posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 21st Jul 2009 15:43 UTC
IconQuite a little interesting tidbit on Planet GNOME today. As we all know, the default file manager for the GNOME desktop is Nautilus. While there's nothing inherently wrong with it, it does have this odd interface where actually more screen space is dedicated to controls and buttons than to the actual part that matters: your files. As part of Ubuntu's Papercuts project, a fix has been worked on.

The fix stems from the discussion around papercut "Nautilus file browser toolbar is complicated, redundant, and ugly". The bug is pretty self-explanatory: there is a lot of redundancy in the default Nautilus configuration, and a bit of clean-up is certainly welcome to make the file manager a little less daunting. For instance, the controls for back/forward/etc. take up quite some space, while "Home" and "Computer" shortcuts are located both in the toolbar as well as in the sidebar - where they make sense.

The end result of all this is that the chrome-content ratio for Nautilus-current looks like this:

The Chrome/content ratio in Nautilus-current.

As you can see, there is room for improvement here. The content area of any application is almost always the most important area, and if your application has more chrome than content then there's something wrong with your design. Marcus Carlson, therefore, decided to tackle this problem, and after applying his patch, Nautilus looks a little less overwhelming.

The result is a much cleaner Nautilus, a Nautilus which doesn't waste as much screen real estate in each window. Stop and Reload have been combined, toolbar icon labels are gone, the location breadcrumb bar is moved to the toolbar, and the up and computer button are removed. See the below comparison from my machine - Nautilus on top, compared to Thunar on the bottom:

Comparing Nautilus-patched to Thunar.

As you can see, this patch makes Nautilus look almost exactly like Thunar, which can only be seen as a good thing (at least from my perspective). The patch itself has been rejected by upstream, since the Nautilus developers are working on a toolbar customisable during runtime, which is of course preferred to a fixed minimalist design. Carlson just so happens to be working on this editable toolbar as well.

This patch can be applied easily through Carlson's PPA in Ubuntu. What do you all think? Prefer a minimalist Nautilus, the current layout, or something else completely?

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