Explore the File System in Ubuntu by Using GUI

Before you start

Objectives: familiarize yourself with the default browsing utility in Ubuntu which is called Nautilus.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: file, folder, ubuntu, system, home, linux, default, desktop, nautilus, utility, browse

Graphical User Interface

As in Microsoft Windows, we can also explore the file system in Ubuntu by using GUI. The default desktop environment for Ubuntu is GNOME, a leading UNIX and Linux desktop suite or desktop environment. Desktop environment includes a window manager and a number of other utilities that bring all sorts of funcitons. When we turn on Ubuntu we well see the screen like the one shown on the picture below.


Ubutnu Desktop

If we want to browse for files on our computer, we will use the default file manager in Ubuntu, which is called Nautilus. To open the Nautilus file manager, we can click on the Home Folder icon.

 Home Folder

Home Folder Icon

Nsutilus is basically a file browser, very simillar to Explorer in the Windows world. When we click on the Home Folder, a new window will appear in which we can see the files on the file system.

 Home Folder

Home Folder

Home Folder contains items related to our user account. Here we can find our documents, music, pictures and videos. This is similar to My Documents folder in Windows. To browse the whole file system we can click on the File System item from the menu on the left.

 File System

File System (root folder)

Notice at the top that we are at the root directory now, which is indicated by the ‘/’. Here we can see all the files and folders which we talked about in article about Linux directory structure. We can access any folder if we have proper permissions in the similar way as in Windows operating systems. Remember that all files and folders in Linux are relative to the root folder. It doesn’t matter if we have multiple hard disks, we will always have only one directory structure.


To configure system wide settings we can go to the System Settings option from the menu on the left. Here you will find many options or applications grouped together.

 1a System Settings


Generally, GNOME takes the approach in which all different things are actually their own simple applications. Those applications then enable us to configure different things. For example, to check free space on your disk, go to the Dashboard and search for System Monitor application. Once you open it, you can go to the File Systems tab to see your disks.

 2a System Monitor

System Monitor


Nautilus is the default file browsing utility in Ubuntu that comes with GNOME, but we can use any other if we want to. For example, we can use KDE, in which case we could use the Konqueror browsing utility. Other utilities can have some additional features so it’s up to users to decide which utility best suits them.