ROX-Filer: A Lightweight File Manager that Simply Rocks

[ Sunday, 7 October 2007, P2O2 ]

ROX is one of the genuinely interesting file managers available for the major platforms – GNU/Linux, Unix, Mac OS X, and Windows (under Cygwin). As can be inferred from the manager’s website, ROX-Filer is a project aimed to move the best features of RISC OS onto Linux and Unix platforms. Its small footprint and configurability are its unquestionable hallmarks.

Author: p_lupkowski

Rox can be characterized by other useful features too:

  • Rox window configurability.
  • Filtering and sorting both files and directories.
  • Advanced Filter options.
  • File option (translated to Polish more appropriately – Next click).
  • Convenient access to console.
  • Rox window’s size tailored to the number of displayed objects.
  • Rox Desktop and Rox Panel management.

You shouldn’t have difficulties with the Rox installation. Nearly all Linux repositories provide its binaries. A source package ready for compilation can be found too – ROX-All.

Let’s go on a short tour of the nooks of the ROX-Filer manager.

ROX-FILER as a File Manager

Running It

Opening the manager is as simple as typing rox in a terminal. Rox will then open the Home folder showing the contents of the user’s home directory. The rox command can also be issued with options pointing to other directories: rox /dir1 /dir2 /dir3 (for example: rox /home /etc). Directories 1 to 3 will be opened in separate windows. See the Picture 1 showing Rox after the first invocation.

Rox - the first run
Picture 1. Rox – the first run


The Rox toolbar is placed at the top of its main window. I’d like to point out several important menu options:

  1. Bookmarks – adds and deletes bookmarks

    Toolbar - Bookmarks
    Picture 2. Toolbar – Bookmarks

  2. List – switches directory tree viewing modes, e.g. for detailed ones (with permissions, user ID, etc)

    Toolbar - List
    Picture 3. Toolbar – List

  3. A..Z – changes sorting modes.

    Toolbar - A..Z
    Picture 4. Toolbar – A..Z (sorting options)

    Rox offers here many detailed options also available through pop-up menus opened by clicking the right mouse button within the Rox window. Please select the Display tab. You’ll find there the following sorting options:

    • name,
    • type,
    • date,
    • size,
    • user,
    • group.
  4. Eye – shows hidden files (Ctrl+H).

    Toolbar - Eye (toggles hidden files)
    Picture 5. Toolbar – Eye (toggles hidden files)

The Display Menu

More display options are available through the right mouse button, just as I mentioned before. Display options define view modes. The program offers “classic” options in that matter:

  • Icons View,
  • Icons, With… – Icons with additional textual information (like size, permissions, etc),
  • List View.

A user is allowed to change the size of Rox icons too. It can also be done with the help of two keys: “=” for increasing and “-” for decreasing dimensions.

Display settings may be saved after clicking the Save Current Display Settings button placed at the bottom of the Display tab.

The Display option contains a very useful item – Filter files…. It limits the scope of displayed objects to preset conditions. After selecting the option, a new dialog window will appear with a star in its entry field (Picture 6).

File filtering
Picture 6. File filtering

The star sign replaces any string of characters. If you want to see only files starting with the letter k, the entry field should contain the following characters: k*. The same rule adheres to similar conditions. For example, if we would like to select files or directories with names ending in et*et, or with names containing z in their names – *z*. After pressing Enter, Rox will display only those objects which fulfilled our conditions. Original conditions can be brought back by keying in the same star character and pressing Enter.

Other Menu Options

The pop-up window described above is comprised of several other useful options, not only from the Display menu. You’ll find there the Select tab which controls what items should be selected, e.g. according to their names, or their types. A handy Reverse selection option is also available.

The New tab will help make new files or directories.

The consecutive Window tab contains options for creation new windows (showing any directory contents). There’s also an XTerm here option (you may use “`” key as well) which will open a terminal window with the current directory. You could switch to the terminal window while closing the Rox-Filer window at the same time (Switch to xterm), but opening a new terminal isn’t necessary. You are free to use the Shell Command option (or Shift+1) which will open a command line entry field at the bottom of the Rox window (Picture 7).

Shell Command
Picture 7. Shell Command

You should pay special attention to the File tab. It allows operations to be performed on the selected objects. Let’s name only a few of them:

  • Copy…
  • Link…
  • Rename…
  • Delete

After choosing any option the mouse cursor changes shape into a cross. Clicking a file or a directory will do the action selected earlier in the menu. Be careful, as Rox copies and makes symlinks in a different way than Nautilus or Thunar, for example. It pops up an additional dialog window to type in a target path for the copy or the symlink commands (Picture 8).

Copying files
Picture 8. Copying files


Rox configurability is easily provided by the contents of the Options… menu (Picture 10).

Rox Options Window
Picture 10. Rox – Options… Window

Among many options you’ll find in the Options… window is the Translation tab for setting languages (the Polish translation is not finished, some menu options and captions are left in English). There’s also the Display tab with advanced options pertaining to the types of views (detailed list, icons, etc).

Rox Toolbar is also configurable. Find the Tools/Minibuffer tab in the Options… window and then select what buttons you’d like to see in the toolbar. Simply point your cursor at the preffered icon in the icon row within the tab and click it. Your selected icon will show on the toolbar immediately. Removing any icon from the toolbar can be done exactly in the same way (Picture 10).

