File Managers

Excellent GTK File Managers to Manage your Filesystem

Last Updated on December 24, 2022

In the field of desktop environments, there are two desktops that dominate the open source landscape: KDE and GNOME. They are smart, stable, and generally stay out of the way.

While KDE is more customizable than GNOME, both offer a lot of flexibility. For example, the best GNOME extensions and KDE widgets improve the desktop experience. At the basis of the main KDE technologies is Qt, a free and open source widget toolkit. And at the heart of GNOME is the free and open source GTK toolkit.

GTK is a very popular toolkit. Offering a complete set of widgets, GTK is suitable for projects ranging from small tools to comprehensive application suites. GTK is mainly developed by The GNOME Project, which also develops the GNOME Development Platform and the GNOME Desktop Environment.

We recently visited 15 Qt file managers. This article rates 15 GTK file managers.

1. PCManFM


PCMan File Manager (PCManFM) is the default file manager in LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment). But it can be used with any desktop environment.

Unusually, this file manager has versions for both GTK and Qt. Both versions are very lightweight and fast in operation. There’s a good range of features including tabbed browsing, and drag and drop support.

There’s excellent support for remote machines with SSH, FTP, WebDAV, Secure WebDAV, HTTP, and HTTPS.

License: GNU General Public License v2.0


2. Files (and forks)

Files, formerly and internally known as Nautilus, is the official file manager for the GNOME desktop.

This file manager has a fairly minimalistic appearance. It’s really easy to use (hence our very high score for usability), and has a familiar interface with a panel on the left side with common folder destinations and bookmarked locations. It certainly lacks features compared to some of the file managers here, and you’ll be disappointed if you like to micro-configure your software. But it’s a really stable file manager.

This file manager has been the inspiration of other popular file managers. Notable forks include Caja, Nemo, and Peony. Caja is the official file manager for the MATE desktop. Nemo is the official file manager for the Cinnamon desktop. It’s extremely stylish with a useful compact mode, and good plugin support. Peony is the default file manager for the UKUI desktop. We’ve not covered these forks in this roundup, simply for reasons of brevity.

License: GNU General Public Licence, version 3 or later


3. Double Commander


Here’s another file manager that seeks inspiration from Total Commander, an orthodox file manager that’s widely regarded. Like PCManFM, it’s available in GTK and Qt versions.

Double Commander supports extensibility via plugins, and it can bind external programs for viewing or editing files. There are lots of plugins available which extend functionality, including content plugins, file system, packer plugins, and viewer plugins.

A really fine file manager that belies its beta status.

License: GNU General Public License v2


Next page: Page 2 – GNOME Commander, 4Pane, Sunflower

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – PCManFM, Files, Double Commander
Page 2 – GNOME Commander, 4Pane, Sunflower
Page 3 – SpaceFM, Thunar, Polo
Page 4 – Tux Commander, Donatella, Files (Elementary)
Page 5 – emelFM2, Gentoo, Rox-Filer
Page 6 – Memory comparison
Page 7 – Summary

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Torin Doyle
Torin Doyle
5 years ago

Why no mention of Caja and Nemo?

Harold Plumber
Harold Plumber
5 years ago

And maybe in a future article you could cover non-GTK/non-QT window managers including XFE which uses the Fox widget library.

5 years ago

Hey folks. Thanks for mentioning Sunflower. Development has been stale for a bit due to my personal life and work taking most of my free time. However in the background I’ve been preparing new release for a while now, which will be based on GTK+ 3.20. This release will have better and simpler interface but without removing any of the existing features. It will be much faster and better optimized.

3 years ago

my favorites are Thunar and Caja, even they’re not perfect. nowadays I’m more than a terminal based FM guy though, I use Midnight Commander a lot.