It was only a matter of time before we announced it, and the news was leaked in the press as soon as the project got on github: Cinnamon now has its own file browser called Nemo.
Nemo is a complete fork of Nautilus 3.4 and its goal is to extend the Cinnamon user experience to desktop and file management.
Why fork nautilus?
Short term: Nautilus 3.6 is a catastrophe. It removes features we consider requirements. We welcomed the news that Canonical decided to stick to Nautilus 3.4, but it came too late (we were already experimenting with Nemo) and it only temporarily solved the problem for Ubuntu and Linux Mint.
Long term: If we want to give ourselves the ability to implement our goals and to give people a great user experience, we need to broaden the scope of Cinnamon to all visible components of the desktops, file and desktop management being extremely central.
Nautilus was one of the best file browsers around. We’re saying “was” because we’re unanimous on the fact that Caja is a far superior browser than Nautilus. The trend continues with Nautilus 3.6 being, in our opinion, a lesser product than Nautilus 3.4. Many times, the question was risen as to whether or not Nautilus was the best file browser for Cinnamon. Why not use Caja instead (or Marlin, another really successful project)? And the answer is “integration”. Caja is developed by and for MATE, Nautilus is developed by and for GNOME, and under Cinnamon there’s a GNOME desktop. The file manager isn’t just a file browser, it defines how the user interacts with filesystems, documents, and the visible desktop. It’s a core part of any desktop and it’s important it properly integrates with it.
The long term goal for Cinnamon is to be exactly what we need it to be and that includes all desktops aspects of the user experience. As such, all visual layers of the desktop either get configured, patched, replaced or forked so that they properly integrate with Cinnamon. Underneath all that, GNOME should be less and less visible as the components which we find useful in it are not the ones exposed to the UI. It’s an approach similar to Xfce or LXDE. Cinnamon isn’t a standalone desktop environment but it fully aims at achieving proper integration.
KDE built Dolphin as a central piece of KDE. Xfce and LXDE rely on Thunar and PCManFM. Gnome is “adapting” Nautilus to what it wants it to be. MATE can rely on Caja and it’s probably only a matter of time before Unity gets its own file manager (patching/freezing Nautilus was the right decision but it’s only a good decision if it’s a temporary one, long term they’ll need to make their own file manager if they don’t want to chose between breaking Unity or Shell). Today, Cinnamon gets Nemo, and from now on that means you can get a better experience. First, it means you get all the features that have been missing in recent builds of Nautilus and you don’t get hit by the regressions coming from upstream, second, that means we can innovate on the desktop and file layers (not only with the panels and window management as we did until now), third it means you get a complete system where Cinnamon and Nemo work together, where your settings are in one place and where we can adapt Nemo to any crazy idea we have in Cinnamon and use it to enable it more advanced use cases and interactions.
What are the differences between Nautilus and Nemo?
There’s more and more difference with every single commit, but if you compare Nemo 1.0.0 with Nautilus 3.6 we can list the following:
- All the features Nautilus 3.4 had and which are missing in Nautilus 3.6 (all desktop icons, compact view, etc..)
- Open in terminal (this is part of Nemo itself)
- Open as root (this is also part of Nemo)
- File operations progress information (when you copy/move files you can see the percentage and info about the operation on the window title and so also in your window list)
- Proper GTK bookmarks management
- Full navigation options (back, forward, up, refresh)
- Ability to toggle between the path entry and the path breadcrumb widgets
- A lot more configuration options
Short term, it’s also likely to gain the following:
- A proper status bar
- A layout which is more similar to Caja, where the pathbar/path-entry field is below the main toolbar and only spans accross the view pane
- Configurable toolbar buttons for hidden features (view-selection, zoom levels…etc).
Long term we also want:
- An action API (which allows you to define context-menu actions by writing .desktop files and mapping extensions with open-with actions)
- Better widgets (we’re likely to learn from Marlin here)
- Better search (ala Firefox)
What does it look like?
It looks similar to Nautilus. At the moment the only visual differences are on the toolbar and the sidebar. The content pane and desktop layer look the same as before.
The most significant advantage Nautilus has over Nemo is that there are GTK themes customized for it. Nemo loses all of these customizations. Either themes will add proper Nemo support (we’re doing that with Mint-X for instance) or Nemo will adapt and regain compatibility with Nautilus themes (this is what we did in MDM for instance to regain compatibility with GDM themes).
At the moment, this is how Nemo looks with Elementary (note how the toolbar and the menu bar merge as if they were one single widget):
And this is how it looks with Mint-X (note the style of the sidebar):
Neither themes have proper Nemo support yet, but it’s only a matter of time before that happens.
Why call it “nemo”?
Gwendal Le Bihan named the project “nemo” after Jules Verne’s most famous character, who also happens to be the captain of the “Nautilus”. Who else than Nemo could take the Nautilus and veer towards a different direction?
And then there’s that orange clown-fish everybody’s seen on TV, the one that doesn’t tell jokes. I’m not sure Gwendal will ever manage to get the fish out of everybody’s head… but it’s a cool name, and whether we see a brilliant hero in it or a tiny little fish, whether we think “Giant Squid” or “P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sidney” it doesn’t really matter in the end.
It’s only 4 letters, and if it wasn’t for “open as root” being a core part of it, it would have made “gksu nemo &” very easy to type.
Will you still be able to use Nautilus with Cinnamon or will you need Nemo?
Yes. You can run any file manager with Cinnamon and if you don’t run Nemo we strongly suggest you take a look at Marlin and Caja.
Beware that Cinnamon and Nemo are meant to work together though. Right now there are components of Cinnamon which are tightly linked to Nautilus. These will be replaced by optional components which will tightly link to Nemo. So going forward, Cinnamon should work with any file browser, but it will have more features if you use Nemo.
To give you an example, you can currently define what desktop icons are visible in Cinnamon. Behind the curtain, that’s Cinnamon Settings exposing some Nautilus configuration. That is being removed (these options are gone in Nautilus 3.6 anyway, so there’s no real loss here for Nautilus users) and replaced with Cinnamon exposing some Nemo configuration, if and only if Nemo is installed. So if you’re using Caja you can set this in mintDesktop, if you’re using Marlin there’s probably options for it in Marlin, if you’re using Nemo it will be there in Cinnamon.
When it comes to packaging we’re aware that Cinnamon is used by many people and distributed by many distributions. Nemo won’t be a hard requirement, so it will be at the discretion of each distribution or user to decide whether or not they want/need Nemo and that shouldn’t impact on them using/distributing Cinnamon.
When is it coming?
Well that depends on your distribution. Nemo will have its first official release when Cinnamon 1.6 is out. It’s likely to be the default file browser in Linux Mint 14 Cinnamon Edition.