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Managing Your Files

Files are the primary components of any computer use, and they need to be managed, copied, moved, renamed, grouped, and loaded. Included with Ubuntu is a powerful yet simple file manager called Nautilus that integrates tightly into your desktop. You'll use it all the time even if you don't often see that name. Most often, you will see it referred to as File Browser.

File Browser makes extensive use of drag and drop. Unlike the kind of file manager used in Windows with its tree view and listing of files, File Browser displays files in a series of windows in which you can drag files around easily. For those who just can't say goodbye to the tree view, File Browser also supports that. Aside from providing a simpler user interface, File Browser also includes a number of useful features such as video and image previews, emblems, bookmarks, permissions management, and more.

You can start File Browser from a number of different places, but the easiest way to launch it is from the Places menu. Click on Places > Home Folder to load your home folder. When the folder loads, you should see something similar to what Figure 3-13 shows.

Figure 3-13

Figure 3-13 Accessing your home folder files is as simple as clicking Places > Home Folder.

The File Browser window is split into two parts. The sidebar shows categories of information such as bookmarks, folders, emblems (more on these later), and more. In the main part of the window, you can see the subfolders and files in the current folder. By default, File Browser displays your bookmarks in the left sidebar and displays the contents of your home folder.

So, let's play with File Browser and see what you can do with it. The first important skills to learn involve general file management. Many of the tasks you need to do can be achieved by right-clicking your file/folder and selecting the relevant option. There are also a number of options in the Edit menu.

First, create a folder by right-clicking the main part of the window and selecting Create Folder. A folder is added, and you can type in the name of it. If you change your mind about the name, rename it by right-clicking and selecting Rename. If you double-click on a folder, you can access it and perform the same operations within that folder.

File Browser is also flexible in how your files are displayed. You can view the files and folders as either the default collection of icons or as a list. To switch to the list view, select View > View As List. You can also configure the organization of how your files and folders are displayed by right-clicking the main part of the window and selecting one of the options in the Arrange Items menu. Play with each of these options to see which ones work best for you.

Selecting, Copying, and Moving Files and Folders

Copying and moving files and folders are simple tasks with File Browser and can be done in a number of different ways. To test this, create two folders called Work and Invoices in your home directory. Save some files inside each folder. You can quickly create empty files by double-clicking the folder to go into it, right-clicking, selecting Create Document > Empty File, and renaming the file to something useful. With a couple of folders now complete with files in them, let's move them around.

One method is to use two windows. Right-click the Work folder, and select Open in new window. You now have two windows open, one with the contents of Work and one with the contents of your home directory. Now copy the Invoices folder to the Work folder by clicking it and dragging it over to the second window (which shows the contents of Work). By default, dragging from one window to another copies the item.

Another option is to select what you want to copy and paste it. Selecting items can again be done in a number of ways. One method is to click each file/folder while holding down the Shift or Ctrl keys to make multiple selections. The difference between the two keys is that Shift allows you to select a number of files and folders next to each other, and Ctrl selects independent files and folders from anywhere in the folder-listing view. When you have selected what should be copied, right-click and select Cut or Copy. Cut will copy the original files but remove them, and Copy will just copy them while leaving the original files intact. Now go to the destination folder, right-click it, and select Paste. The files/folders are now added.

Using the Sidebar

The sidebar in File Browser can be changed to a variety of views that should cater to virtually all tastes. Each of these different sidebar views has a range of functions. Table 3-1 explains each one.

Although you will probably stick with one in particular, it is not uncommon to switch between options to achieve a particular task. For this reason, the flexibility provided by the range of sidebar options is useful. You can find out more about using File Browser at http://live.gnome.org/DocumentationProject/UserGuide/Nautilus, where it is referred to using its official GNOME name, Nautilus.

Table 3-1. The Different File Browser Sidebar Options




(Default view) Includes the devices and bookmarks in the sidebar that you typically see in the File Browser.


Displays some limited information about the current folder.


Displays a tree view similar to Windows/Mac OS X. Those of you who love the way Windows/Mac OS X works may want to use this.


Displays a history of the folders you have clicked on.


Allows you to write notes in the sidebar that are stored in the folder. This is handy when you need to explain or make comments about the current folder.


Lists the files and folders that have specific emblems attached.

Graphically Accessing Remote Files

Within the Ubuntu desktop, you can use the same powerful file manager to manage files that are on a remote server, either on your local network or in far-flung parts of the world via the Internet. This feature is incredibly useful when you need to transfer lots of files around, such as when you work on Web pages or need to make your work remotely available to someone else. To access these files, you can connect to the server in various ways, each of which requires a connection profile. This profile configures the connection, and you need to gather your server's settings to create it.

To set up the connection, click Places > Connect to Server, and you will see the dialog shown in Figure 3-14.

Figure 3-14

Figure 3-14 Access your remote server's files graphically on your desktop.

When the dialog box appears, select the type of connection from the combo box. The box then adjusts to display the settings required, and you should make sure the Name to Use for Connection box contains a descriptive name for the connection, such as "Work Server" or "Web Site." When you have added the settings, click the Connect button to continue.

An icon now appears on your desktop for the connection. Double-click the icon, and you are asked for a password to the server. Enter this password, and you are then asked if you would like to store your passwords in the keyring. The desktop keyring provides a convenient place to store all of your connection passwords, and you need to remember only the password for the keyring itself. If you choose to store the password in the keyring, you are asked for a password for it. In the future, whenever you double-click the icon to access the server, you will be asked for the keyring password.

When you have been authenticated to access the server, your files appear in a file manager window, and you can use the file manager as normal.

You can also use File Browser to access Samba and NFS shared drives, FTP servers, remote ssh connections, and more by using the correct prefix in an entry in the Location box, such at ssh://accountname@ to access an account on a computer at that IP address on your network via ssh. Use smb:// for Samba, nfs:// and ftp:// for those protocols.

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