Until today, I've avoided using the file Notes feature in Nautilus (Properties), because of portability problems. ...but they are just so tantalizingly handy! ...Adding notes to a like-named text file works, but requires more juggling that the Notes feature.

So I've decided to give the Notes a try; now that I'm (almost) exclusively using Ubuntu ...(I'm past the point of no return ;)

So a couple (or three) questions have come up.

  • Is this Notes feature exclusive to Nautilus?
  • Is there a Terminal CLI for Notes ...like the CLI for trash?
  • Is there a tool which can batch extract/convert the Notes into individual similarly named text files (or something similar) for "portability"?

2 Answers 2


I am not sure about your first and third question but it appears that it is exclusive (by that I mean that nautilus' metadata is not portable) to Nautilus and I couldn't find any tools for extracting Nautilus file annotations, but here are a few examples of how to access file annotations from the command line,

Set the notes for a file:

hello@world:~$ gvfs-set-attribute -t string Hello.txt metadata::annotation "This is a note."

Read the notes for a file:

hello@world:~$ gvfs-info -a metadata::annotation Hello.txt  
  metadata::annotation: This is a note.
  • Thanks DoR... That's looking good... It means that the portability issue is solved simply enough (that was my biggest concern)... I don't know bash or python well enough yet, but I can see that it would be a relatively "trivial" script to walk the filesystem to dump them all (should the need arise)... For now, I can practice a bit of bash and cobble up a simple script with xsel::PRIMARY for the filename, and xsel::CLIPBOARD for the Note text (or something like that)... and give it a hotkey via xbindkeys... come to think of it: that may be easier in some cases than Properties page :)
    – Peter.O
    Commented Nov 24, 2010 at 7:02
  • How is the portability problem solved? Moving or copying the file elsewhere does not move/copy the note (unless I'm doing something wrong). The note attached with gvfs above does not appear in the Notes Properties in Nautilus and vice versa. The note is not stored in the file so is therefore not transferred when the file is transferred. I found the gvfs commands described above to be erratic. Sometimes the note was returned using the second command, but other times it returned an empty note.
    – SabreWolfy
    Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 17:00
  • 1
    Useful also because in Gnome 3 - Nautilus 3 there is no more the "Notes" functionality so after update you cannot se the notes you applied... but gvfs-info still extract theme!
    – Stefano
    Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 10:55

Nautilus changed a while ago (2009?) from its own system to GVFS for storing data. All the notes are stored in a hidden GVFS database in your home-directory where at least theoretically other programs now can access it. However, the database is quite unreadable for anyone not a developer or involved with GVFS. :(

As DoR showed, you can use the gvfs-tools to read and write notes. The notes are actually written into the database, and whenever you open a folder with Nautilus, it checks the database for notes. Copying files to a different computer, different user, or a backup will not preserve the notes. If, for example, you copy a file to a memory stick the notes won't get copied. Instead Nautilus will make a new note for that copy in the database on your computer. Once you plug it back in, Nautilus finds that note. But if you go to a different computer or want to do a backup, it of course doesn't work. Pretty brain dead.

To work around this, one would have to copy the relevant parts of the database. Unfortunately, I haven't found a way yet of reading the database directly. A work-around is to have a script go through all the files you want to backup and copy the notes into separate files.

Some information/work-arounds:

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