in MATE is it (a fork of Nautilus in Gnome). A good test of a file manager is to see just how much "drag and drop" support it has built in, (though granted this depends somewhat on the DE itself). I fully utilize DnD, dropping files/folders everywhere, including on panel icons/launchers (I do lots of bash scripting/automation and DnD speeds things up tremendously). As for GUI file manager vs. terminal, I use both. Support for dragging text in a DE is helpful also 'cause when the going gets tough, I "morph" text like a madman and drag the text result directly into other apps such as the terminal... God, I luv Linux!

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