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Until now I was using a "traditional" version of Nautilus: that that comes with Ubuntu 10.10. Now I'm using 3.6.3, included with Ubuntu 13.04 (most likely any recent version is equivalent for the scope of my question, anyway).

One major difference between the two is the search-as-you-type behavior: in classic versions of Nautilus, when you typed an input, the file with the closest alphabetical match would become the selected one, the ellegible files/folders being restricted to the current directory.

The new behavior is to perform an optionally-global search instead.

Can one configure Nautilus to provide the previous functionality?

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I think that this change is outrageously stupid. Be sure to join the bug to push for improvement. – Justin Force Jun 12 '13 at 0:54
up vote 68 down vote accepted

Ubuntu 14.04 and up

With the upcoming new Ubuntu LTS release type-ahead-find will be the default behaviour in Nautilus again.

You can use a dconf key to switch between the different search modes:

  • enable type-ahead-find:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.preferences enable-interactive-search true

  • disable type-ahead-find in favor of recursive search:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.preferences enable-interactive-search false

Ubuntu 13.04 and 13.10

As far as I know the new Nautilus 3.6.X cuts many features from the 3.4 and older versions. Canonical decided to keep using nautilus 3.4.2 in Ubuntu 12.10 because if this even though Nautilus 3.6 was already released. I don't think it is possible to get the old search behaviour in 3.6 but what I did was to install the SolusOS patched Nautilus (also works for Ubuntu 13.04) which includes all the features from 3.4.2 (it really is Nautilus 3.4.2) while maintaining the Nautilus 3.6 skin. I've tested this particular package and it works fine in Ubuntu 12.10 and 13.04.

Alternatively you could install Nemo File Explorer which is a fork of Nautilus 3.4 that was made due to the Cinnamon dev team being disappointed with Nautilus 3.6, you can get the install instructions here.

Making it your default file browser is a bit more tricky, this blog post worked for me in Ubuntu 12.10 but some users reported the method not to work properly.

There are alternative methods however. See the following question:

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This definitely is going to help :) will let you know when I try one of the options you've described. Thanks! – vemv Apr 6 '13 at 19:07
As a complement, like explained by Fernando, here is a link for installing SolusOS patched Nautilus for Ubuntu 13.04. I checked it and it works fine on my system :… – Raphaël Titol May 11 '13 at 20:26
The SolusOS patched Nautilus doesn't work at all for me. When I add the PPA, and do a dist-upgrade, no packages are upgraded. I am using the gnome-staging ppa, is there any way to use the patched nautilus with that? – DaboRoss Jun 16 '13 at 1:50
+10 and +50 :-) – Tim Apr 8 '15 at 12:15
GNOME in their infinite dictatorial wisdom have seemingly decided that we do not want this preference anymore, therefore it doesn't exist. Thanks again, GNOME. – underscore_d Apr 9 at 21:37

In Ubuntu Gnome 14.04, open dconf-editor. Go to

Check the box next to enable-interactive-search. Restart nautilus

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Thanks! In order to restart nautilus, either relogin or give nautilus -q and then nautilus -n in the Alt+F2 box. – hakermania Oct 26 '14 at 19:11

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