Proposal to add an Action-Info Bar to Nautilus

Hello all,

We are looking into adding an action & info bar to Nautilus. The background about this proposal can be read on the task where we put the main goals, prior art, different proposals and mockups, etc.

We are not sure whether this is the appropriate solution and whether the implementation we propose is ideal. In order to be more confident, we would like to gather early feedback on the current proposal. Also, we are looking for ideas on how to improve the overall approach.

The current proposal is being worked in a branch and can be installed via Flatpak clicking here (Note: You might need to install it the the CLI by executing `flatpak install nautilus-dev.flatpak` due to a bug in Software).

The current proposal looks as follows:


One of the concerns we have is about how visual heavy is to show the action bar at all times, in addition to the not very light buttons style.

One thing that could alleviate the heaviness is to style the buttons differently, and for that would be nice if someone that knows CSS plays a bit with it. To test your ideas, simply install the Flatpaked Nautilus, configure and open the GtkInspector with <ctrl>+<shift>+D, go to the CSS tab, and put the style you want to try out. To give some guidance, you have an example to make the action bar buttons flat here.


Feel free to comment here, reach me on IRC at #nautilus on as csoriano, or send an email to

I will write an update in this blog with the outcome when we achieve some more advanced proposal with the feedback we have received.

I’m looking forward to hear your ideas and thoughts!


37 thoughts on “Proposal to add an Action-Info Bar to Nautilus

  1. It feels like a change which would only benefit devices with touchscreens. It eats up way too much space for such a little improvement, and it is also visually inconsistent. If everything else is hidden behind tiny, iconised menu buttons and those menu buttons were even moved into the window decorations to save space, why does this bar eat so much space and has such large buttons without icons, but text? Why is the “x” button to close it apparently in the middle of the bar, instead of at the right edge where it usually is? Would this bar be there all the time (bad) or just pop up when a file/folder is selected (even worse)?

    If this bar is added to Nautilus, at maximum make it opt-in for people with tablets. I see no need for it in my daily work, but I really want that space.

    1. I also want it to be optional, i don’t see any benefit for non touch devices, especially because it doesn’t even solve the one problem i have with list view. You can’t right click and create a new file. Create a new folder works with the menu already present (hamburger menu) or a keyboard shortcut. But there is no way to create a new file in list view if there is no empty space to right click.

  2. Please keep Nautilus simple, please. Why not implement new ways to interact and browse, ilke a really good column browser.

    1. Hello, that doesn’t addresses the issues the actionbar is trying to address. You can take a look at the proposal linked to see what we need to solve.

  3. Some thoughts:
    Please keep translations in mind. “Cut” is nice and short in English, but “Ausschneiden” already takes up much more space!
    Why would anyone need an “Open” action, which would be the same as just clicking on the item itself?
    Flat buttons in a combined info / actions bar would make it very hard to recognize what is just a label (info) and what is an active element.

  4. I like the proposal a lot, both for using the mouse and touchscreen. For instance, currently I always switch to icon view when I want to add a new folder (to find some space for right-click). With this proposal that’s not necessary anymore. I also like the selection indicator on the left, with the selection cancel button. I agree with you that the default CSS does not look nice on the bottom bar.

  5. I forgot to add that I know a lot of (older) people have trouble with the double click. Therefore I like the open button a lot too!

    1. Yeah, single click seems to be one of the things designer would like to have… I’m not so sure about doing that change yet, but action bar will definitely help.

    1. Yeah, single click seems to be one of the things designer would like to have… I’m not so sure about doing that change yet, but action bar will definitely help.

  6. I usually like the proposals but I’m not super excited about that one. It feels like we’re going back to having a toolbar. That looks like a lot of screen real-estate if it’s always enabled. Having it shown only when items are selected would make it less intrusive I think.

    I however like very much the idea of using single click policy by default, it’s definitely the way to go if the rough edges with non-touch-enabled devices are cleared.

    – “Open” button: it feels useless if we switch to single-click.
    – “copy/cut” buttons: as stated by @Steffen above, there will have localizations problems , on languages more verbose that english. So I think using symbolic icons for cut/copy/paste would make sense. However, I’d use the same spacing as in the header bar, for consistency, and also because this would make the symbolic targets a bit easier to use on a touchscreen.
    – “New folder” button: this is what forces showing the bar when nothing is selected. I’d replace that with a symbolic “+” button in the header bar on the left of the “search” one. That’s just after the location bar so it feels directory-related. When a selection is made, it could become a “move selected items to new folder” instead?
    Another solution would be a fake, special, non-selectable entry as the first item of the view. It might feel a bit weird, but that’s already what is done with the button to show the available applications in the favorite applications sidebar: meta-content mixed with content. The problem with that last approach is when we scroll all the way down and then want to create a new folder…

    1. There is paste and select all too. New folder together with the search and the hamburger menu feels quite random… also if what you are trying to fix is the heaviness of always showing the action bar, I think it’s quite the opposite, by the functionality of nautilus the times you are selecting and just browsing and similar, so a disappearing/appearing action bar would be very distracting.

  7. Such action bar would be a clear win for general usability, even if people who are already used to desktop file managers will find buttons redundants.

    One thing in the screenshot (cannot test here) that bugs me is that actions will only act on the main view, so the action bar should not go under the sidebar. But I’m globally against sidebars, as seen in dconf-editor design.

    1. Yeah… I wonder if we should allocate the space of the sidebar to the info section only with a separator, so it’s more clear. But not sure, since that would make the info section related to the sidebar, when it’s not…

  8. Much of the necessity for this bar could be mitigated if it was possible to right-click on an empty space in the view without selecting an actual file.

