Integrating network storage through the file manager

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Sychronicity

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Web hosting providers usually give you FTP access when you need to upload data to their online storage. On Linux, a file manager is all you need to access network storage.

If you need to access a web server from Windows, you usually have to download additional applications off the web, such as the open source programs Filezilla [1] or WinSCP [2]. Both of these application support FTP/FTPS, and WinSCP also offers SSH/SCP.

On Linux, however, you do not have to look far for a network-capable file manager: The Thunar and Dolphin file managers, which are built into the major desktop environments, get on perfectly with all popular file servers on the Internet. Even the terminal offers a variety of tools that facilitate the synchronization of data between your computer and a server on the Internet.

Gnome and Files

What used to be called Epiphany, File Roller, or Nautilus in Gnome, are now simply called Web or Internet , Archive manager and Files .

The descriptive name would suggest that the programs are simpler to use, but there can be no doubt that the developers tend to overdo things at times. This is particularly true of the File Manager: Convenient features such as the two-pane mode, which used to be there, have disappeared from Files .

On a brighter note, Files continues to support integration via FTP, SSH, SFTP, WebDAV, and SMB using the Gnome Virtual File System (GVFS, for short).

GVFS integrates network shares transparently into the filesystem so that remote files look as if they are stored locally. This means you can create your blog directly on the web with Files or use Gedit to edit the files of the CMS you use, without first copying the files to your local PC.

In the App menu under Connect to Server… , Files also offers a connection manager. First, type the network address of the web server you are using as the URL in Server address (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Gnome Files (formerly Nautilus) comes with a simple network drive manager.

Files remembers the recently used servers in the lower, Recent Servers field. To shorten this process, just type Ctrl+L to enable the address bar in the file manager.

Once integrated, you can use the network drive and the files stored there like ordinary local directories. This means that you can edit the PHP or CSS files of your website with your favorite editor.

You can open photos and image files directly in Files with GIMP, without having to copy the data to your computer beforehand.

Slave Driver

Whereas Gnome uses GVFS, KDE SC relies on its I/O slaves or KIO slaves for short. KIO slaves implement an asynchronous virtual filesystem that gives applications access to remote network drives via various protocols. The KIO slaves use plugins to support FTP, FTPS, SSH, WebDAV, and SMB. Additionally, they rely on calls such as audiocd:/ (access to audio CDs), http:/ (complete web browser), man:/ (read manpages), or settings:/ (access the settings in the KDE control center).

You enter these command lines in the address bar, like in the Gnome file manager. To activate the address bar, choose View from the menu and then Address | Change Address menu (Figure 2) or press Ctrl+L. The syntax is the same.

Figure 2: Two panels and access to the network via KIO slaves transform Dolphin into a full-fledged FTP client.

In other words, you can use FTP, with the short or long URL form already introduced in the Gnome section. For SSH access, however, you need to type:

fish://<example>.com.

If you need to juggle with files and directories between different computers, a two-pane mode is available. Enable it in View | Split or by pressing F3.

For frequently used network drives, your best approach is to create a bookmark. To do so, you simply drag a folder from the server into the left sidebar of the file manager.

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