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I use stock Ubuntu 20.04.2 with the Gnome 3.36.8 desktop (according to gnome-control-center's About tab).

Nautilus version: 3.36.3

Dismay:

I have a hard time organizing my photos in Nautilus, because the largest possible image thumbnail setting results in thumbnails displayed at an effective 164px width. (All the while the actual thumbnail .png files, in ~/.cache/thumbnails/large/, are still being saved with the more sensible, earlier default 256px width. Yet someone decided that at display time, they need to be shrinked to 164px.)

I have found questions about enlarging Nautilus thumbnails:

My use-case:

  • Right now I'm not ready to switch desktops / to reinstall.
    • I have already invested 3 months of my life into making my Gnome desktop usable, at a very critical part of my life where I desperately should be focusing on other (real-life) challenges already.
  • I have only 19GB left on my / partition, I would be happy if I would not need to fill it up to the brim.

While I use Gthumb, I find it less than optimal for file-manager-related tasks (moving files about); at the same time I don't want to use Shotwell, because it's very inflexible (thanks to its "import" procedure).

The recommended alternative file managers all seem to pull in their entire corresponding desktops:

  • Caja: MATE desktop
  • Nemo: Cinnamon desktop
  • Thunar: XFCE desktop

This seems to be a huge overhead and therefore an inefficient solution.

Question:

Is there an efficient way for me to enjoy 256px wide thumbnails in a decent file manager with a decent image viewer app integration?

(If you are going to suggest building Nautilus from source, I will need an ELI5 walkaround of that, because I have never in my life built anything from source.)

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You can install nemo and thunar without their recommended packages. This won't pull Cinnamon desktop or the XFCE desktop.

sudo apt --no-install-recommends install nemo

Similarly for thunar

sudo apt --no-install-recommends install thunar

caja seems to install mate-desktop even with --no-install-recommends.

Nautilus used to have many more features back in 2010 (when GNOME 2 was still around), after which they began to remove useful features in the name of simplicity.

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  • I used apt install's -s (simulate) argument to investigate. In case of nemo, --no-install-recommends leaves away the following packages: cinnamon-l10n gist hddtemp hwdata inxi nemo-fileroller tree What still gets installed however is: cinnamon-desktop-data libcinnamon-desktop4 libgail-3-0 libnemo-extension1 libxapp1 nemo-data xapps-common
    – Levente
    Apr 17 at 16:38
  • In case of thunar, --no-install-recommends leaves away: libtumbler-1-0 libxfce4panel-2.0-4 libxfce4util-bin thunar-volman tumbler tumbler-common (ironically, the thumbnailer!), but still installs: exo-utils libexo-2-0 libexo-common libexo-helpers libthunarx-3-0 libxfce4ui-2-0 libxfce4ui-common libxfce4util-common libxfce4util7 libxfconf-0-3 thunar-data xfconf
    – Levente
    Apr 17 at 16:44
  • @Levente cinnamon-desktop-data or libcinnamon-desktop4 are not the full cinnamon-desktop. sudo apt --no-install-recommends install nemo is only a 1.7 MB download in my Kubuntu. The download size for thunar is also 1.7 MB, which means it won't bloat the GNOME desktop. Apr 17 at 16:44
  • Seeing that in case of nemo, the install with recommended elements would be only 30MB, while with --no-install-recommends it would be 7MB, I went with installing with the recommended stuff. Can it bite me in the future? Do you think it could download the full Cinnamon desktop retroactively one day?
    – Levente
    Apr 17 at 16:58
  • @Levente Most software in the repository receive only security updates (and minor updates), I doubt that a file manager would receive a huge enough update that would change its dependency structure. I don't have a Ubuntu VM right now. It would be interesting to know whether installing the recommended packages does install the full cinnamon DE. Apr 17 at 17:17
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Thanks to @ArchismanPanigrahi's answer in which he revealed that those desktop-looking packages are not actually representing and not installing the entire desktops, I felt emboldened to install both Nemo and Thunar, together with their recommended packages.

sudo apt install nemo needed only ~30MB disk space, and

sudo apt install thunar needed only ~12MB disk space.

After a full reboot, on the purple GDM login screen, in the small cogwheel icon, no additional Cinnamon deskop or XFCE desktop option had shown up. (It still lists only gnome-classic, Ubuntu, and Ubuntu on Wayland)

Of course, I started to use both file managers with 256px thumbnails.


Nemo

Good stuff about Nemo:

  • "everything" can be configured, and more (there is heaps of stuff in gsettings)
  • works in a sensible way, remembers which specific directories were viewed in list and which ones in thumbnail view modes and applies that view mode automatically; same goes for sorting
    • subdirectories can inherit their viewmode from their parents (excellent feature, makes things easy)

Less good stuff about Nemo:

  • has a bit of un-handsome looks, especially in list view
    • it uses monochrome Adwaita icons in the sidebar
  • tends to develop a very bad UI lag after some time (with i915 integrated graphics)
    • it seems to set itself up for difficulties when it tries to retrieve directory file counts anew upon every step of navigation
    • the UI lag can go so far as impacting the entire gnome-shell, pretty badly
    • as far as I can tell, the UI lag can be mitigated to some decent extent by disabling the file-count displays under directories

Thunar

Good stuff about Thunar:

  • even though the visual elements seem pretty similar, it has a more harmonic appearance than Nemo
    • it uses color icons in the sidebar
  • through lack of decorations, it offers a very good overview of thumbnails
  • remains snappy, no UI lags

Less good stuff about Thunar:

  • the preferences dialog contains only a handful of settings, and there is nothing in gsettings
  • the set view mode (list vs thumbnails) and sorting order applies to every directory visited thereafter; unlike Nemo, it does not try to restore the last used settings for specific directories
  • it has a strange bug where some apparently random subset of the thumbnails (mixed in the same directory) shows up smaller than the rest (impacts .jpg's and .pdf's)
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