Talk about a controversial topic, file managers can get people fighting and arguing almost as much as discussing why VIM is so much better than EMACS. The default file managers that ship with GNOME (Nautilus) and KDE (Konqueror) are very usable, helpful and configurable, I use them both all the time, but it’s never enough to just use the defaults, or you wouldn’t be reading this post… Also, if you like your Norton Commander-style layout or pine for the days of Xtree Gold, then the last half of this article is just for you.

Nautilus Alternatives

First off, let’s talk about direct replacements for GNOME’s Nautilus, which you probably either use and don’t care much about, or don’t use and think was designed to drive you crazy. Either way, there are some great alternatives to Nautilus:

  • Thunar – Named after the Norse God Thor, this file manager is a component of the XFCE desktop, which is not quite on the same level as GNOME and KDE, but is gaining in popularity. Pluses include small size, responsiveness, lots of plugins and familiarity for new users.
  • Endeavor Mk II – Endeavor is cross-platform and has a ton of features, including multiple layout options, archive-management, image-viewer and management and front-ends for tools like zip and wget.
  • EmelFM – I used emelfm for a while, and like it’s features, but I found I needed to use it and a couple of others, so try it out, the features and stability are excellent, but you may find you need additional options.
  • Rox-Filer – If you’re used to the Mac OS X finder, or Windows Explorer, then you’ll probably like Rox, it’s a component of the Rox Desktop, but is easily installable separately.
  • GFileRunner Velocity – This is a great tool, it’s almost a complete Windows Explorer work-alike, in a good way… Features include clickable, expandable trees for files and directories, configurable toolbars, address bar for quick navigation and an undo feature to keep you from goofing up too bad.  NOTE: Thanks to Eric Woods for the updated project name, location and status.
  • PCManFM – Probably one of the most useful competitors to Nautilus, it does a lot of things that have driven us crazy in Nautilus for years, such as Tabbed interface, loading large directories quickly, bookmarks, several great views and good stability.

Konqueror Alternatives

Next lets cover the alternatives for the KDE Konqueror file manager, which a lot of people actually use as a replacement for Nautilus! I personally use the GNOME desktop and default to Konqueror for a lot of tasks, you just run it, it automatically loads the needed KDE libraries and it works.

One point, rather than focus on the same kind of replacements that Nautilus has, I want to show the file managers that provide either Xtree-like or Norton Commander-like alternatives. These alternatives to Konqueror include:

  • Midnight Commander – A part of the GNOME desktop, mc is authored by Miguel de Icaza, the founder of GNOME, and is a text-mode Norton Commander clone, and a serious file manager that I have used for years with great results.
  • XNC – Dubbed the “X Northern Captain”, this is probably the most Motif-looking of the alternatives to Konqueror, it is a well-done implementation of the NC options, highly configurable and a good alternative to consider.
  • Krusader – For fellow Saxon fans, this is my favorite name for a file manager, and Krusader doesn’t disappoint, it’s very configurable, has a two-pane NC-like interface, has ACL support (a first for a GUI file manager, I believe), smart renaming of files, a new and updated look and finally my favorite, a greatly-improved synchronization feature that helps keep large directory trees updated.
  • KCommander – This NC clone is well done, offers archive file management and is very speedy, helps you upload via ftp (which some others also offer), but not much else over it’s competitors.


Finally, we get to the Xtree-like alternatives:

  • ytree – Obviously an Xtree alternative, ytree is a text-mode app that really does look very much like the Xtree Gold app that I used so often for a number of years in the old DOS days.
  • UnixTree – Excellent and stable implementation of Xtree for the Unix/Linux platform.
  • XTC – Unix clone of the DOS clones of Xtree, it’s not in very active development, and has some bugs.
  • linXtree – Another older and fairly well done Xtree clone.
  • utree – Lastly, another older version of the same type of clone of Xtree, last updated in 2005


Obviously you can choose to run just the stock file manager, whatever desktop you have, but in true Unix/Linux fashion you can customize, replace and in general play around with the various choices until you find just the right one for you.

Enjoy, and as ever, if you have a favorite alternative, please leave a comment and I’ll add it and a shout-out to you for the suggestion.