Now and Then - File managers

Now and Then: What happened to 5 promising file managers?

It’s fun to experiment with new software that isn’t anywhere near the polished article. But there’s associated risks, even with open source software. You’ll invest time and effort in learning new software. That software might never even see a stable release, it might be a big time sink even getting it up-and-running on your system. The upside is that promising software might turn overnight into a huge success, or it might be a slow burn success. And while there’s a huge array of open source successes, there’s been awful open source failures along the way. It can be a bumpy ride!

A file manager is software which provides a user interface to assist in the organization of files. It helps users with their daily work in managing their files on a hard drive or other storage device. With multiple terabyte hard disks becoming prevalent, file managers represent an essential tool in managing file systems.

Every file manager provides basic operations such as to create, open, view, edit, search, rename, move copy, and delete files. However, file managers typically come supplied with sophisticated functionality including network connectivity, directory synchronizing, archive handling, advanced searching, shortcuts, file/folder comparisons, checksums, plugins, and more, making them an incredibly powerful tool.

Back in 2012, we carried a feature looking at 5 file managers that received little media coverage but which carried bountiful promise. The five programs are SpaceFM, gentoo, Marlin, Eagle Mode, and Beesoft Commander.

How did these 5 file managers fare over the last 8 years? Did they capture any market share at all, or are they only remembered like fingerprints on an abandoned handrail?


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SpaceFM is a desktop-independent, multi-panel tabbed file and desktop manager for Linux with built-in VFS, udev- or HAL-based device manager, customizable menu system, and bash-GTK integration. SpaceFM aims to provide a stable, capable file manager with significant customization capabilities.

Back in 2012, SpaceFM was released as an alpha test version. It’s come along way since these days. However, SpaceFM saw its last stable release in 2018 and there hasn’t been any commits since then. It’s not clear if the project is abandoned, but we cannot find any evidence of further progress.


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gentoo is a lightweight graphical file manager written in C, using the GTK+ toolkit for its user interface. It’s a two-pane file manager, often referred to as an orthodox file manager.

One of the design goals with gentoo has been to provide extensive customization and configuration abilities, and to do so from an integrated, graphic, interface.

gentoo saw its last release in 2016.

The program managed to just creep into our Best Free and Open Source Orthodox File Managers. There’s still a lot to like about this file manager.


Marlin was billed as a sleek and fast GTK3 file manager. Back in 2012 it was in a very early stage of development, but it already offered things like tab support, networking support, and good configuration options. But development didn’t last much longer, with its last release in the following year.

As Marlin is open source software, it was open to others to take on the project. The project was forked in 2012 and rebranded as Pantheon. In 2013 one of the developers of Marlin claimed the fork only stripped Marlin of some of its functionality and added nothing, branding the new project as “… just parasites, they just want to leech”.

Pantheon file manager
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Nowadays, Pantheon is an integral part of elementary OS, a popular Linux distribution based on Ubuntu LTS. The original authors are credited in the AUTHORS file.

Often called Files, Pantheon is under active development, and offers many smart features.

But it didn’t manage to squeeze into our survey of the best file managers. Competition is fierce to say the least!

Eagle Mode

Eagle Mode
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Eagle Mode is a zoomable user interface (ZUI) with professional file manager, file viewers and players for most of the common file types, a chess game, a 3D mines game, a netwalk game, a multi-function clock and some fractal entertainment, all integrated in a virtual cosmos with C++ toolkit API.

While most file managers are pretty mundane, that’s a label you could never ascribe to Eagle Mode. It’s an acquired taste, but it’s very different to a traditional file manager.

The project is under active development with recent releases extending the graphics API, accelerated graphics display support, and additional interpolation algorithms for the zooming into photos, videos, icons and other images.

The source code is easily to compile. The developer provides packages for Debian/Ubuntu and Fedora/RedHat. And there’s a package in the Arch User Repository for Arch and Arch-based distros. Give it a try, and see what you think.

Beesoft Commander

Beesoft Commander was a two-panel orthodox file manager (in the style of Midnight Commander and Norton Commander). Beesoft Commander was developed by Piotr Pszczolkowski.

This project is long abandoned with the last release way back in 2006. One that’s best forgotten to be honest.


Ratings chart
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None of the 5 file managers has lived up to their promise, with the possible exception of Eagle Mode. If you’re bored with your current file manager, give Eagle Mode a whirl.

SpaceFM did garnish some popularity for some years, but the project appears to have been abandoned.

For the finest file managers, we recommend the following Free and Open Source File Managers, as depicted in the chart to the left.

All the articles in this series:

Now and Then - See How Promising Open Source Software Has Fared
DFileManagerA venerable file manager
More DistributionsThe fate of 15 more distributions
Programming LanguagesGo, Rust, Dart, Julia, Clojure, Elixir and more
File ManagersSpaceFM, gentoo, Marlin, Eagle Mode, and Beesoft Commander
DistributionsThe fate of 15 distributions
Lean Desktop EnvironmentsXfce, ROX Desktop, LXDE, FVWM-Crystal, EDE, and Étoilé
IDEsBrackets, Light Table, Julia Studio, Dart Editor, and Aptana Studio
Music Playersqomp, Lollypop, Yarock, Pragha, and Volumio
Web Browserseww, Liri, Vivaldi, Ubuntu Internet Browser, Fifth, Dooscape, and Breach
Terminal EmulatorsTerminology, Cool-Retro-Term, and Final Term
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