13 Ways to Tweak Nautilus File Manager in Linux to Get More Out of it

Nautilus is GNOME’s default file manager application, and you may have seen it in many Linux distributions.

It’s a good file manager with plenty of features. However, you can enhance your experience by employing some tweaks and tips.

I am going to share such tips and tweaks in this article. Some tweaks may require installing additional Nautilus plugins, while some are built-in but lesser-known features. A few tips are purely cosmetic and just change the look and feel.

customizing gnome nautilus file manager

GNOME’s default file explorer used to be called Nautilus. It is now called Files. However, seasoned Linux users still refer to it as Nautilus. I have used both terms here.

One more thing. You don’t have to try and install each Nautilus plugin. Read the article and go with the ones that would be helpful for you.

I have added the Nautilus extension commands for Ubuntu/Debian. If you are using some other distribution, please use your package manager to install them.

1. Show the number of items in folders

You can show how many files and folders are inside a folder in GNOME Files.

item count inside folder visible
Item Count Inside Folder Visible

You don’t need to install any plugins for it. It’s a built-in feature.

Go to the Preferences in Nautilus.

gnome nautilus preferences
GNOME Files Preferences

Under Icon View Captions, set the First place to Size.

nautilus preferences
Nautilus Preferences

2. Add new document creation option in right click context menu

This is a feature that can increase your productivity. Right click on an empty place inside a folder and it should you see the option to create a new, empty text file or document.

It was removed from GNOME a few years back and it is likely to make a come back in the next GNOME release.

To achieve this, you need to create an empty file and name it New Document. Then save this file to the Templates directory to get it in the right-click context menu.

nautilus empty file in templates directory
Create a template first in the Templates directory

After this, you should see the option in the right-clikc context menu.

nautilus right click new document
Nautilus Right Click New Document

You can also add Word documents, PPT presentation options, etc in the right-click context menu similarly.

3. Add a permanent delete option in right-click context menu

By default, Nautilus provides “Move to trash” option in the right-click context menu. If you want to permanently delete a file or folder, you need to shift+delete or empty it from the trash.

You can enable Delete Permanent button under the right-click context menu from Nautilus preferences.

delete option in nautilus preferences
Permanent delet option in Nautilus Preferences

Now you will have an option to delete files and folders permanently in the right-click context menu.

delete option under right click context menu
Permanent delete option under right click context menu

4. Completely wipe files and folders from the disk

Even if you permanently delete a file, chances are that the data could still be recovered.

Nautilus provides an extension to wipe files securely and fill the empty places so that data can not be recovered anymore.

Install the Nautilus extension first.

sudo apt install nautilus-wipe

And then restart the file explorer:

nautilus -q
secure wipe in nautilus
Wipe out files in Nautilus

5. Enable quick file preview

Quick preview is rather a handy feature for a file manager. KDE’s Dolphin file manager provides it as a built-in feature.

You can preview files such as PDF, text, images, audio, etc. You can scroll documents while in preview.

In Nautilus, you need to install gnome-sushi to get this feature.

sudo apt install gnome-sushi

Now, close all instances of file manager and open it again. To see the preview, select a file and press the Space key.

preview files in nautilus using gnome sushi
Preview Files in Nautilus Using GNOME Sushi

6. Get the list of recently visited directories

Nautilus has the feature to show ‘recently accessed files’. But what about the recently visited folders?

That can also be accessed. On the top left, right-click on the back arrow to get the list of previously visited folders.

list of directories visited
Right click on the back button to see recently visited directories

7. Bookmark folders to the left sidebar for quick access

If you frequently access some folders, it would be better to access them from the left sidebar quickly.

It’s quite simple, actually. Select the folder and drag and drop to the left sidebar. The folder will be added as a bookmark.

add folder as bookmark gnome files
Adding a folder as bookmark

You can remove bookmark the same way. Just drag and drop it from the sidebar.

8. Rotate and Resize images with a right click

To enable this functionality, you need to install ImageMagick and nautilus-image-converter.

sudo apt install imagemagick nautilus-image-converter

After it is installed, quit nautilus with nautilus -q and re-open nautilus.

