Nautilus is the graphical file manager (along with a few other nice features) in GNOME. Most users only use the bare minimum features of Nautilus (including me, as I’m mainly a console jockey) and don’t realize how powerful and flexible Nautilus truly is.

Managing Nautilus from the keyboard

You don’t have to be slowed down by the mouse just because you are using a GUI. Nautilus has great keyboard shortcuts that will allow you to use it quickly and effectively.

Here is a quick table of the shortcut keys and their functionality

Key(s) Action
Start Typing Select the matching name of a file or directory
CTRL+F Search filenames and content of indexed files
CTRL+S Selects all files or directories matching a pattern
Display and Window Management
CTRL+N Create a new Nautilus window
CTRL+W Close a Nautilus window
CTRL+SHIFT+W Close all Nautilus windows
CTRL+1 View files in icon mode
CTRL+2 View files in list mode
F9 Toggle sidebar pane
File Management
CTRL+H Show hidden files
CTRL+SHIFT+N Create a new folder
CTRL+T or Del Delete the file or directory and move to the trash
Shift+Del Delete the selected file or directory and skip the trash
F2 Rename the selected file or directory
Alt+Enter View properties of the selected file or directory
CTRL+L Move into the location bar
Alt+HOME Go to your $HOME folder
* or + or SHIFT+RArrow Expand Directory in list view
– or SHIFT+LArrow Close Directory in list view
ALT+LArrow Browse through files and folders to the left
ALT+RArrow Browse through files and folders to the right
ALT+UArrow Move to the parent folder one level above
ALT+DArrow Open the selected file or folder
CTRL++ Zoom in
CTRL+- Zoom out
CTRL+0 Normal zoom

Advanced file permissions

The default UI for managing file permissions in Nautilus is a simple cutdown version that I find hard to use compared to the “advanced” view. Here is a screenshot of the advanced view:

Screenshot of nautilus

Enable this view by changing the gconf setting show_advanced_permissions in /apps/nautilus/preferences/ to True, either by using gconftool-2 in console or the GUI tool gconf-editor.

gconftool-2 –type bool –set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_advanced_permissions True

Desktop Settings

The default icons that show up on your desktop are also managed through gconf. Here are some of the important settings:

Disable the desktop completely (don’t show any desktop icons)

gconftool-2 –set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop –type bool False

Hide the $HOME folder icon

gconftool-2 –set /apps/nautilus/desktop/home_icon_visible –type bool False

Display the computer icon

gconftool-2 –set /apps/nautilus/desktop/computer_icon_visible –type bool True

Hide the trash icon

gconftool-2 –set /apps/nautilus/desktop/trash_icon_visible –type bool False

Hide volumes (sshfs mounts, auto mounted removable disks, etc)

gconftool-2 –set /apps/nautilus/desktop/volumes_visible –type bool False

Special locations and Remote connections

Nautilus provides some special locations which provide additional functionality, they can be accessed from the “go” menu or by typing them in the location bar.

  • computer:/// – A list of all mounted devices on the system
  • burn:/// – Allows you to copy files to it and burn them to a CD/DVD
  • network:/// – A list of servers on the network

You can also access remote file systems from nautilus using ssh, sftp, and samba. You can do this by using the protocol in the address bar (ssh://,smb://,sftp://), like:


Or you can use a very convenient UI from File -> Connect to server. Here is a screenshot of that in action:

Screenshot of Nautilus connect to server

Tips and Tricks

Preview audio files
You can preview sounds in Nautilus by turning on Edit -> Preferences -> Preview -> Preview sound files. With this enabled, when you hover over any audio file, it’ll start playing.

You can also enable/disable this setting through gconf

gconftool-2 –type bool –set /apps/nautilus/preferences/preview_sound True

Custom scripts
Nautilus allows us to create our own custom scripts and have them execute from the right click menu, lets create an open as root menu item. In ~/.gnome2/nautilus-scripts/ create a file called “Open as Root” with the following code in it:

gnomesu gnome-open “$uri”

And now you’ll get a menu similar to:

Screenshot of open as root menu

Document Templates
If you’ve ever right clicked on your desktop, you have probably seen the menu “Create Document” but never gave it any thought because the majority of distros ship this menu blank. But I’ve found it is really handy when working with files with similar content. To create your own templates you create the folder ~/Templates and place any type of file inside there, it could be an open office spread sheet or a simple text file. You can download a collection of nice default templates from here. Here is what your menu could look like!

Screenshot of templates menu


This should get you started on using Nautilus more effectively. If you want to learn more about Nautilus settings and other options you can tweak, you should check out the Nautilus gconf documentation here.

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