On nautilus

Shells // by Christina MathesonA lot of ink has been spilled recently over the fact that nautilus is evolving into Files.

I’d like to present a few facts and thoughts about this, and explain why I am looking forward to the new nautilus.


Here are some examples of what I am looking forward to in nautilus 3.6:

A more usable list view, which focuses on presenting important information in usable form:

List ViewWell-working search, with file search results in the shell.

SearchNautilus search is improved in many ways: it is fast, you just type, like we do in the shell – which has worked out great. It is case insensitive, can search hidden files or directories, can work recursively, doesn’t only do prefix matching, can search metadata, has ranked results based on a weighting algorithm, can work on indexed and non-indexed directories.

Recent files in the sidebar:

Recent FilesWell-working remote browsing:

Connect to ServerA visual appearance that fits in with other GNOME 3 applications:

NautilusBut let’s look at how we got to this point, and think a bit about the history. Actually, nautilus has quite a long and involved history. The first commit in the git repository dates back to 1997. In early 2000, Eazel starts to appear in the history. Along the way, ambitious features appeared: zooming with level-of-detail, desktop handling, spatial mode, a vfs, remote browsing…

Many of these things have fallen by the wayside over the years, but they have left scars behind:

A complicated and hard-to-maintain code base: for example, nautilus had a utility library called eel in the early days, which was then broken out as a separate module. Later it was merged back in.

There’s still a stripped-down copy of GnomeCanvas inside nautilus, for handling the desktop drawing.

Remnants of past features showing up in odd places in the UI. For example, the view mode was remembered per-folder until recently. That made a lot of sense in the spatial paradigm, but not so much in browser mode.

Another example is the overlap between search and find.

Nautilus development has been somewhat stagnant; while GNOME 2 turned into GNOME 3, nautilus largely remained the same. But no more. During the 3.6 development cycle, nautilus has seen intensive development, and it is still ongoing.

This makes what has happened this cycle even more remarkable. Not only has there been plenty of new features, but there has also been a massive cleanup operation. Over 500 (!) bugs closed, some of them really old, like 45708 (filed in 2001) some of them crashers, like 668674, some of them hard-to-track-down regressions in other parts of the stack, like 680349.

Bug countA lot of controversy has erupted about the fact that early parts of the roadmap removed some features. On some level, this is unavoidable: if you want to put a new coat of paint on a wall or your car, you also remove the old paint first, for best results. But if you read the roadmap in its entirety, you will find many feature additions on the list as well. Some of the removed features will come back in slightly different form, e.g. the split pane.

So give the new nautilus a chance and try it when 3.6 is released, and let us know what you think. We’ll be listening to your feedback, and there will be plenty of opportunity to make further changes in the future.

If it turns out after a test drive that the new nautilus is not right for you, keep in mind that nautilus is just an application. We think you’ll be happy with the new Nautilus, but if you aren’t, there are other file managers that you can try.

Rounding out the 3.6 feature list

Here is the next installment of ‘Seen in this weeks GNOME release’. Todays screenshot gallery is a little more extensive than last weeks. We’re rapidly completing our feature list. Most of the items on that list are now marked as ‘Complete’ or ‘Almost complete’. Good timing, since we are entering the freeze with the 3.5.90 release, and can now focus on polishing these features and fixing the remaining bugs.

The first feature to show this week is one that I’ve wanted to see for a long time: the harfbuzz 1.0 release is right around the corner, and harfbuzz support has been merged in pango. Behdad has been working on this OpenType implementation since 2006, and pango has been using an embedded copy of an early harfbuzz snapshot for a while.

After a long period of stasis, we will finally see new life in our text rendering stack. The screenshot I’m showing for this looks just the same as it always has, since all the harfbuzz goodness is still under the hood.


We’ve had a magnifier integrated in gnome-shell for a few releases now. Since 3.4, it was configurable from the universal access panel. In this release, it will be possible to configure various color effects on top of the zoom, such as inverted colors, desaturation and contrast changes. As you can see in the screenshot, we’ve reorganized the zoom options into tabs, and added a tab for the color effects.

Still in the control-center, we have a redesigned Mouse & Touchpad panel, which was implemented by our Red Hat desktop team intern in Brno, Ondrej Holy. Amongst other things, you might spot the option for ‘natural scrolling’ in here.

Over in the shell, there’s a new ‘mode-less’ overview. As you’ll notice, the search entry is bigger and centered, and the tabs are gone. To switch from the window view to the application grid, you can use the ‘nine dots’ button that can be seen at the end of the dash.

The new overview is the work of Florians summer of code student, Joost Verdorn, who has written more extensively about it already.

At the bottom of the overview, the new message tray is visible. It received a major redesign to address the problems that people have had with the original 3.0-era tray design.

Beyond the new visuals (bigger icons, no labels, close buttons), there are many subtle behaviour changes here that are hard to explain unless you try it yourself. One notable change is that the message tray is not raised ‘by itself’ anymore, you always have to bring it up explicitly. One way to do that is to use the new Super-M keybinding. Keyboard navigation is generally improved: you can focus individual icons and actions.

Many people have contributed to the message tray redesign, around the core work done as a summer of code project by Ana Risteska.

Back in the control-center, the sound panel has gotten its Hardware tab removed. Instead, the device lists now offer more fine-grained choices.

This simplification has been implemented by Canonical. It was made possible by earlier pulseaudio work by David Henningsen that has landed upstream in pulseaudio 2.0.

In the keyboard shortcuts section, some useful pieces of XKB layout configuration have reemerged. The frequently used compose key and ‘third level chooser’ variants can be set like other keyboard shortcuts now.


When it comes to appearance, GTK+ 2 applications will look less out of place in GNOME 3.6, thanks to a much improved gtk2 version of Adwaita. This theme was originally developed under the name ‘Bridge’ by Jack Gandy.

You have to look closely to see the differences between the GTK+ 2 and GTK+ 3 print dialog in these screenshots.

The last thing I have managed to capture in screenshots is the support for secondary Kerberos logins that has been integrated in gnome-online-accounts. The functionality is seamlessly integrated with the traditional krb5 commandline tools: if you run kinit in a terminal, the ticket will immediately show up the online-accounts panel, and you will get notifications before it expires.

This functionality was originally planned to land in the user panel, but the online-accounts panel seems a much better fit.

GNOME 3.5.5 impressions

It was my turn this week to do the GNOME 3.5.5 development release, and I took some screenshots while smoke testing the release.

The big feature that is new in this release is the new screen lock implementation. It sports a ‘shield’, which can be lifted by hitting Escape, or by dragging it up, to reveal the unlock dialog.

We had a BoF session on the new screen lock at GUADEC, and identified a number of issues that still have to be addressed.


Some applications have received more love, here is a screenshot of Baobab that shows its new location list.




In the System Settings, several panels have been improved.

First, here are some screenshots of the printer panel, showing that it is now possible to select drivers, set default options and control queued jobs.













The network panel sports  a new design for the wireless page.

The network combo box has been turned into  a list that shows not only access points that are in range, but also saved connections.

Connection details are available for active and saved connections, and it is possible to forget saved connections.