When comparing Emacs vs Thunar, the Slant community recommends Thunar for most people. In the question“What are the best Linux file managers?” Thunar is ranked 9th while Emacs is ranked 13th. The most important reason people chose Thunar is:
Use Custom Actions to add right-click options to do things like Open as Root, Open Git GUI, etc. You can filter the file types and filename patterns that the actions will show up for. To add an "Open as Root" action, go to Edit, Configure custom actions. Assign a name and a description. Set Command as "gksudo xdg-open %f" (you'll need to install gksudo since pkexec won't work). Pick an icon (I prefer "changes-allow"). Under Appearance Conditions, select Directories, Text Files, and Other Files.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Keyboard-focused, mouse-free editing
Emacs can be controlled entirely with the keyboard. While true, I often find the mouse and menus handy for those lesser-used commands. An aide-memoir.
Pro Total customizability
Customizations can be made to a wide range of Emacs' functions through a Lisp dialect (Emacs Lisp). A robust list of existing Lisp extensions include the practical (git integration, syntax highlighting, etc) to the utilitarian (calculators, calendars) to the sublime (chess, Eliza).
Pro It's also an IDE
You can debug, compile, manage files, integrate with version control systems, etc. All through the various plugins that can be installed.
Pro Works in terminal or as a GUI application
You can use Emacs' command line interface or graphical user interface.
Pro Self documenting
Emacs has extensive help support built-in as well as a tutorial accessed with C-h t.
Pro Great documentation
With 30+ years of use the Emacs documentation is very thorough. There are also a lot of tutorials and guides written by third parties.
Licensed under GNU GPL.
Pro Mini buffer
You can pass complicated arguments in the mini buffer.
Pro Vi keybindings through Evil mode
Evil mode emulates vim behaviors within Emacs. It enables Vi users to move inside the Emacs universe.
Fully compliant GNU-emacs is available on many platforms, and they all understand .emacs configuration files.
Pro Rectangular cut and paste
Emacs can select rectangularly.
Pro Visual selection and text objects with Evil
Evil is an extensible vi layer for Emacs. It provides Vim features like Visual selection and text objects.
Pro Lisp customizations
With lisp customization, any behavior of Emacs can be changed. Update with pre-release patch can be also applied without recompiling the whole Emacs.
Pro dabbrev-expand (Alt-/)
Dynamic word completion.
Pro Support multi-line editing, multiple frame, powerful paren, crazy jumping style
Review the "Emacs Rocks" video.
Pro Provides org-mode
Advanced planning and publication which can start as a simple list.
Pro Helm plugin adds even more power to Emacs
Powerful commands, search, and more with the Helm plugin.
Pro Has been widely used for a long time
Pro Integrates planning in your development process
You can jump straight from your org-mode files to programming tasks - and back - and build a seamless workflow.
Works on Linux, Windows, Macintosh, BSD, and others.
Pro Enormous range of functionalities (way beyond simple "text editing")
Through its programmability, a very broad range of functionalities can be integrated in emacs, turning it even into a "single point of contact" with the underlying operating system.
Pro GTK+ widgets support
Managing several large mailing lists has never been easier using Gnus. The threading commands and the various ways of scoring articles means that I never miss important messages/authors, etc. A joy to use.
Emacs is great for everything.
Pro eshell is cross platform
Pro Interactive Shells
Emacs has a number of shell variants: ansi-term, shell, and eshell.
Pro Custom actions are easy to set up
Use Custom Actions to add right-click options to do things like Open as Root, Open Git GUI, etc. You can filter the file types and filename patterns that the actions will show up for.
To add an "Open as Root" action, go to Edit, Configure custom actions. Assign a name and a description. Set Command as "gksudo xdg-open %f" (you'll need to install gksudo since pkexec won't work). Pick an icon (I prefer "changes-allow"). Under Appearance Conditions, select Directories, Text Files, and Other Files.
Pro Minimal dependencies
Unlike Nautilus, which requires the whole GNOME desktop, thunar just depends on some XFCE utilities & GTK.
Pro Supports "quick-directory" typing
While in a Thunar window, typing either a "~" or a "/" will automatically start typing into the "address-bar" and pressing enter goes straight to the typed directory.
Pro Non-recursive find
In a thunar window, any non-directory typing will search in the current directory for the filename that you type (non-recursive, unlike Nautilus)
Use tabs to open fewer windows. New tabs automatically start in the same location. Tabs can be detached.
Pro Select by Pattern
Select multiple files in the current folder using a wildcard pattern.
Pro Supports renaming files in bulk
With also predefined functions as insert (date, numbering,...), search/replace, etc ...
Pro Can assign custom shortcuts to scripts in XFCE
Thunar can use the editable accelerator feature of XFCE.
xfce4-appearance-settings in terminal, go to settings tab, check "enable editable accelerator". Now open any command in Thunar menu, hover to a command, i.e. your custom "places" or your custom command, then press any combination to assign a shortcut to it.
be careful tho, cause it will also remove the shortcut from other command.
Pro Keypress to search in folder
While in a Thunar window, typing a filename automatically selects the first matching file in the current folder.
Pro does the job
but just the job...
Pro Supports forward/back mouse buttons
Supports the M4 and M5 mouse buttons for forward/back, similarly to most browsers.
Con Learning curve is long
While it's better than it used to be, with most functions being possible through the menu, Emacs is still quite a bit different from your standard editor. You'll need to learn new keyboard shortcuts.
Con Sometimes the extensibility can distract you from your actual work
If I ever want to lose half a day, I'll start by tweaking my .spacemacs config file.
Con Chorded keyboard combinations can be baffling
For example, for navigation it uses the b, n, p, l keys. Which for some people may seem strange. But don't worry, you can change it.
Con Hard customization
For customization, you need to learn Lisp
Con A lot of jokes in this serious software
Con Using Emacs on a new machine without your .emacs file
Con Simplified action bar
The action bar on Thunar is very simple and doesn't have as many features and buttons as other file managers. It only has a back, forward, up, and home buttons as well as the folder path.
Con Requires GNOME dependencies to support common features
Thunar relies on GVFS to support mounting disks or accessing web folders, however since GVFS is a third party GNOME library and made for the use in the GNOME environment its often incompatible to Thunar stable releases which results into crashes and other issues
Con Requires plugins for some basic functions of modern file managers
Con Tree sidepane missing features
When the sidepane is in Tree mode, it does not show Places (Favorites). It also doesn't collapse folders (like Windows Explorer), adding to clutter.
Con No integrated search option
Con No Split View without a patch, which can be a deal breaker
This limitation can be quite annoying indeed.. thanks for the heads up!
Con No usable image view mode
Setting view to "icons" doesn't satisfy. The icons are too small to see the image.
Con Won't write to any removable media that has been on an Apple machine
Removing dot-files that Apple puts on the media (like .fseversd) allows Thunar to write to it.
Con Does not integrate well into Gnome
Con no double pane support
working all in all quite good out of the box,
but windows are too big, drag & drop is working, but useless on an one window file manager...
Even for novice users to weak for every days work
Con Slightly unstable
Thunar crashes some times on file moves, copy-pasting etc. The developers are working on it, but it's taken a while.
Con Image thumbnails sometimes wrong
There seems to be a bug where sometimes images get the wrong thumbnail, this can lead to data-loss.