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Is there a way to add buttons to Nautilus? I really would like to have a small button on the sidebar allowing to quickly switch between tree view and places view.

Also I would love to have buttons to change the file view (icons, list, compact) and size.

Using the menu is long-winded especially for the sidebar, and hotkeys like here are not helping at all when using the mouse one-handed.

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Try Caja, which is MATE desktop's file-manager, and basically a fork of Nautilus. Though latest (1.4) is based off Nautilus 3.0 (dated), there's work being done (on git) to bring it up to speed, without removing such features as the sidebar mode switcher (places/tree/emblems), compact mode, etc.

Another option is "nemo" -- Linux Mint's file-manager, also based off Nautilus, though a little more recent version (3.2?), which had directory backgrounds/emblems feature, and the drop-down list on the top of the side-bar to toggle places/tree mode removed. It has, however, three toolbar buttons to switch between grid/list/compact modes, since version 1.0.7

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