Until recently, Nautilus had an optional "spatial" mode as an alternative to its usual browser mode. Users could enable it by opening Nautilus's preferences and selecting "Open each folder in its own window." Choosing this option resulted in a stripped down interface, and folders would always open in the same place on the screen. It looked something like this:

Image of Nautilus in spatial mode, from Colin Charles' blog post

That checkbox is still there, but it doesn't do the same thing: while every folder opens in a new window, those windows are all the same size and positioned the same way. Nautilus doesn't restore the size and position of each folder, which is what spatial mode was all about. This difference really shows if someone opens a folder in a new window, and then opens the same folder again. Nautilus will create another window instead of focusing the existing window.

I help someone who is currently using Ubuntu 10.04, and he will be upgrading to 12.04 in the future. He is very comfortable with Nautilus's spatial behaviour and I think he would be disappointed to lose it. Is there an alternative file manager, or perhaps some less obvious option, that will give him an interface similar to the one he is comfortable with?


2 Answers 2


Why use an alternative? You can do that with Nautilus in 11.10 and I am sure with 12.04 will be the same.

To activate it use the following command on the terminal

gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.preferences always-use-browser false

To revert back to the original use this command

gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.preferences always-use-browser true

This is a user defined option.

I understand that this is a limited spacial mode where the windows do not follow the same behavior as they did using Nautilus2, this has, I believe, occurred because of the move to GTK+3 and there is no solution for it. The same behavior happens in Unity2 and GNOME-Shell.

  • 1
    Weird, I don't know why I never left a comment. Well, thanks for the answer, and it might help someone, but this doesn't solve my problem. In Nautilus 3, disabling always-use-browser does not provide spatial file browsing. It just opens folders in new windows. The position / size of each window is not saved. If you open a folder again (or use Go>Open Parent), it opens a new window instead of bringing forward the existing one. Mar 22, 2012 at 3:12
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    @DylanMcCall I think that since the move to GTK+3 you cannot fully make it as it was with Nautilus2. Using Nautilus this is the closest you will get imho. Mar 22, 2012 at 5:24

This answer is the same as Bruno's but just using a graphical interface.

You can use dconf-tools Install dconf-tools to alter the behavior of Nautilus to your liking.

To install dconf-tools, run the following command in a terminal:

sudo apt-get install dconf-tools

After installing it, search for dconf-editor in the dash overview and open it.

Then, navigate to orgs -> gnome -> nautilus -> preferences. Then disable always-use-browser

enter image description here

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