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Review: Nautilus 1.0: Has Eazel Earned Its Place in GNOME? - page 3

Going into launch day: a quick Eazel and Nautilus backgrounder

  • March 15, 2001
  • By Michael Hall

Nautilus as a file manager has largely been reviewed and previewed to death as it's been available in several preview releases since last September. Non-technical press have been ushered into the presence of running demos to witness MP3 previews, document zooming, integrated web browsing and walked away suitable impressed. The basic dimensions and thrust of the software are well known.

Nautilus does most of the things we expect a GUI file manager to do: it provides drag-and-drop functionality, it allows users to put files in a virtual garbage can, and it offers several ways of viewing data.

The versatility of Nautilus with regard to that last function is what's drawn the most attention. Nautilus not only creates the standard iconic representations of files seen in other file managers, but it brings a level of dynamism to them. Graphical files are shown as thumbnailed images, for instance. Passing the pointer over an MP3 file causes the file to play until the mouse is moved again. Directories of MP3's can be assigned an "album cover" image, and queued up for play directly from within Nautilus. Text files are represented as small, generic icons of a sheet of paper until the zoom level is turned up, at which point they begin to reveal their actual contents. Nautilus also remembers the state of each directory in terms of how the user last viewed it. Consequently, it remembers when a directory of files was treated as an "album" and switches to the music view automatically upon reentry.

One unfortunate lack in terms of dynamic information presentation is something that was present in earlier releases: virtual file system browsing. Where it had been possible to browse archive files (tar, zip, RPM, .deb) and even install binary packages via Nautilus, Eazel has decided to remove that functionality for this release. We hope to see it back in followups.

In addition to this dynamism, Nautilus also brings some useful organizational tools to bear. It has a feature that allows "emblems" to be assigned to files, marking them in terms of priority, secrecy, or importance. The file finding tool provided can search on these emblems (making it possible, for instance, to get a view of every "urgent" file regardless of location or name). In addition, the find tool allows for either standard shell globbing in searches or more advanced regular expressions. A sidebar in each Nautilus window also allows the user to leave notes specific to each directory.

Nautilus ships with a variety of themes, and it's very configurable in terms of both look-and-feel and performance tradeoffs. Several options allow for the "gee whiz" features like MP3 previewing and thumbnailing to be turned off for networked files or altogether, which can improve its speed mightily, especially in directories with a lot of graphics files.

Nautilus also makes getting help easy in the form of a documentation tab in its sidebar that allows for browsing of not only the Nautilus user's guide (which is very, very basic), but man and info pages.

 

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