System Administration

Excellent System Tools: nnn – portable terminal file manager

Last Updated on May 28, 2022

I’m devoting most of my spare time writing about the Raspberry Pi 4 (RPI4). My findings are captured in a weekly blog chronicling my experience of using the tiny machine as a desktop replacement. One of my forthcoming blog posts examines file managers on the RPI4 looking at both graphical and terminal-based file managers.

As I’ve spent a lot of time using nnn in the past few weeks, it makes sense I look at the latest release on a regular Intel machine, in advance of my RPI4 file manager blog.

LinuxLinks has previously reviewed imgp and googler. They are open source software coded by Arun Prakash Jana. He’s also the developer of nnn which has seen a new major release in the past fortnight. I’ve never reviewed any of Mr Jana’s software before.

How does the author describe his software? His man page says “nnn is the missing terminal file manager for X. (Nnn’s Not Noice) is a performance-optimized, feature-packed fork of noice with seamless desktop integration, simplified navigation, navigate-as-you-type mode with auto select, disk usage analyzer mode, bookmarks, contexts, application launcher, familiar navigation shortcuts, subshell spawning and much more. It remains a simple and efficient file manager that stays out of your way.”

In a single sentence, nnn can be probably best summarized as software seeking to bridge the gap between the terminal and the desktop environment.


nnn’s developer offers support by providing packages for CentOS 7.5, 7.6, 8.0, Fedora 29, 30, 31, openSUSE 15.1, Debian 9, 10, and Ubuntu 16.04 and 18.04. That’s a pretty wide range of distributions to support.

There’s the full source code of course. And it’s trivial to compile the software. You’ll need readline and ncurses installed. They were already present on my system. Just issue the following commands.

$ git clone
$ cd nnn
$ make
$ make install

If you want plugin functionality, you’ll need to download them separately (see the Plugins page).

Next page: Page 2 – In Operation

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – Introduction / Installation
Page 2 – In Operation
Page 3 – Disk usage analyzer
Page 4 – Plugins
Page 5 – Memory Usage & Comparison with other console-based file managers
Page 6 – Summary

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4 years ago

What optimizations does nnn use? The developer’s website seems unclear on this.

4 years ago
Reply to  Bear

You’ll find the details here:

4 years ago
Reply to  kodekat

Thanks, that’s very interesting.