When comparing Thunar vs Nautilus (AKA Gnome Files), the Slant community recommends Thunar for most people. In the question“What are the best GUI Linux file managers?” Thunar is ranked 4th while Nautilus (AKA Gnome Files) is ranked 5th. 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.
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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.
Pro Allows you to access remote or local locations
On recent versions of GNOME, you can click the Files entry in the panel to access the a specific location (remote or local), connect to a certain server (FTP, SFTP, SAMBA, etc.), access your bookmarks, open a new window, as well as to change its default functionality.
Pro Easy to use and familiar user interface for Ubuntu users
The user interface of Files is very familiar to Ubuntu users, most probably because Canonical still uses Nautilus (an old version of it) as the default file manager for its world’s most popular free operating system, Ubuntu Linux.
It split into two parts, a sidebar and the main file viewer. While you already know what the latter can do for you, the sidebar offers quick access to Places, Devices and Network locations, as well as any other bookmarks that you can add whenever you want.
Pro Widely supported
The program is distributed as a single source archive, which can be configured, compiled and installed on almost any Linux flavor. There are no binary files for a specific Linux distribution, but you can install it directly from the default software channels of your operating system.
Pro Fully supports DPI
Pro Convenient file moving progress
Nautilus shows the progress of file move operations in the top right. This doesn't get in your way. You can keep using the window while the operation is progressing.
Pro Google drive integration
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.
Con Mostly unconfigurable
There are not many ways to configure Nautilus to fit your needs. Besides what can be seen in the settings button you can't configure it further.