Nautilus Split Pane Mode

Probably one of the most convenient features of the Nautilus file manager is its split-pane mode.

Tabs and new windows are supported, but this simple feature seems to impress people the most due to its usefulness. Surprisingly, few people know that a split-pane mode exists even though it’s available from the menu bar.

How is split-pane enabled? It’s easy!

Press F3

With Nautilus active, press F3 on the keyboard, and the current Nautilus window will split into two panes. Or, in the menu bar, choose View > Extra Pane. The new pane will be a duplicate of the current path. Both panes are independent, and you can set their paths to different locations.

How is this useful? The view modes for both panes can be set differently, so you could, for example, display a list of pictures or directories as thumbnails in one pane while displaying a detailed view showing file sizes, dates, permissions, and the number of items in another pane. The same idea works for browsing directories. You can drag files between the panes or browse images in two different paths for comparison. Any edits made in one pane automatically updated the other of the same path.

Selecting a pane causes it to receive focus for your actions. Pressing F3 again will make the inactive pane disappear. The active pane remains.

Both panes act as separate windows in one Nautilus window. True, it’s possible to accomplish the same thing with two Nautilus windows, but pressing F3 is extremely convenient for quick views.

Split-pane mode is a simple feature, yet I always see the eyes of new Linux users sparkle in delight when they see it for the first time. They immediately put it to use and use it consistently afterwards.


  1. #1 by Thomas Bollmeier on July 29, 2012 - 10:00 AM

    I totally agree. The split-pane mode is one of my favourite features in Nautilus. Unfortunately new GNOME users have to hurry up if they want their eyes sparkle with joy: the split-pane mode is going to be removed in the next version of Nautilus:

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