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After 18 Years, Gtk Native File Chooser Gets Thumbnail View

It’s finally here. You can now see the thumbnail in the native file chooser on the GNOME desktop.

It took almost two decades, and finally, the native Gtk file chooser dialog got the icon and thumbnail views. The necessary code was merged yesterday in Gtk main branch in GitLab.

The original issue (famous bug# 141154) was reported as UI improvements on April 26, 2004, which is almost 18 years back.

The file-chooser should be able to share the “icon view” feature used in
Nautilus, so that you can choose between list view and icon view (with thumbnails).
I believe the Windows file selector already does this.
Now how to do this I have no clue about, because I am not a developer. I guess
either Nautilus should allow other applications to share this function (which
could also be useful to file-roller e.g.), or it should be lifted out from
Nautilus, making it a gtk widget or something?

From the 2004 bug report

Since then, many debates, memes and arguments have happened on the lack of these simple features. There has been ongoing joke, memes, and fights over this thumbnail view in several forums over the years.

Today, the native gtk file chosen has only a list view. And for images, you have a preview window. But if you are a photographer or your workflow deals with thousands of images, it’s super handy to have a thumbnail view in a file chooser – which is productive and saves time.

The current file chooser
The current file chooser

Some argue that this feature was available in Windows 98 back in the day, but the popular GNOME desktop can’t have it natively.

The file chooser thumbnail view enabled by GTK4

Since the release of Gtk4 and improvements to the native file chooser to GtlColumnView, it somewhat becomes easy to expose the column view to enable thumbnail or icon view in the native file chooser dialog.

The entire lines of code enabling this feature is around ~400 and hopefully will be available in the next GNOME 44 release, due in 2023.

I could not get better screenshots since it’s yet to arrive in rawhide. However, here’s a screenshot from the gtk 4.9.2 branch.

New file chooser with thumbnail options
New file chooser with thumbnail options
new view in file chooser - grid
new view in file chooser – grid | Credit: Matthias Clasen
new view in file chooser - list
new view in file chooser – list | Credit: Matthias Clasen

Finally, you might want to check out Georges’s YouTube video showing the entire saga.


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