Linux Software Puts New Face on File Management

Forthcoming graphical file manager reveals attributes in a wave of color.

SAN FRANCISCO—A small developer hopes to get managers of Linux servers to break their command line habit. At this weeks LinuxWorld show, Tactile Interactive offered a look at the latest beta of Interrogator, its powerful, graphical file manager for Linux and Solaris platforms.

Now in Version 0.8, Interrogator provides navigation around the system as well as various views into files, directories and volumes. Instead of revealing the content in the file through some graphical image or icon, Interrogator icons modify the color, size and outlines of icons and text to attributes such as permissions, date and sizes. Folder icons holding many files will grow bigger than ones with fewer items inside.

In a date view, for example, the inside color of an icon shows the last access and its border color represents the last write time; the overall color of its text shows the chmod information. This view lets managers quickly identify related files or even suspicious activity in an area where it shouldnt be. An Inspector window provides the key to many parameters in each mode.

"The command line was created 30 years ago for a 300-baud user interface," said Tactile founder and programmer Allan Bonadio. "Now we have one million color pixels staring at us—perhaps its time to start using them?"

In a different view of a directory, users can see the permissions assigned to the various files. A key combination can invoke a "full disclosure" window, which provides the result from a number of Unix commands, including the aggregate of permissions as well as depletion statistics.

According to Bonadio, Interrogator offers speedier performance than other popular graphical shells such as Nautilus, as well as practical features, letting power users avoid the command line. "Interrogator is designed for people who deal with thousands of files at a time. Some other file managers can show stuff thats cool on a per-file basis. But power users dont want to have to read [files] one at a time."

Other commands let managers type characters into a field and dynamically select files that correspond to the string.

A beta version is available for download. Bonadio said the product will be finished by the end of the year and will cost $49.95.