Linux users: These text-based file managers are overlooked gems

Terminal-based file managers could seem somewhat old style, however these two choices for Linux will come in useful for quite a lot of duties.


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Terminal-based file managers might appear to be relics of historic occasions, however even on this age of touchscreens, nothing can deal with tons of of information extra effectively. Moreover, a terminal should be your solely choice to work on distant servers or recuperate your information after a system crash. 

Two file managers for Linux that deserve extra protection are nnn and ranger. These file managers are made for terminals, however they’re additionally usable with a mouse and obtainable as binary packages for many Linux distributions.

SEE: Linux file and listing administration instructions (TechRepublic Premium)

File supervisor nnn goes in every single place you go

It is onerous to be extra compact and ubiquitous than nnn. It wants simply 4 MB of reminiscence and eight colours to run on Linux, macOS, BSD, Haiku, Cygwin, WSL, Raspberry Pi and Android by way of Termux, with fundamental help for display screen readers and braille shows.

Determine A


The nnn interface, exhibiting contexts (prime) and bookmark keys (backside).

The nnn interface (Determine A) works nice on small units, having a single column that by default solely exhibits the names of information and folders and can even show photos when operating in some terminals (Determine B). You’ll be able to work in as much as 4 folders concurrently by opening every of them in a separate “context” (i.e., tab), and see dimension and timestamps of information by urgent the “d” key or beginning nnn with the -d swap. One other swap, -S, makes nnn type folders and information by dimension.

It’s attainable to avoid wasting the complete configuration of an nnn session by typing “s” twice, and reload it by typing “sl” or launching nnn with the “-s SESSION_NAME” swap.

Determine B


nnn might even present picture previews, however solely with some terminals (for particulars, see the web site).

To start out working with nnn, you simply want a number of keys: “h” goes up one degree, “j” and “okay” scroll down and up the information checklist, respectively, “l” opens a folder. Press “e” to edit textual content information in place with Vim, “~” to return to your private home listing, “-” to the final visited, and “?” to see the energetic keyboard shortcuts.

There are two methods to seek for information, toggled by the “/” key. Sort it as soon as, and nnn will show solely entries that match what you kind afterward, as you kind it. Typing “/” once more prompts common expressions, permitting you to kind “.linux.” to search out all of the information or folders that include the “linux” string.

Transferring, deleting or copying information is delegated to the shell. Press “!” to spawn a shell within the present folder, after which execute any command or script you need. When accomplished, nnn will resume working from the place you left it.

One actually intriguing function of nnn is that it places the file you choose within the $nnn surroundings variable, the place each script you launch from a spawned shell might discover it. You may also write your individual script to increase nnn.

Bookmarks should be set outdoors this system into an surroundings variable. For instance, this shell command tells nnn to open the folder /dwelling/photograph every time the consumer presses “b” for “bookmark” after which “f”.

export NNN_BMS='f:/dwelling/photograph/;w:/dwelling/marco/information/archive/work'

This isn’t an exception. Each nnn parameter is about in the identical approach, as an alternative of writing it into one configuration file. Due to this fact, the best technique to have a everlasting nnn configuration is to set all its variables in your shell configuration file, following this instance within the Arch Linux wiki.

SEE: Linux 101: What tech professionals have to know (TechRepublic Premium)

File supervisor ranger is versatile and extremely configurable

By default, ranger has three interlinked panes, which all the time present the guardian listing, the present one and a preview of its contents (Determine C). Ranger additionally has a multipane mode (Determine D) with side-by-side, unbiased panes, in addition to a number of, numbered tabs, accessible by urgent the Alt key and their quantity.

Determine C


The three linked panes of the ranger file supervisor.

Determine D


Ranger in multipane mode.

Whatever the structure, typing “:flat N” exhibits all of the information within the present folder and all its subfolders as much as the Nth degree as one checklist. This may be extraordinarily helpful in some instances and actually complicated in others. To return to flat itemizing, kind “:flat 0”.

Ranger adopts many Vim key bindings, in addition to the identical, fundamental navigation keys of nnn. For instance, “yy” and “pp” copy and paste information, respectively. Even command calls work in the identical approach: You kind a colon after which their title.

In case you dislike Vim, no downside–you’ll be able to management ranger even with emacs-like bindings. To do it, add this line in your shell configuration file:


and duplicate the rc_emacs.conf file that comes with ranger in your ~/.config/ranger folder.

Ranger handles bookmarks higher than nnn. To bookmark the present folder, kind “m”, adopted by the letter or digit of your selection. This allows you to leap to that folder from any location by merely typing a backtick, adopted by that very same character. Two backticks convey you again to the earlier folder you visited.

Studying methods to use ranger is simpler than it appears. Sort “?” adopted by “m”, “okay”, “c”, or “s” to see the person web page, keyboard shortcuts, built-in instructions and your present configuration, respectively.

To customise how ranger works, you’ll be able to place in your ~/.config/ranger folder as much as 4 information, beginning with the already talked about rc.conf for fundamental configuration. Customized Python instructions following these tips go into

Determine E


Previewing PDF information inside ranger. is the configurable shell script that ranger runs to preview information (Determine E), but it surely works as supposed solely when you have all of the third-party utilities it calls (e.g., odt2txt to render OpenDocument information).

The final technique to customise ranger really configures its “file opener” that known as rifle and can even deal with photos (Determine F); it is a separate device, usable even with out ranger, that guesses which program ought to open, as an alternative of simply previewing, a given file.

Determine F


Even ranger might present picture previews (see web site for particulars).

Will you employ these file managers?

Regardless that each nnn and ranger undergo the identical downside–that’s, inner preview of photos works solely on some “non-mainstream” terminals–each file managers are very helpful applications. Do you propose to run nnn, ranger or each? Tell us within the article feedback.

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