Extended Attributes (xattrs) on Nautilus

I think xattrs (extended attributes) are a powerful feature almost nobody uses because the UX is so bad.

I think it would be great for Nautilus to offer good out-of-the-box support for xattrs.

These features would, in my opinion, offer a good xattrs UX:

  • A panel for xattrs on file properties.
  • The option for show arbitrary xattrs as columns on list view.
  • (May be) A macOS like color tag system.

Hello, thanks for starting this discussion!

Indeed, the “user.*” class of extended attributes doesn’t have a success story to tell for almost two decades.

There is an extension that adds some of the features you list: https://github.com/rofirrim/eiciel

However, the raw xattrs aren’t meant to be exposed in the UI directly like that. Instead, apps should process the xattrs they understand and use them to power UI features. Some ideas of what these features might be can be found here: https://www.freedesktop.org/wiki/CommonExtendedAttributes/

But in the end, without actual implementation, they are just that. Ideas.

What about having an advanced info panel that shows the raw xattrs as well as hashes, raw size in bytes and similar stuff?

That’s what the eiciel extension linked above does already. And not something that should be offered by default.

I didn’t get why it shouldn’t be included by default.

As I wrote before, that’s because raw xattrs aren’t meant to be exposed in the UI.

The attribute names and values are not necessarily decipherable by people. Taking one example from the freedesktop.org page I’ve previously linked: user.xdg.robots.index true. This is codified metadata, the user cannot make sense of it, and it’s not pleasing to see.

What about offering only a few common xattrs with nice labels?

For example: a textarea labeled comments (stored on user.comment) and a text input labeled Tags (stored on user.tags as CSV)

And what about simply having a preferences option that toggles advanced features?

That’s what I meant when I wrote “apps should process the xattrs they understand and use them to power UI features.”


You can just write/install extensions for the advanced features you need.

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