Free/Open-source File Managers

A computer program that provides a user interface to work with file systems is called a file manager. It is considered as one of the most important software applications since its main function is to speed up interaction with files. The most common operations of a file manager are create, open, edit, view, print, play, rename, move, copy, delete, attributes, properties, search/find, and permissions. Others have special functions such as network connectivity and the ability to extend operations utilizing user written scripts.

Since I have used several Linux distributions, I have already tried different kinds of file managers/browsers be it graphical or orthodox. So, here I made a list of some of the best free and open source file managers as a guide to those who are looking for one that will suit their needs.

Dolphin is a file manager for KDE. It is the default file manager for the current version, KDE 4, and can be optionally installed on KDE 3. Although replaced as the default file manager for KDE 4, Konqueror is still the default web browser, and can be used as an alternative file manager for power users.

Under previous KDE versions, Konqueror had served both as the default file manager and web browser. However, for many years users have criticized that Konqueror was too complex for simple file navigation. As a response, the two functions were divided into two separate applications. Under KDE 4, Dolphin was streamlined for browsing files, while sharing as much code as possible with Konqueror. Konqueror continues to be developed primarily as a web browser.

7-Zip is a free and open source file archiver designed originally for Microsoft Windows, and later made available to other computer operating systems. In the form of p7zip, the command-line version of 7-Zip has been ported for use on Unix-like systems such as GNU/Linux, BSD, and Mac OS X as well as AmigaOS. It is also compatible with DOS via either a DOS port, or by using the HX-DOS extender to run the Windows command-line version.

7-Zip began in 2000 and is actively developed by Igor Pavlov. In contrast to the market-leading programs WinZip and WinRAR, which remain as proprietary competitors, 7-Zip is distributed under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) (with the RAR license restrictions), and as such is free software.

7-Zip was the winner of the 2007 community choice awards for "Technical Design" and for "Best Project".

emelFM2 is an orthodox file manager which utilizes the GTK+ 2 for X11 on Unix-like operating systems. The default window layout is two filesystem directories in the left and right panes similar to that found in Norton Commander, a strip down the middle with commonly used commands to operate on files in one or both of these browsing panes, and a log which shows the output of commands at the bottom. This layout is configurable - for example, the panes can be reorganized so that the directory panes are stacked vertically or it can be set to have only one directory pane. The colors, icons, included functions and file descriptor columns are all configurable.

emelFM2 ships with the function keys bound to the common commands which keybindings can be customized.

emelFM2 can handle archives and mounted filesystems. Every feature, including user-created functions, can be used through the GUI or with keyboard shortcuts.

GNOME Commander
GNOME Commander is a 'two pane' graphical file manager for GNOME. It is built using the GTK+ toolkit and GnomeVFS. GNOME Commander aims to fulfill the demands of more advanced users who like to focus on file management, their work through special applications and running smart commands.

Konqueror is a web browser, file manager and file viewer designed as a core part of the K Desktop Environment. It is developed by volunteers and can run on most Unix-like operating systems. Konqueror, along with the rest of the components in the kdebase package, is licensed and distributed under the GNU General Public License.

The name "Konqueror" is a reference to the two primary competitors at the time of the browser's first release: "first come the Navigator, then Explorer, and then the Konqueror". It also follows the KDE naming convention: the names of most KDE programs begin with the letter K.

Konqueror came with the version 2 of KDE, released on October 23 of 2000. It replaces its predecessor, KFM (KDE file manager).

Krusader is an advanced orthodox file manager for KDE and other desktops in the *nix world, similar to GNOME Commander or Midnight Commander (Linux), or Total Commander (Windows). It supports extensive archive handling, mounted filesystem support, FTP, advanced search, viewer/editor, directory synchronisation, file content comparisons, batch renaming, etc.

It supports the following archive formats: tar, ZIP, bzip2, gzip, RAR, ace, ARJ, LHA, 7-zip and RPM and can handle other KIO Slaves such as smb or fish.

GNU Midnight Commander
GNU Midnight Commander (mc) is an orthodox file manager for Unix-like systems (also works in Windows) and a clone of Norton Commander.

Midnight Commander is a text mode application. The main interface consists of two panels which display the file system. It is used in a similar way to many other programs run in the Unix shell. Arrow keys control file selection, the insert key is used to select files and the Function Keys perform operations such as renaming, editing and copying files. Later versions of the Midnight Commander additionally have mouse support for easier operation. Such versions are aware of running inside an X terminal, which allows them to react to the graphical pointer and update the name of the window in which Midnight Commander runs.

Nautilus is the official file manager for the GNOME desktop. The name is a play on words, evoking the shell of a nautilus to represent an operating system shell. Nautilus replaced Midnight Commander in GNOME 1.4 and was the default from version 2.0 onwards.

Nautilus was the flagship product of the now-defunct Eazel Inc. Released under the GNU Lesser General Public License, Nautilus is free software.

PCMan File Manager
PCMan File Manager (PCManFM) is a file manager application developed by Hong Jen Yee which is meant to be a replacement for Nautilus, Konqueror and Thunar. Released under the GNU General Public License, PCManFM is free software.

PCManFM is intended to follow the specifications given by for interoperability in free software.

ROX-Filer is a minimalist graphical file manager for the X Window System. It can be used on its own as a file manager, or can be used as part of ROX Desktop, a complete graphical desktop environment for Unix-like computer operating systems. It is the file manager provided by default in certain Linux distributions such as Puppy Linux and Dyne:bolic.

ROX-Filer is built using the GTK+ toolkit. Available under the terms of the GNU General Public License, ROX-Filer is free software.

Thunar is a file manager for Linux and other Unix-like systems, written using the GTK+ 2 toolkit and shipped with Xfce version 4.4 RC1 and later. Thunar is developed by Benedikt Meurer, and was originally intended to replace XFFM, Xfce's previous file manager. Thunar was initially called Filer but was changed to Thunar due to a name clash.

The main goal of the Thunar project is to create a file manager that is fast, clean, and easy to use. It is designed to start up faster and be more responsive than other Linux file managers, such as Nautilus and Konqueror. Accessibility, another goal of the project, is accomplished using Assistive Technologies (i.e., GNOME Accessibility Toolkit). Like the rest of Xfce, Thunar is designed to comply with standards, such as those stated at Thunar is simple and lightweight by design, but its functionality can be extended through plugins.


  1. AnonymousJune 20, 2008

    Nice and useful list. Thanks for this one. I'm using dolphin on KDE 4 right now but I also wanted to try other file managers to find out what works best.

    Thanks once again.

  2. AnonymousJune 22, 2008

    hey, great list. i'm using thunar and krusader. but the big question is if there's a file manager for linux which can handle copy queues similar like in total commander the "F5-F2" copying/moving from/to more places in the same time doesn't slow down the transfers...?


    i can use for this the kget, but i have to browse always for the destination. does anyone know the command option which makes possible to tell the kget to where to copy the files? i haven't found it anywhere. so it would be easy to add it to the krusader as a user action...
    Sorry for my English :)

  3. Pcman file manager is faster than thunar and it has tabbed browsing you forgot to mention that.
    And it does support desktop showing as of the latest version.

  4. AnonymousJune 24, 2008

    One more to the list: Beesoft Commander (bsc).

    Featured recently on

  5. Another good one is muCommander.