Linux is rife with awesome file browsers, so if you don’t like the one that came with your distro, you have a lot of choices. Our favourite is the insanely feature-filled Krusader for KDE.
The file browser category is a bit different for Linux than it is for other systems. While every distro and desktop environment has a “default” file browser, using the term “alternative file browsers” is difficult. Really, you just have a lot of file browsers to choose from, and everyone can end up with a different “default”.
Our favourite is Krusader, which is truly “alternative” in the sense that very few distros use it as their default, but what’s best for you can vary so much by what you need and what desktop environment you use, that we highly recommend looking through the Competition section below and deciding for yourself. That said, if it’s raw power you want, Krusader is your man. Here’s why.
- Tabbed, two-pane “Commander” interface (Like Total Commander for Windows)
- An insane amount of customisable keyboard shortcuts
- An internal file viewer and editor for quick previews and edits
- Extensive support for archives and mounted file systems
- Transfer files with FTP and SFTP
- Synchronise two directories with one another
- Compare the contents of two files against one another
- Powerful batch renaming
- A built-in terminal emulator that opens in your current folder
- Very powerful search features
- Lots, lots more
Krusader excels… everywhere. This file browser has more features than you can shake a stick at, with a great two-pane interface to house them all. You have everything you could want here: tabbed browsing, support for loads of different archive types, file previews and even a small file editor. When it comes to advanced features, you can compare files, synchronise folders, batch rename files and even upload to an FTP server.
Head into the settings and, like other KDE apps, you’ll find options galore, including a list of customisable keyboard shortcuts as long as my arm. If you’re having trouble finding a file browser with enough features, Krusader is the most likely to make you happy.
Krusader’s interface contains everything you could need… and then some. At times, it can feel really cluttered. You can customise the toolbar at the top to your needs, which helps a little, but it’s just an unfortunate fact of life that with many features comes many buttons. As such, it can be pretty intimidating to beginners, not to mention annoying for those that just want something a bit simpler. Of course, if you want something simple, you have a lot of other choices (listed below) — for what it is, Krusader is pretty damn great.
In addition, Krusader’s biggest downside is that it’s built for the KDE desktop environment. If you use KDE, this isn’t a problem — in fact, it’s really awesome, since it integrates with KDE so well. If you’re using something else, though, not only will it require many KDE dependencies and take up more resources, it will have trouble with a lot of its integration features, like the built-in terminal. You could probably get most of it working with your desktop environment of choice, but it would take a little bit more work, and it’ll definitely look a bit out of place.
Our second favourite is another KDE app: Dolphin, the default file browser on most KDE distros. If you’re looking for slightly less feature-filled, but much more usable file browser, Dolphin is a good place to go. Like Krusader, Dolphin has a very configurable interface with lots of features, though it’s a tad more “traditional” than Krusader.
You won’t find a commander-like interface here, nor will you find a built-in terminal, but it’s a very solid file manager nonetheless. If Krusader is a bit overkill, Dolphin is certainly your next best choice, especially if you use KDE.
For non-KDE users, you still have quite a few choices — just not many that are quite as feature-packed. http://projects.gnome.org/nautilus/Nautilus is the default file manager in many GNOME distributions and while it gets a lot of flak, we’ve always found it to be a more then adequate file manager. Its interface is simple, but it isn’t feature-starved: you can choose from a few different views, open folders in new tabs, attach notes and emblems to your files and folders, connect to FTP, WebDAV and SSH servers and lots more.
It also integrates very nicely with the GNOME desktop and its apps, like Dropbox. If you don’t love Nautilus, you might try the simpler Nautilus Elementary.
Thunar and PCManFM are the defaults for XFCE and LXDE, respectively, and thus are very simple and fast. Thunar is a tad more configurable than PCManFM, but PCManFM is a bit more beginner-friendly, especially out of the box. Both are great choices if you’re looking for something lightweight, simple, and easy to use, without all the extra bloat and clutter.
GNOME users looking for a Krusader-like interface can try GNOME Commander, though it’s possibly even uglier than running a KDE app in GNOME. Midnight Commander is another popular, but unorthodox choice, putting that two-pane file browser inside a terminal. It’s graphical, but you navigate it completely with keyboard shortcuts. And, lastly, if you want something that has a great balance between advanced, feature-filled file browsing and speed, the descriptively-named 4Pane is a good four pane file browser for just any desktop environment.
And that’s all just scratching the surface. If you have a favourite we didn’t mention, or just want to share which one is your favourite and why, head to the comments below.
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