Nautilus file manager logo

Nautilus Revamps Column Customization for GNOME 45

I’ll admit: I don’t use Nautilus‘ list view often, but when I do it’s usually because I need to see information only shown in a list view column.

Nautilus shows 3 columns by default: name, size, and modified date. Files can be sorted by column type by clicking on a column title. It’s also possible to show more columns and re-order columns in Nautilus using the file manager’s “Visible column…” dialog.

For almost 20 years the way we configure columns in Nautilus (aka Files, aka the default file manager of the GNOME desktop and used by most Linux distros that ship it) has remained largely the same.

But change is coming.

Reworked Columns in Nautilus

For GNOME 45, which is due for release in the autumn, developers have reimplemented the column chooser in Nautilus using modern widgets and UI designs. The change was triggered, in part, by the deprecation of GtkTreeView — that, and it overdue for some TLC.

For one, it’s now easier to reorder columns. Before you needed to select a column type and then use arrows to move it up/down in the list. Not difficult, but a bit fiddly. In Nautilus 45 you re-order columns using drag and drop — more intuitive and, to my mind, much faster.

Edit: turns out the original list is also drag and drop friendly. Huh! In all my years of using Nautilus I never once thought to try and click n’ drag on the items – the new drag grips in Nautilus 45 are more explicitly drag and drop friendly.

Column management in Nautilus 44 & 45

You’ll also notice in the screenshot above — what you see is still a WIP/subject to change, etc — that GNOME devs have replaced the check boxes used to enable/disable columns with more logical toggles. This is more in keeping with the rest of the modern GNOME UX.

Beyond veneer, the opportunity to revamp the way column management is done also introduces a brand a new feature. In Nautilus 45 it’s possible to set column preferences globally or only for the current folder.

This latter feature is great if, say, you typically use list view, to glean information from a specific folder. Rather than affecting list view for all folders you’re now able to tailor your changes to specific folders.

In short, this minor sounding modification delivers a major boon to all users of this famous file manager.

The change was merged recently, and is already present in the GNOME Nightly Builds of Nautilus that are available to test via Flatpak.

Look out for this feature more formally in September, which is when GNOME 45 is released.