Options... - toolbar
Picture 10. Options… – toolbar

Xterm is the default terminal in Rox. To change the option, go to the Menu tab where the Terminal emulation program option can be found (Picture 11).

Options... - Terminal emulation program
Picture 11. Options… – Terminal emulation program

Icon styles also can be changed by a user. You can do it from the Types tab. The default style used by Rox isn’t too eye-catching (see Picture 1).

Options... - Types
Picture 12. Options… – Types

It’s worth mentioning here that Rox is distributed without file extension bindings (apart from Nano editor for *.txt files). So if you click a file to open for the first time after Rox was installed, you’ll be greeted with the following message:

Prompt message: Set Run Action for the file
Picture 13. “Set Run Action for the file”

It can – but mustn’t – be disheartening for the users accustomed to such file managers as Nautilus or Thunar. You won’t find an application list clicking the right mouse button either. Thanks to that “discriminatory” approach, all action definitions are left to the user and his likes.

To set the default action for a given type of files, one has to place the mouse cursor on a file object, click the right button and choose the Select action option (or mark the file and press Shift+8 keys). A dialog window will appear allowing you to set the default application/action (Picture 14).

Define default action
Picture 14. Define default action

Any application may be added using the two methods:

  • typing an appropriate command in the command line, e.g. /usr/bin/gimp "$@" (the which application command could be of much help to you as it returns the full path to the “application” given as a parameter), or
  • dragging an icon of the application from /usr/bin/ directory to the window area called Drop application here.

Choosing default application - Abiword for *.doc files
Picture 15. Choosing default application – Abiword for *.doc files

You can define a whole list of the applications used for opening a given file, and which will appear in the file’s menu. To do this, click the file with the right mouse button and choose Adjust menu. Then drag all the icons of the applications you want to have at hand for this type of file onto the drop area of the configuration window (Picture 16).

File Menu's configuration window - applications
Picture 16. File Menu’s configuration window – applications

Useful Keyboard Shortcuts

Knowing keyboard shortcuts makes working with Rox more comfy.


Command Shortcut
Smaller Icons -
Bigger Icons =
Hidden Files Ctrl+H


Command Shortcut
Copy… Ctrl+C
Delete Ctrl+X
Set Run Action Shift+8
Select All Ctrl+A
Select by Name… .
Select If… Shift+?
File (create a blank file) Ctrl+N


Command Shortcut
Go to /
Home Directory Ctrl+Home
Show Bookmarks Ctrl+B
Close Windows Ctrl+Q


Command Shortcut
Xterm Here `
Shell Command Shift+!

Desktop Management

One of the more interesting functions of the Rox file manager is its ability to manage Rox’s desktop and panel. To activate this option, Rox has to be run using the following command: rox --pinboard=PIN. As a result, you’ll be faced with a gray background as a desktop and a Home directory object placed on it (Picture 17). To add more objects here (their iconic representations), you must drag’n'drop them from the Desktop Manager window.

Rox default Desktop (without any wallpaper)

Picture 17. Rox default Desktop (without any wallpaper)

Adding your own background picture is easy. It suffices to click the Desktop with the right mouse button and choose from the context menu the Background option. A new configuration window will show. Drag’n'drop a picture of your choice to the window. You’ll also find there standard commands for adjusting the wallpaper position: centered, scaled, extended, adjacent (Picture 18).

Wallpaper settings
Picture 18. Wallpaper settings

The icon placed on the desktop in the picture below at the right side represents a running but minimized program (Xmms):

Desktop with minimized programs
Picture 19. Desktop with minimized programs

Of course, users may change the positions of the icons. The options to do that are placed in the Minimized Windows tab in the Options… menu (Picture 20). You may also change the margins of the icons to keep them off the Rox panels.

Desktop - setting objects of Minimized Program
Picture 20. Desktop – setting objects of Minimized Program

As I said before, Rox enjoys its own panel (Picture 21). It can be started with one of the following commands, depending on the place you’d like to put it on the Desktop:

rox --top=PANEL top of the Desktop
rox --left=PANEL left side of the Desktop
rox --right=PANEL right side of the Desktop
rox --bottom=PANEL bottom of the Desktop

Rox's own Panel
Picture 21. Rox’s own Panel (at the bottom)

As we have extolled Rox’s configurability from the beginning, it comes as no wonder that the Rox panel’s position can be changed at will when it’s running. Click the panel with the right mouse button and choose from its context menu (Panel Settings) another location.

Adding a new object to a panel is also simple. It suffices to drag the object’s icon from the main window to the panel. The object can be a directory, a file, or a program activator. Every panel item has its own context menu with the Item Modification option. Choosing the first option will open a settings dialog window (Picture 22) which will enable us to configure a few options – an action after clicking the item’s icon, the item’s caption and the item’s keyboard shortcut, among others.

Window Setting for panel items
Picture 22. Window Setting for panel items

I hope this short description of the Rox file manager will encourage you to check it out by yourselves and ease the first steps with the manager.


Other file managers and their short descriptions:

Translated by P2O2, Proof-read by Jake Conroy

About the Author

Przemysław Pawełczyk

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