Firstly, where is the official documentation of GNOME Files (Nautilus)? I found only very terse version here.

When playing with Files 3.26.4 on Ubuntu 18.04.4, I noticed an odd behavior. Here is a search with docker query:

enter image description here

The same directory searched with do?ker:

enter image description here

Again, the same directory searched with *do?ker:

enter image description here

Why the last two searches fail to find The Docker Book ***.pdf?

I don't have tracker installed, as in the output of apt policy tracker I find

  Installed: (none)


I found Select files by pattern page on Gnome Help, but behavior shown above is not consistent with description there. Maybe Nautilus search can't handle * in the file name.

  • @pomsky I don't think so: Command 'tracker' not found – Paul Jurczak Jun 13 at 20:02
  • What does apt policy tracker say? – pomsky Jun 13 at 20:03
  • tracker: Installed: (none) – Paul Jurczak Jun 13 at 20:07

Following certainly is not a definitive answer. As you say, anything related to files and especially tracker is extremely obscure. However, it may help provide some insight. "Documentation" is installed with the Help function in your system. The section "Files, folders & search" informs about the use of Gnome Files.

Search syntax in Gnome Files without tracker enabled is dead simple. There are no wild cards. For file name searches, it will search for all strings you supply. Thus, "docker action" or "action docker" will find "Docker in action.pdf". That, at least, is how it currently works in 20.04. It is quite possible that in 18.04, you only can specify words in the order as they appear in the file name, i.e., "docker action" to find the file.

With tracker enabled, nautilus passes its search query to tracker. Tracker works based on strings extracted from file names and of file contents. It does handle wildcards. ? represents a single character and * represents multiple characters. It will return results when a string occurs within the file name or file contents, and it uses an and logic: only items containing all strings provided are returned.

d*s for example, will pick up any file with d[one or multiple characters]s in the file name or in the file's content, e.g. Downloads", "Documents", ...

d?s will pick upfiles with d[any single character]s somewhere in the file name, e.g. '**D**e**s**ktop', Project description.txt`.

20.04 will also pick up The Docker Book ***.pdf. in your last query. 18.04 does not. Be aware that it may take time before a file eventually is taken op and retrieved in a tracker search.

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  • On fresh, minimum installation of Ubuntu 20.04 with default settings: ? and * do act as wildcard characters and tracker-miner-fs is running. The same behavior on 18.04.4 without Tracker (default configuration). – Paul Jurczak Jun 13 at 20:16
  • @Paul Not completely true, I also have Ubuntu 18.04.4, but the same behaviour (i.e. the one mentioned in your question) doesn't occur. tracker-miner-fs is installed by default on 20.04, but not on 18.04. You may check the manifest. – pomsky Jun 13 at 20:23
  • @pomsky installed by default on 20.04, but not on 18.04 - that's what I have and in both cases wildcard characters are working. – Paul Jurczak Jun 13 at 20:31
  • Fresh account (i.e., default settings, tracker running). At first, "Wildcards" are interpreted as normal characters. Later on, D* reveals all the folder names starting with D. However, no Docker files appearing yet. All this tracker thing is so randum and unpredict Do also reveals the Docker files, D? reveals folders with D[any char] inside, that includes Videos. No Docker files, however.able... – vanadium Jun 14 at 8:48
  • (of course, my Docker files do not contain the word Docker, it are just renamed copies. – vanadium Jun 14 at 8:56

I've run the same test on minimal installation of Ubuntu 20.04 with default settings, which enables Tracker. All 3 queries return 3 Docker titles as expected with search options set to Anything and File Name.

When I install Tracker on Ubuntu 18.04.4, file search in Nautilus becomes even more bizarre: do?ker and *do?ker don't find any of 3 Docker titles, but they find files like docker test.txt.

In conclusion, there is a bug in Gnome Files 3.26.4, which was fixed in the later versions.

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