Nautilus Preferences

preferred by 'Blaze'

in particular, to improve performance
when navigating large directories
with this file manager GUI

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This Nautilus File Manager Preferences page

! Note !
Many of these notes for the
Gnome2-Nautilus file manager
also apply to 'forks' of Nautilus
such as the MATE-Caja file manager.

< Go to Nautilus Preferences Panel Images, below. >
(Skip the Introduction)


In 2009, I finally 'took the plunge' and migrated my mail, bookmarks, etc. from a (main) Microsoft Windows machine to a (main) Linux machine.

I have documented reasons why I went to Linux, along with install notes, on my Ubuntu Install notes page

I do a lot of web page development (this site) in which a lot of photos and other image files are processed (renamed, cropped if need be, down-sized, gamma-corrected if need be, thumbnailed, etc.).

I found that I needed to change the default preferences of the Nautilus file manager in order to navigate QUICKLY through directories containing hundreds of image files.

The screen captures below, of the Nautilus Preferences panels, document my preferences settings.

You get to the Nautilus Preferences window by opening up a Nautilus file manager window (say, by choosing 'Places' from the top-of-screen toolbar of Ubuntu Gnome and opening the 'Home folder'). Then choose 'Edit > Preferences' via the top of the Nautilus file manager window.

Following are images of the six panels of the Nautilus Preferences window, corresponding to the labels:

  • Views
  • Behavior
  • Display
  • List Columns
  • Preview
  • Media

There are comments below each panel image --- indicating why I chose to change the default settings as well as which settings I changed.

In the 'Views' panel :

  • I chose 'List View' rather than 'Icon View', because when dealing with a directory containing hundreds of files, to bring up hundreds of icons representing those files is a ridiculous processing load.

    It is much faster to simply show the file name using the relatively miniscule 8-bit codes (1 byte) that represent each letter in the name.

    In contrast, each icon is on the order of 5 to 20 KILObytes in size. Even a 100-character filename --- along with size, permissions, and dates information --- is only a few HUNDRED bytes --- i.e. at least 10 to 40 times smaller than an icon.

      Apparently the font-renderer used by Gnome2-Nautilus is faster at rendering file names (and associated data) than the icon placement routines that convert the icon image files into images in the Nautilus window.

  • I turned on the checkbox for 'Show hidden and backup files' because I frequently need to look at hidden files in my home directory, such as 'rc' (run control files for applications), to deal with 'glitches' in applications.

    Besides, Linux is an 'open' system. I do not like the idea of lots of hidden stuff. I am not a 6-year-old who needs to be sheltered from the complexities of my computer system. It does not slow down the opening of my Home directory much, having this option turned on --- when 'List View' is used.

In the 'Behavior' panel :

  • I like to use 'Ask every time' for determining what to do with executable text files.

    I do a lot of script development. Sometimes I want to execute a script --- sometimes I want to edit it. The 'Run' or 'Display' popup prompt that I get, with this option turned on, allows me to choose which action I want to do for the double-click on the filename.

  • I turned on the checkbox for 'Ask before emptying the Trash or deleting files', because I don't mind taking the extra second to respond to the 'OK to trash/delete' popup.

    It's a small price to pay for a little extra safety margin in doing file deletes --- especially if I accidently select the wrong files to delete because of a nudge in moving the mouse.

  • I turned on the checkbox for 'Include a Delete Command that bypasses Trash', because I frequently need to delete files that I really know I want to delete that instant.

    I do not want to go through an extra step of opening the 'Trash' directory to delete the files after they are moved there.

    I am careful with using the Delete option that is added to the options menu that appears when you right-click on a file. I have not had an accident yet, after about a year of using that option. (Knock on wood.)

    Besides, I usually keep backups of my important files.

In the 'Display' panel :

  • Since I do not use icons for filenames in the Nautilus file manager (I use 'List View'), there was nothing I really needed to change in these 'Icon Captions' options.

In the 'List Columns' panel :

  • I probably added (checked) a couple of items in addition to the defaults in this list --- and changed the order a little --- with the 'Move Up' and 'Move Down' buttons.

