[linux-elitists] Nautilus usage report

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Mon Feb 2 04:17:12 PST 2004

My file manager is bash.  But every once in a while, I like to remind
myself why that's the case....

I'd downloaded a set of zip archives, and remembered that there are
a number of utilities which provide virtual filesystem access to a
number of package / archive formats, including tarballs, ZIP archives,
DEBs, RPMs, and the like.

Note that I typically use WindowMaker as my desktop, and that this was
the case here and now.

MC popped straight into the zip archives, but wouldn't open the enclosed
PDFs, direct viewing of binary file formats not being sufficient for my
needss (though pdf2text might have been neat).

I played with XFCE4's file mangler and found it wouldn't open the ZIP
file.  OK, let's try Nautilus....

Oh dear.  12 MiB download over dialup...

...unless it happens to be cached already by apt-proxy.  Install took a
minute or so.

Fire up Nautilus.

  Bad:  Long time no see.  30-45 seconds to fire up, if not longer.
    See Jakob Nielsen's ten second rule.

  Good:  On second startup, it launches in about 15 seconds.  Still
    fails the ten second rule, but it's within spitting distance.  1.7
    GHz P4, 4200 RPM disk, 512 MiB RAM.

  Bad:  On second startup, I get a window, "Desktop", with a pretty
    transition color fade, but serving absolutely no other use.  WTF is
    this?  Naturally, killing this window kills Nautilus.

  Bad:  *Don't* change my desktop color.  *Especially* if you're not
    running under GNOME.

  Bad:  *Don't* create new $HOME-level directories.  There's enough
    crap that does this already.  The "Desktop" metaphore thing really
    needs to be reconsidered.

  Bad:  *Don't* not provide a toggle for either of these behaviors.
    There was no readily discernable configuration option for Nautilus.
    Fired up gconf-editor, couldn't find a guilty-looking registry key
    (repeat gconf flame:  it's not self documenting, it's not

  Bad:  Toolbar fonts are too large, and there's no visible control.
    Right click doesn't bring up a toolbar configuration dialog (Galeon
    and KDE both do this).  GNOME can centralize its configuration all
    it wants to, but it shouldn't force users on scavenger hunts to set
    these values.  In the space required for six icons in Nautilus, I
    get 7 icons and an input dialog in Galeon.  While not all eyes want
    such dense function placement, I prefer it, particularly in
    preservation of vertical real estate.

    Configuration controls, even if executed under a different app,
    should be accessible / invokable from the _current_ app.

  Bad: in menus, it's not clear whether "Properties" pertains to
    Nautilus or the file / folder being controlled.  This may be memetic
    pollution from other applications, but GNOME apps in general would
    benefit greatly from a "Settings" top level menu entry.  "Edit"
    simply *isn't* appropriate for applications other than those with an
    editing capability.

Nautilus claims it is a "file manager and graphical shell".  So which is
it?  Is that functionality seperable?  Seems to me it should be an
either/or prospect.  Otherwise, it's not a file manager, but a graphical
shell with file manager capabilities.  Poor application domain scoping.

Browse around a bit.  

  Good:  navigation bar.  XFCE4's file mangler lacks this.

  Bad:  apparently no tab filename completion.  In general, techie
    users are going to want some form of readline support -- emacs or vi
    bindings.  HIG[1] is fine and good, but it's not what I'm used to,
    and it gets in my way.

  Good:  the icon preview stuff is vaguely usefu.  Zooming is vaguely

Find my downloaded ZIP archives.

  Bad:  won't open the ZIP archives.  OK, maybe it doesn't support the

  Bad:  the "use handler" dialog either takes an age and a half to
    run, or errors out silently .  It should provide feedback as to
    whether it's running, has encountered an error, etc.

I create a tar.gz file which should be readable (was when I last looked
into Nautilus a year or so back).

  Bad:  won't open a tar.gz archive.

  Bad:  no visible control to add or modify this behavior.

  Bad:  the foot (top right "throbber") serves no apparent purpos
    other than as a "busy" indicator.  Sometimes.

I suspect (but, being a typically harried user, not entirely familiar
with GNOME's inner workings -- I'm not playing 1337 here) that there is
a control somewhere within the GNOME application system, campus, empire,
or galaxy, which controls this behavior, but really have no idea 

While verifying that there is apparently *no* virtual filesystem
support, I take a look at my /var/cache/apt/archives folder, the logical
place to look for some DEB files.

  Bad:  after 2-3 minutes wait, Nautilus hasn't displayed *any*
    contents of this directory, which contains 731 files (not unusual
    for my file management needs).  On a second later attempt, a display
    appears after 30-40 seconds.  My preferered file manager (see
    above) provides a listing in 0.151s.

  Good:  there is some support for DEBs:  I can get a properties
    dialog and file listing.

  Bad:  I cannot directly browse the DEBs.  MC offers more
    functionality than Nautilus in this regard.

Resorting at long last to RTFM, I hit "Help".

  Bad:  There was an error displaying help: 
    Help document user-guide/wgosnautilus.xml not found.

    Though this may represent a packaging bug in Debian, it speaks to
    complexity of GNOME being sufficiently great that such errors occur.

I kill Nautilus, open an rxvt window with bash, unzip files, dig them
out of overly deep directory trees, convert PDFs to PS (PDF is slow to
read and render, and xpdf is bug-for-bug compatible with Adobe's broken
page up/down keybindings).  Read in GV.  Elapsed time, 45 seconds.  Less
than it took to fire up Nautilus in the first place.

I'm probably missing several things.  As I said above:  I'm not trying
to be an elitist here, just a harried, but technical user, looking at a
tool I'd heard might be useful.  I definitely haven't drunk the
Kool-Aid, but I'm willing to taste it from time to time.  I'm noting my


1.  Horrible Interface Guidelines.

Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    The black hat community is drooling over the possibility of a secure
    execution environment that would allow applications to run in a
    secure area which cannot be attached to via debuggers.
    - Jason Spence, on Palladium aka NGCSB aka "Trusted Computing"
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