When comparing PCManFM vs Dolphin, the Slant community recommends Dolphin for most people. In the question“What are the best Linux file managers?” Dolphin is ranked 2nd while PCManFM is ranked 5th. The most important reason people chose Dolphin is:
Like other KDE applications, Dolphin makes use of KIO which gives Dolphin access to other APIs and services. For example, it allows Dolphin to manage files stored remotely the same way you can manage local files through FTP.
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PCManFM is a very lightweight and simple file manager.
Pro Can open folder as root
PCManFM can open different folders as root, this way you don't have to use the terminal to move around files for which you need root permission.
Pro Uses tabs
Tabs can practically be managed just as in a browser, so you don't end up with windows open all over your desktop.
General use, and most operations, are snappy and responsive.
Pro Can use tabs instead of new windows
Use tabs to open fewer windows. New tabs automatically start in the same location.
Pro Supports "quick-directory" typing
While in a PCManFM window, typing either a "~" or a "/" will automatically start typing into the location bar, allows for tab completion, and pressing Enter goes straight to the typed directory.
Pro Auto mounts drives
PCmanFM automatically detects and mounts available drives.
Pro More RAM is available for other processes, and the system uses less swap
Overall, the system becomes faster.
Pro Can split views
Dolphin supports splitting the view in two navigational areas, this way you can navigate two different directories at the same time.
Pro Easy to extend with plugins
Dolphin follows KDE's philosophy of being extendable and configurable. It can easily be configured and customized through plugins.
Pro Integrated terminal
Perssing F4 with any opened folder on a mounted path opens a konsole within dolphin.
Pro Auto mounts flash drives
Dolphin automatically identifies and mounts external flash drives.
Pro Immenseley configurable
As with any KDE app, Dolphin, allows adding or modifying toolbar buttons and keyboard shortcuts.
Pro Fast at opening graphics folders
Pictures with or without previews is optional and selectable at the touch of a button.
Pro Also has a refresh option
Dolphin is without a doubt the best fully functional and easy to use and multitask with.
• Dolphin also has a refresh button which no other File manager has. It's great for tracking a large files transfer; that's what file managers are for - good common sense.
Pro Fully supports HiDPI
Supports HiDPI displays.
Con Can't extend with scripts
Unlike Nautilus and Caja, this can't extend with scripts. If script extension is added it can become a really good FM.
Con Some operations are slow
Because it tries to be as lightweight as possible and tries to use very little RAM. This can unfortunately lead to it being slow sometimes.
Con "Type" column too verbose
Despite having a large enough monitor, If you keep the size of the browser window small, the "Type" column (in "Details" view mode) insists on including the complete multipart MIME string, making the column so wide that trying to limit its width makes the column useless. Sorting by "Type" renders the list into an incomprehensible mess.
Con Maybe a little slow on startup
Dolphin can be a little slow on startup (depending on distro, hardware etc...). Startup time can vary from a couple of seconds to up to a minute.