    I like to see the size and date-modified (which is the create date, if the file has not been modified), because I am often dealing with image files and I want to see their sizes --- for example, after cropping them or after creating a '.jpg' file from an '.png' file.

    The create/modify dates help me know when I last changed text files. And those dates help me decide the dates when I took photos with my digital camera (or downloaded photos from my camera). This is helpful since I do not like to mess up an image by having the camera put a date-time 'stamp' on the photo image.

In the 'Preview' panel :

  • The 'Show text in icons' option is probably not applicable to me, since I turned off representing files by icons. In any case, I would probably want 'Never'.

  • The 'Show thumbnails' option is another big PROCESSING-OVERLOAD issue for me when I am dealing with directories of hundreds of image files.

    I use 'Never', because I do not really need the image file thumbnails. If I want to see the images, I simply right-click an image filename and choose to run the EOG (Eye of Gnome) image viewer that lets me rapidly view, back and forth, the images in the list of image files.

    Besides, I can usually tell what is IN an image file because I usually use meaningul names for all my image files.

    THIS 'Never' OPTION IS A BIG RESPONSE-TIME IMPROVEMENT in showing the list of files in the Nautilus file manager.

  • Similarly, for 'Preview of soundfiles'. I use 'Never', because if I need to hear a sound file, I can simply right-click on its name and choose an application like 'mplayer' or 'audacity' to check its content.

    Again, I use meaningful names for my sound files. I can usually tell by the filenames what is in those file.

  • The 'Count number of items', for Folders, is handy when I am dealing with directories of image files, so that I can quickly see the number of image files in any of the sub-directories in a directory at which I am positioned with the Nautilus file manager.

    I don't use 'Always'. I use 'Local Files Only', for counting the files in a directory.

    I do not deal much with files over my home network --- and if I did, I think I could forego the overhead of counting files in remote directories.

In the 'Media' panel :

  • I turned on 'Ask what to do' for all the media types --- CD audio, DVD video, Music Player, Photos.

    Frequently, for example, I do not want a CD audio or a DVD video to start playing --- nor do I want a software CD or DVD to automatically start executing install software.

    I may be wanting to convert the audio or video files on the CD or DVD to another format.

  • In fact, I turned on the checkbox 'Browse media when inserted', at the bottom of the panel, because I generally like to check out the contents of a CD or DVD before deciding what to do with it.

    For example, an application CD often contains software for MS Windows or for a Mac, but not for Linux. I am typically only looking for a PDF file, on the media, that holds the user manual.

  • If I did not use the 'Browse media when inserted' option, then I would probably want to turn on the 'Never prompt or start programs on media insertion' checkbox.

    I don't want programs to start up, in many cases. I need to look at the files on the media first. I know I would want the 'Never start programs on media insertion' part of that option.

    I'm not so sure about 'Never prompt on media insertion'. I think I would want an 'Ask what to do' prompt. That checkbox should probably be changed into two separate checkboxes. Or the 'Never prompt on media insertion' portion of the checkbox statement can probably be handled by the option specifications for the various media listed at the top of the panel.

In Conclusion

That about does it for my settings in the Nautilus file manager. If I find a few new media types to address, I may make updates to this page. And if developers add a few new 'Preferences' options in future Nautilus releases, I may address those.

If the Gnome (or MATE) developers make drastic changes to the Nautilus (or Caja) file manager (heaven forbid - it just needs a few relatively small improvements), then I may have to drastically re-write this page --- or describe settings for a new file manager, on a new page.

    I have nightmare visions of Gnome developers making some ugly, next-generation file manager --- and they come out with a bug-filled, hard-to-understand, and hard-to-use file manager like the KDE developers did circa 2005-2010 when they came out with the Dolphin file manager. I had a short look at that in late 2009 and threw up my hands.

    One more reason not to use the KDE desktop --- besides the KDE processing overhead. I can't believe that cell-phone companies like Nokia and some of their partners are going to use Qt for development of cell-phone apps (2010).

    They had better get into the guts of Qt and do a lot of code improvement to improve the processing efficiency of many of its routines.

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Page history

Page was created 2010 Aug 07.

Page was changed 2019 Mar 12.
(Added css and javascript to try to handle text-size for smartphones, esp. in portrait orientation.)