No matter how high the level of coherence between Gnome components may be, and no matter how high in quality and advanced in technology the basic tools and utilities of our favorite desktop environment may be, there is (should be) always room for giving new things a try.
Having a complete and somewhat “catholic” design plan is great for Gnome, as it achieves to have all parts of the system collaborate efficiently and seamlessly and that is the very reason why a file manager like PCManFM is called not only to be good as a file manager, but also a seemingly intrinsic part of Gnome.
PCManFM is the standard file manager for the LXDE aiming to be ultra-fast, light in resources, easy to use following a classic usability approach and powerful in every aspect. Its clean and user friendly interface that uses the GTK+ 2 toolkit makes it an almost perfect case of a simplistic Nautilus killer.
First thing you notice in PCMan is that all buttons that concern frequent actions and the various menus are all there to use right away. You can open a new tab, view hidden files/folders, open current folder in terminal and access bookmarks without having to learn the corresponding hot-keys or installing an extra package (nautilus-open-terminal) to do it.
An applications menu is also available by default on the left quick access places menu that can be enriched by drag n dropping the location of your choice. So, everything feels in place and familiar and the file manager is really going faster than anything else I’ve tried (including the amazing Rodent).
Getting deeper into everyday usability you will find that PCMan lacks nothing regarding tabs and their manageability, drag n drop abilities from within and to other tabs, thumbnails for pictures, full gvfs support with seamless access to remote filesystems and file – external application association support.
Complete navigation and some functioning through the keyboard is also possible for those of you who are the pianist kind of guys…
Although PCMan covers almost every little usability detail, it won’t be long before you will reminisce Nautilus searching system abilities. LXDE’s default file manager offers a search system that Gnome users will feel somewhat “dusty”. It also has very limited metadata search abilities, and no save function for your searches.
Technically, Nautilus and PCMan are very close in what they can and can’t do. In reality they feel very different and that is because of how they are handled by the user finally. I can work with both similarly easy and untroubled, but my mind goes on a different mode when going from the one to the other, and the same goes for the use experience I get too.
PCMan is a classic and capable file manager that will work for all daily situations and will do so in the most simple and familiar way. Nautilus on the other hand is the file manager that seeped us with more advanced tech-supported habits, uses GTK+ 3 and is the official file manager of Gnome with all the work in the contiguity sector that comes with it. The choice is yours as always, but choosing presupposes trying and PCMan definitely deserves a try. Even if you still prefer Nautilus over PCMan, it may help you highlight more clearly why Nautilus works the way it works inside Gnome.