7 Big Changes Coming to Nautilus in GNOME 43

GNOME 43 is creeping up on us and amongst the bevy of brilliant benefits it brings is a brand new version of (arguably) the most famous open source file manager of them all: Nautilus.

Now, I’ve had a bit too much coffee (which is to blame for the barrage of words beginning with ‘B’ in this blog post), and, having gone on hands-on with what’s in store, I’m feeling pumped. So here I am, bashing out a few Gutenberg blocks’ worth of brazen brio in honour of the Nautilus 43 beta.

So read on for a quick run through of seven (why? 4 + 3 = 7) user-facing changes coming in Nautilus as part of September’s GNOME 43 release (and likely included as part of Ubuntu 22.10 this October).

Nautilus 43: Top Changes

1. Adaptive by Design

animated gif of Nautilus in GNOME 43 beta

To date, Nautilus hasn’t been the most graceful app at adapting to different screen sizes. That flaw is well and truly fixed in GNOME 43 thanks to a series of adaptive changes enabled by ✨libadwaita✨ and the GNOME developers fastidiously weaving this fabulously widgetry in to the core GNOME apps.

Nautilus 43 now ‘hides’ the sidebar when the window is resized beyond a set point. The sidebar remains accessible as a pop-over sheet bound to a button that only shows in this mode. Then, resize window wide enough for the sidebar to fit, and et voila: it’s back!

Better yet, toolbar controls cleanly split into top and bottom toolbars. This doesn’t just nicer than before but makes the file manager more usable on narrow (aka mobile) screens.

2. A Limber-er List View

screenshot of Nautilus list view in GNOME 43 beta

As I wrote about last month, Nautilus 43 includes a much improved list view that features visual changes and some (rather marvellous) rubber banding support. The latter change isn’t just a superfluous visual effect but makes it much easy to select multiple files/folders in list view using the mouse – or at least as easy as it is in icon view.

Similarly, if you’re an avid list-layout lover you’ll be pleased to know you can quickly access the (improved) column editor dialog by right-clicking on a column header, no need to pop into the toolbar and open it from there.

3. Prettier ‘Properties’

properties before and after in nautilus 43 beta

A hugely improved Properties dialog for files, folders, and drives features in Nautilus 43. Design wise, the Properties pop-over uses a new “pages and rows” design. This orders information more clearly. All of the Permissions options remain in tact, implemented a second page in the dialog.

Images, videos, and audio files also see their respective expanded properties ported over too, so it’s still easy to see image dimensions and other metadata.

4. Sorting Solutions

The sorting options available in the 'recent' folder in Nautilus 43

The “Recent” folder pinned to the top of the sidebar? I love it. It makes it so ridiculously easy to find the files I’ve been using, well, recently — and it’s getting even better.

In Nautilus 43 it’s now possible to sort ‘Recent’ items based on name, last modified, first modified, size, and file type — perfect if your recents is (like mine) overflowing and you know the file you want, but not where in the space-time continuum it sits.

Helpfully, these new filtering options are extended to search results too. Talking of search…

5. Savvy Search

The search UI changes in Nautilus 43

Nautilus’ native search feature benefits from some design attention in this outing. The search filter is much better defined in the toolbar, switching to a filter icon instead of a drop-down arrow. Additionally, the ‘full text’ and ‘filename’ buttons look nicer in the filter container, and a helpful section header (‘search’) has been added.

6. Power Ups

nautilus open in console context menu item in GNOME 43 beta

A couple of familiar file manager plugins have been “absorbed” (to quote GNOME developers) into Files proper this cycle.

For instance, there’s now a context menu action to open a given folder in Console (the flashy new terminal emulator), replacing the Nautilus open in terminal plugin I wrote about recently. There’s also a native “Email” option replacing the previously used nautilus-send-to extension, this one using the proper email portal event.

Additionally, Nautilus extensions have a new location, and a nicer front-end for enablement in the Preferences window.

7. Disk-y Business

Nautilus 43 beta: disks integration

Disks integration in Nautilus returns in this release. You can, once again, open a particular driver or folder in Disks from the folder properties dialog, and access a ‘format’ option when right-clicking on a compatible drive type in the Nautilus sidebar.

But Wait! There’s More!

Other changes in Nautilus 43 include:

  • Reorganised context menus
  • Middle click on next and forward buttons to open in new tab
  • Checkerboard background for thumbnails with transparency
  • Menu item to open current folder in another application
  • Menu item to copy current path to clipboard
  • Better support for context menus on touchscreens
  • New zoom icons
  • Restyled in-app notifications
  • Modern ‘About’ window

And we can expect further refinement as we navigate ever-nearer to the final, stable release of GNOME 43 in mid September, 2022.

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