Nautilus sports a brand new 'look' in this release. Ah, the much discussed and criticised and critiqued spatial browser. Here is the short version of how it works. Every directory is treated like an object. That is to say, it has attributes associated with it. These attributes are set on the fly by the user as he uses his machine. The user need not (always) configure how he interacts with his desktop. So much for the mumbo jumbo, what does this actually mean?
Here is a little journey I took in trying to learn about spatial nautilus. And a few observations.
I opened my home directory, and I had so many files. I resized this so that I could see as much (all) of the directory as I could without a need to scroll down or across. This is automatically saved. Next time I open my home directory, this setting will be remembered. It will also remember its position on the screen the last time it was open, and which view was used and the zoom if any.
Now here is something neat. If I open the home directory, and I open a sub-directory, it opens the subdirectory in a new window, and it changes the icon in the home directory for that sub-directory to show that it is open. A nice visual cue as to the state of your browsing. Then, if you open another window, and move that directory while it is open, you will not have nautilus crash or anything of the sort. It remains open. In fact, if you move the folder to another directory, it will remember the settings for that particular folder, where ever you move it to. If you move to another virtual desktop, and open the new window from there, it is transferred to the current virtual desktop. In fact, over there, it will still show you that the directory is open, by showing you an open folder.
At the bottom left of each window, is a button that will enable you to go up into the parent folders, right up to the root file-system (/). So even after closing all the parent directories, and you realise you needed one of them, you can go directly to that folder if it is above the current folder in the hierarchy. The new mode requires you to change the way you use you file manager, which is probably the reason many balk at it.
It does open a new window for every folder, which is probably the main bone of contention. However, this is changeable by a Gconf key, and therefore your distributor can easily choose a default.
The main difference between the navigational mode and the spatial is how yo work with a navigational file-manager compared to a spatial one. With navigational, you go in and out of folders, treating your folders as containers for files. The presentation of the files inside them is really secondary, as a lot of it is dependent on where you are browsing from and so on. A spatial manager makes use of space to add another dimension to the experience, and at least, in my view, make you treat each folder more like a pin board, to borrow the Rox term for the desktop. The spatial arrangement of you browser windows, i.e., their arrangement in space is set by you, and the presentation of files in each folder is set by you. For example, you may want a tall and narrow window for your music folders, and a wide one for your pictures folder. You prefer an icon view for this folder, and a list view for another. This all matter when it comes to spatial browsing. if for instance, you always open two folders side by side because you copy between them a lot, then every time you open the folders, they go into the correct position automatically. The beauty is you only have set the preferences once, and you are done. A more thorough 'treatise', if you will, on spatial interfaces is available at Arstechnica.com if you follow the following link.
Nautilus is now fast. I mean, literally a hundred times faster. It open instantaneously. It helps, of course, that I have a 2500+ processor with 512MB of RAM, but that was never the reason for nautilus being slow in the first place. The reason for that was mime type sniffing, which meant the hard-drive was the limiting factor. Sniffing used to be the default behaviour for nautilus, but now, it is first extension based, then it sniffs if it cannot find a clue from the extension. So it now leaps to the screen and is ready before you can say "nautilus is slow".
Nautilus has revamped context menus. My favourite new (though overdue) addition is the paste files into folder. I hated having to open a folder just to paste a file into it. That pet peeve is gone. For all those tarballs, the context menu is now only to create an archive, without any fancy options. All it does is ask for a name for the archive, and create an appropriate type archive based on the name you will have given. Extracting archives through the context menu is now only to "Extract here", rather than giving a multitude of options in the context menu. It should be more than adequate for most people.
There is also the 'Computer' on the desktop, which basically shows you some common devices, e.g., hard drive partitions, and CD-ROM drives. This was first introduced somewhat by Ximian, but in this release, it works much better, and will not call all your hard drives 'CDROM'. It is a handy way to access your drives pretty quickly. There is a way to remove this from the desktop using Gconf, so those who balk at seeing something similar to Windows need not worry excessively.
Another feature is the list columns preferences in the preferences panel. This enables you to specify the columns you see in the list view. So you can now specify the order in which the columns in the list views are presented as well as specifying which columns you would like to see.
Templates are now a part of Nautilus. You drop in a file, the template, into the nautilus templates directory, and these become available via right click in nautilus and on the desktop. Further you can now open a terminal at any terminal location right from nautilus.