Now select the image and right-click to get resize and rotate images.

rotate and resize images with nautilus
Rotate and Resize Images with Nautilus

9. Change the colors of individual folders

If you want to add some color to your file explorer, how about changing the colors of the folders?

You can change icons and colors of all folders by using a different icon and theme.

But you may also opt for just changing the colors of selected few folders.

custom folder color in nautilus file manager
Custom Folder Color in Nautilus File Manager

For that, install the following package.

sudo apt install folder-color

Now, quit Nautilus with nautilus -q command. Upon re-opening, select a folder and right-click on it. You will find the option to change the color of the folder.

change folder color right click option
Change Folder Color Right Click Option

A step further, you can add emblems to files or folders like important, favorite, etc.

folder and file emblem in nautilus
Folder and File Emblem in Nautilus

10. Change icons of individual directories

This one takes me back to the Windows XP era. Nautilus also has the built-in feature to change the icons of selected directories.

To do that, right-click on a folder and go to properties.

properties dialog box of a directory
Properties Dialog Box of a Directory

From there, select the Icon, browse and choose the image of your choice.

changing folder icon
Changing Folder Icon

11. Open any location in the terminal

No need for any extra steps for this one. From any location in the file manager, just right-click and select ‘Open in terminal’ option.

open in terminal ubuntu
Open the current location in a terminal in Ubuntu

It will open a new terminal, and you’ll be in the exact location as the Nautilus file manager.

location opened in terminal
Same location opened in the terminal

This comes in handy when you have to do something in the terminal on the files in a particular location. It saves the effort of typing a long path.

12. Open files and folder as root from the file manager

You sometimes want to paste files to restricted directories, like /usr/share/backgrounds. You cannot paste such locations or cannot edit such files unless you are root or use sudo.

You can easily switch do that in the terminal but what about the file manager?

With nautilus-admin extension, you can open files as root within Nautilus. No need to open the terminal and perform sudo actions.

sudo apt install nautilus-admin

Quit Nautilus after installing the plugin:

nautilus -q

You should see the “Open as Administrator” option in the right-click menu now.

open as admin in nautilus
Open as Admin in Nautilus

13. Verify hash checksum of files

There are dedicated tools to verify checksum of files in Linux. You can also check hashes in the Nautilus file manager with nautilus-gtkhash extension.

sudo apt install nautilus-gtkhash

Now quit nautilus using nautilus -q and re-open. Select the file to check hash and go to the Digests tab in properties.

check hashes in nautilus
Check Hashes in Nautilus

Now enter the Hash to check and press Hash. It will start calculating the hash.

nautilus checking hash progress
Nautilus Checking Hash Progress

After some time, it will show the result (green tick mark if the hash is valid).

nautilus checking hash success
Nautilus Checking Hash Success

Bonus: Embed a terminal

In the Nautilus file manager, you can embed a terminal. Each time you change directories, a cd command is initiated and the location in the embedded terminal is also changed.

Installing it requires getting several Python packages first. Here are the commands, use them one by one:

sudo apt install python3-nautilus python3-psutil python3-pip libglib2.0-bin dconf-editor
sudo pip3 install nautilus-terminal
sudo nautilus-terminal --install-system
nautilus -q
embedded terminal in nautilus
Embedded Terminal in Nautilus

More Nautilus extensions and tweaks

There is no end to customizing the GNOME file manager. I could only include a selected few. A few more I could think of are:

  • Showing or hiding the Places panel from preferences
  • Integrating various cloud storage platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, Nextcloud, Owncloud, etc
  • Deleting items by dragging them into the trash folder
  • Zooming in and out by pressing the Control key and scrolling

Check out the guide on tweaking the Ubuntu dock if you want more customization. There is a similar article on tweaking Nemo file manager of Cinnamon desktop as well.

I hope you find a few interesting ones here. Which ones do you like the most? Do you know some other tweak that I didn’t mention here? Share it in the comments.

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  • I would like to remove select all from Nautilus right click context menu. I have accidentally hit it several times. I would hate to accidentally delete everything from my Desktop or anywhere else for that matter.

  • I hate Nautilus because
    1. Non sense of rename files or folders.
    2. Switch to address bar is difficult

    In many of bad things in GNOME so I switch to another DE like XFCE or KDE.