Nautilus is, in my opinion (and with Ubuntu’s patch that replaces the traditional menu), rather good. A lot of controversy occurred around it when GNOME 3 was released and it was updated to be a lot simpler, removing many features; however, I think it works rather well.
As with any other file manager you have to double-click on something to open it and right-click for various other options such as making shortcuts or opening a file with a different program. You have a simple sidebar which, rather than displaying a full folder tree which is pointless since you are navigating one anyway, simply has some frequently used locations such as Documents, Home and Pictures. You can also open different tabs to navigate in – something that you can’t do in the Windows file manager – and you don’t get ridiculous numbers of windows opened by basic navigation.
The UI is also very pleasant: Folders are highlighted when you hover over them (which is better than some apps like PCManFM). You also have a Chrome-style, simple context menu (which is generally easier to use than normal, ambiguous, File, Edit…Help menus (although Unity’s HUD solves this differently by making the menus searchable and the Menu Bar saves far more screen space than the context menu although it is more hidden)). Additionally, the folder that you are in is displayed at the top of the app as well as folders above it in the hierarchy – so you can jump back quickly.
However it does lack some basic features which would make it easier to use although I can understand why they have left them out. Firstly you can’t open a folder in Terminal from the application – this function probably doesn’t exist to make menus simpler for the many people who don’t need a Terminal (also those sorts of people should be using the Terminal to navigate the file system in the first place). Also, you can’t have two side-by-side ‘panes’ open at once (unlike apps like Nemo). Again, I think this is good because it is an unnecessary option when you can just snap the windows anyway and GNOME (and Unity) which the app is designed for can snap applications fine.
Usability: 8/10 (Power-users won’t find much to like (but they should be using something designed to be more advanced like KDE’s Dolphin or the Terminal anyway) but for everyone else an absolute pleasure to use)
Aesthetics: 10/10 (Looks pristine in all GTK desktop environments but especially GNOME and Unity. Thumbnails are a perfect size by default as well)
Performance: 7/10 (Not its strong point. Plenty fast enough for normal use but nowhere near as fast as other file managers so doesn’t score well here. Xfce’s Thunar and LXDE’s PCManFM are designed to be fast (and Nemo and MATE’s fork of Nautilus are also pretty quick))
Overall: 8/10 (Has its flaws but, on the whole, a pleasure to use)
Written by Adam.