    1. Not sure, there are plenty of other things the action bar is trying to address. Take a look at the linked proposal.

  9. The ActionBar shouldn’t extend beneath the sidebar and because of the clutter (esp with localisation considerations) should be icons only (with the possible exception of open)

    Number of actions should be kept to a minimum, perhaps restricting it to just Open Cut/Copy/Paste Delete

    What I assume is supposed to be ‘clear selection’ in the bottom left is just plain confusing

    1. I kinda agree with most things, however icons-only are not pretty understandable at first glance, and makes the space kinda useless once you maximize the window. Also, icon buttons are not as easy clickable as text buttons…

      I think the proposal already limites the number of actions to those.

      1. I see the point about clickability of the buttons but I feel it would look a bit odd with independently sized buttons and homogenous buttons quickly present a problem with different languages (someone gave a German example I think) making them rather wide

        For the icon concerns, although we do need to consider the never used a computer before group I think the wastebasket icon is ubiquitous across the desktop and Cut/Copy/Paste are common icons across platforms

        Hmm, it’s frustrating because I really like the idea but it’s going to be hard to do it right

    2. I globally agree on the feeling, the use of icons should probably be more important than on the screenshots with English UI (I’m French :·) ). But, it would be great I think to discuss “cut/copy/paste” actions regarding files, I always think these actions were weird, both on the name and on the metaphor (that’s ok in a text context, but not when dealing with “objects”). The introduction of “move to” and “copy to” was a good thing, and I’d really prefer to highlight these actions than the others.

      1. That’s interesting, the designer wants also move to and copy to visible, but I disagreed because the experience with the filechooser was too disruptive. Can you expand on what’s good about this workflow for you?

  10. I agree with the folks who say this seems like a step backwards or only useful for touchscreens. All the actions are already in the context/hamburger menus, why would a desktop user need this bar? If y’all must add this, I’d suggest either making it optional (I understand that probably won’t happen) or make it only visible if there’s a touchscreen detected.

  11. Please show some useful information about the file (or location/drive) at the bottom of the window, but don’t put the actions the bottom. The most useful actions (navigation, important results/files) are usually at the top. Putting the related action at the bottom feels odd and counterproductive.

    Why information at the bottom and actions on top? My eye can travel very quickly to the bottom, my fingers and mouse can’t!

    Useful information that is hard (not quickly) to look up:
    – Free disk space and usage
    – Relevant meta information (depending on file type)
    – Permissions
    – Preview

    1. Hello, that’s the path bar. Yes, but it requires responsive design support and transitions/animations done properly, and it’s not something we have yet.

      1. I would very much prioritize responsive design and UI transitions if that’s the case then. Gnome applications really lack the ability to relayout themselves when window size changes, and this is a really important consideration for small size devices, tablets, and even desktops where users want to lay a lot of side-by-side or tiled windows together.

        This bottom-bar functionality seems unintuitive, obtrusive, and ugly. It would be better to prioritize modernizing applications with responsive design before adding features which might have to be canned anyway in order to make the app work with all window sizes.

  12. >”User cannot do actions in the list view that require no selection, given that actions are only in the right click context menu”
    Wouldn’t pretty much all those actions be suitable for the burger menu and/or an additional menu?

    >”There is no way to clear selection in list view”
    Proposed solution: Add an extra column with checkboxes to list view to select/deselect items – including one for select all/deselect all

    >”Use cases: Information bar”
    The existing status bar already fulfills almost all of these functions, without taking away vertical space.

    >”Action with touch are hard to perform or impossible in some situations”
    Wouldn’t this be better addressed with a fully fledged “Touch Mode” that also increases button sizes and sidebar items and sets a different standard zoom level? You could then also reorganize action bar, context menu and burger menu options to get rid of redundant items and/or make the burger menu itself more touch-friendly.

  13. I use nautilus on a touch-only device with bluetooth keyboard attached — so if something goes wrong or I dont have my keyboard out it’s nice to have these options.

    I am using the experimental view and since Gnome 3.28 introduced Long-Press to right click I expected to get all this behavior on long press context menu like I get it on the desktop.

    If this behavior gets added I expect and hope to see it as something I can turn off on my desktops.

    I actually am not a fan of the left-hand navigation at all — I am not well versed on Gnome design principles but in Image Editors suchas Inkscape, Gimp and Krita — modification tools are always located on the left.

    Additionally, I know this isn’t the right place but I would hope to see a way to turn off the “Home” ellipsing of “/” “home” “me” in the breadcrumbs — I have /Apps /System /System/Applets /System/Snapshots and other directories I need to access that I do so by the breadcrumbs.

    Ironically I am wondering if this problem could be solved by having a “Viewing Mode” and “Editing Mode” and to activate Editing Mode you need a right click or a long press or something.

    I hope those ideas help.

    1. I think that all of the actions that would appear in this bottom bar would would be unnecessary of the the right-click/long-press menu was designed in such a way it was easy to use with touch devices. I think this is a poor solution, but if it were implemented, it would need to consider
      a) what would it look like with responsive design?
      b) when does it show up? hopefully only with selections… but then you have redundancy introduced as most of these actions are already in the right click menu

  14. Carlos, I have been trying to ping you on the IRC the last few days. We are using Nautilus and GNOME with 900 users, and we have added some custom features very similar to your design proposals. I’d like to get some screenshots and information to you. I’m on the IRC as dave_largo

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