The Linux File Manager

The file manager is a graphical application on Linux which provides a consistent way of accessing files and programs. It can show you the files within folders, and display or process the contents of files by launching applications. You can use it to create folders and files, and to search and manage them.

The file manager can be used to navigate file systems and devices on your computer, including reading and creating DVDs and CDs, external discs and USB memory sticks, and to access files on remote computers.

On Linux Mint 13 Mate, the version of Linux used in the School's teaching laboratory, the file manager is an application called caja. (Caja is very similar to nautilus, the GNOME 2 file manager found on some other versions of Linux.)

See Introductory Note 302 for a general introduction to the Linux Mint 13 Mate Graphical User Interface.

The file manager displays files and folders (directories) as icons or lists. If you double-click the left mouse button on a file, it opens to show its contents (either within the file manager or by invoking an external application).

Starting the File Manager

You can start the file manager by opening it on one of the locations in the Places pane within the Main Menu.

Click the left mouse button on Menu in the Bottom Edge Panel to expand it and choose a location, for example Home Folder from the Places pane.

You can also start it by double-clicking the left mouse button on the icons on the desktop.

In the file manager window, files and folders within the current folder are shown in the right pane, represented by icons.

Double-clicking on a folder icon makes file manager open the chosen directory in the pane.

If you double-click on a file icon, the file manager will start an application to display, process, edit or execute the file.

The Computer option in the Places menu and the Computer icon on the desktop also start the file manager. This instance of the file manager shows the whole file system - the top of the Linux file hierarchy, and gives you access to the machine's DVD drive.

Browsing Folders

In the file manager window of your home folder, you can see the files and sub-folders in your personal home file space.

Browse into a sub-folder, for example Documents, by double-clicking the left mouse button on the sub-folder's icon.

The file manager will show you the contents of the chosen folder in a the right-hand pane.

In this example, you can see a file that is on your Documents folder.

There are several ways to return the file manager to your home folder. You can click any of the Back or Up arrows in the menu bar at the top of the window, or onthe home folder name in the places menu in the left pane (the folder's name is the same as your user name - testa in this case), or the home folder name in the location button bar above the right pane.

Typing the keyboard backspace key has the same effect as clicking on the Up arrow.

Viewing Files

If you right click on the icon of a file, you can choose an application to open the file, to display it, edit it, process it or run it, if appropriate.

Move the mouse over Open With to see suggested applications or access other applications.

If you double-click the left mouse button on an icon in the file manager, a default action is run. The right-click menu shows you what this is, for example, here it's Open with Document Viewer.


The Wastebasket is an instance of the file manager used to delete files.

To delete files, select Move to Wastebasket from the right-click menu.

You can add the Wastebasket to the desktop background. Start the Desktop Settings application from the Main Menu, Preferences category.

Select Rubbish Bin in the list to add the Wastebasket to the desktop.

Now you can drag files from the file manager to the Wastebasket.

If there are files in the wastebasket, its icon changes to indicate that there's something in it.

If you double-click the left mouse button on the wastebasket icon, it will open as a file manager window.

Click the left mouse button on Empty Wastebasket to remove the files permanently.

A warning dialogue comes up before the files are deleted.

If you're sure you want to delete the files, click on Empty Wastebasket in the dialogue window.

You can delete an individual file, or group of files, in the wastebasket by clicking the right mouse button to get a menu of options.

As well as Delete Permanently, one of the options is Restore which will return the file to its original location.


The Computer window has icons which you can use to access removable media such as USB sticks, data CD or DVDs.

A USB stick, CD or DVD should mount automatically when it is inserted into the drive. The icons in Computer will change to show mounted CD/DVD and USB volumes.

An entry for each volume also appears in the places pane with an eject button.

An icon corresponding to each device will appear on the desktop.

If a window hasn't opened automatically, double-click on either the desktop icon or the one in Computer to see the contents of the CD/DVD or USB drive.

To un-mount and eject a CD/DVD or USB drive, choose Eject from the menu obtained by right clicking on either icon.

Burning CDs/DVDs

If you insert a blank writable CD or DVD, the icon on the desktop will show you this.

A panel pops up to ask you if you want to run an application to write to the disk.

Click OK to start the CD/DVD writing application.

The CD/DVD writer is brasero. You can drag files and directories from other windows into the creator window and then Burn the files to the disk by clicking on the button.

You can re-open the CD/DVD writer, brasero, using the menu that appears when you right-click on the blank CD/DVD icon.

Choose Open With CD/DVD Creator to start brasero.

Navigating to a specific location

You can open a file manager window on a specific location or folder by choosing Location from the Go pull-down menu.

Type the folder path in the Location field in the bar above the left pane.

Accessing files on remote servers

Choose Connect to Server... from the File pull-down menu in a file manager window to create a connection to a remote file server.

In the Connect to Server window, click on the selection field next to Service type to specify the server protocol.

For example, you can select SSH to connect to server driveh in the School. SSH is another name for the SFTP protocol.

The SSH protocol is useful on the Computer Science & Informatics network. You can use it to connect to other file servers where you have file space: your Linux personal file space your University Windows H: drive your Macintosh home directory your Users and Project web site file space file space for School administration.

See Introductory Note 832.

© Robert Evans, Cardiff School of Computer Science & Informatics, Cardiff University, 2012-08-18