Proposal: Remove Archive Manager from default install

GNOME 41 dropped Archive Manager (file-roller) from GNOME Core, their list of recommended components. This is because the default file manager (nautilus) has built-in support for creating and extracting common compressed files (.zip, tarballs, etc.).

Therefore, I propose that we drop Archive Manager from the default Ubuntu Desktop install. It will still be available for install.

If you want to try this out, you will need to use Ubuntu 23.04 “Lunar Lobster” (still in development). Yesterday, the Desktop Icons NG GNOME Shell extension was updated to drop the hard dependency on Archive Manager (Thanks Sergio & Marco for working on this!). The extension is an essential part of Ubuntu Desktop, so removing Archive Manager from older Ubuntu versions means you’re no longer running the supported Ubuntu Desktop. Sorry.

In my testing, I did notice that the built-in decompression used by nautilus and recent Desktop Icons NG doesn’t support as many file types. One example is .deb but most people just want to install deb files, not extract them to look at individual files. As a developer, I’ll probably install file-roller on my computer to be able to handle those extra formats.

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I am totally against this proposal

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And you have totally no arguments why you are against?

Just a note: Desktop Icons still supports file-roller, so simply installing it from the repositories returns all the functionality. It is even detected “on the fly”, so you don’t even need to logout or reboot. The same if you uninstall it: Desktop Icons will detect it “on the fly” and will change to libarchive, like Nautilus.

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I would agree with keeping it as pre-installed by default and if you really must try it, how about in a separate custom or non-mainstream version for 23.10/24.04?

And then see how people like the move before this kind of proposal

I use file-roller occasionally to browse archives to selectively extract files. While I don’t think its a bad idea to make file-roller optional, I do consider browsing archives to be a fairly basic function in this day and age, so if this goes ahead it may also be an idea to encourage GNOME contributors to include archive browsing features in Nautilus, if only for the reason that the likes of Windows and macOS have this feature build into their respective file managers. Ubuntu is probably the flavour of Linux that most people try first, and if something simple like double clicking a zip file doesn’t work, it may turn new users away.

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Does Nautilus support all formats supported by file-roller, or only some? If it doesn’t support all formats, I wouldn’t recommend removal, though changing it from a Depends to a Recommends might be a reasonable middle ground (provided by default, but allows removal without nuking the whole desktop.)

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There is gtk4 port by Paolo Bacchilega in the works that will add drag and drop to nautilus again. I find it sad that file-roller has to go when it becomes usable again. I see the point that file-roller was neglected for a long time but in the last year things got rolling again.

If I would change the default lineup, I would swap totem with the mpv driven celluloid. That would enhance the Ubuntu video playback usability immensely. In its basic state totem will disappoint a lot of new users.

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How about if a program needs it the system offers to download it providing it exists?

If a traditionally packaged (.deb) app needs file-roller, the app packaging should depend on file-roller.

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I think this conversation was inconclusive.

However, I believe there is enough support to drop the Archive Manager (file-roller) app from the minimal install now. It’s expected that there are a lot of useful but not essential apps missing from the minimal install, but people are welcome to install the apps they want.

I want to keep this topic open for the next release cycle.

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Well, thanks for my first 23.04 WTF moment after mere 5 minutes of using it.

Let’s just put it this way: if a GUI tool does not let you preview the archive before extracting it, then unless you go back in time 30 years, that feature should not be considered as complete.

You don’t say?

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Cannot preview/browse tar.xz files on Ubuntu 23.10 default install.
Feels like a step back, what is the best way to get this back?

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Install Archive Manager:

sudo apt install file-roller
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I disliked the idea initially. Retrospectively, I think this is a very good design step.

By double-clicking an archive, we may want to browse its content. But if we consider it, it may be simpler and faster to let the file manager uncompress the archive and send us directly to its unarchived content. Less clicking operations, less brain cluttering.

But we have a lot of habits. We use computer user interfaces since decades, and successful archives managers GUIs gave us the habit of browsing their content before actually unarchiving. It may be a security concern. But in 2024, such manual scanning “security” measures are kind of worthless. It’s more likely we are not allowed to open archives at all, or only the ones that have been validated by our company. Or the archives would be scanned by email providers like Gmail.

Today, after years of being angry at Gnome for not managing drag and drop under Wayland, I decided to abandon, ask Nautilus to automatically extract the archives (as Gnome expect us to do it), and uninstall Archive Manager. Problem solved.

What did I learn ? Sometimes, it is worthless to ask for software changes: we should change our habits instead and reconsider our tools usage and try to adapt how they have been designed. Sure, there are some edge usability cases where preview could be useful, but globally, our machines evolved so much (disk space and computing capacities), that it may not be a huge issue to extract by default. It takes my 2021 laptop less than two second to extract a 2GB file, it’s almost instantaneous.

Such changes require a lot of end users education and documentation, and I think it has been a huge concern. People always tend to be conservative about their computer desktop, especially Linux users who want to control and customize everything. We tend to be in a hurry and want to get our job done. It took me years to understand such Gnome changes, but today I can say it seems to really improve the general ergonomic.

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I was surprised by this behavior in 24.04. I think this was a very bad idea and I recommend reverting the decision. Auto-extract should be an opt-in behavior. Zipfiles can be very big, and often you don’t need everything in them, you just want to peek at 1 or 2 files. There is a security risk because double clicking the zipfile can now trigger a zipbomb without any warning. The current behavior wastes writes on SSDs.

This is useful when you receive a zipfile from someone and immediately want the contents. But this is not optimal when you are using an archive — as an archive, where you only select small bits of the data you need at a time.

If there is a lot of support for this new default behavior, I think a compromise is to make this very obviously configurable. In my fresh install file-roller was not installed. I had to apt-get it. It should be installed by default, and the context menu for archive files – in addition to their new auto-extract special handling – could have special preference handling to expose this opt-in/out option to the user in a more intuitive way. I still think it should be opt-in if you’re the kind of user that wants it.

I am not the kind of user that wants this, and I don’t think its because I’m being conservative or afraid of “a better way”. I don’t want to blindly unarchive files in a file browser. I’m browsing files - not invoking heavyweight processing - even if that is usually fast with modern hardware.

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file-roller is installed if you choose the “extended selection” option. If you don’t choose that, you get the default selection which is described as “just the essentials, web browser and basic utilities”.

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This is a huge downgrade.

For like give or take 10 years+ every major desktop file explorer supports browsing into archives and extracting files e.g. via drag&drop, natively.

Now with Ubuntu 24.04 this capability is dropped entirely for no apparent reason. And even if you manage to find this discussion here, reinstall file-roller, manually revert the default behavior for each archive type, you still end up with something that can’t drag&drop files out of a zip file in 2024. Sorry but I absolutely hate this.

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I completely agree. I found myself trying to open archives by muscle memory only to have the entire thing extracted when and where I didn’t want it. I find this to be bizarre behavior and if nothing else I don’t need unnecessary writes to my SSD. GNOME has become a desktop that I just don’t care for. Ubuntu itself is solid, and if I am going to use GNOME it’s here because Ubuntu’s tweaks make it more usable here than other distros which provide the stock version. But when this behavior is shipped by default and even when the archive manager is installed it still can’t even drag-and-drop in Wayland… It’s plain-out regression to me. I’m honestly hoping that COSMIC gains enough traction to one day be considered to replace GNOME here. It at least does not seem to want to make me feel like the odd one for preferring what feels like common-sense functionality.

Also if file-roller is installed by right-click on a .zip file in the drop-down menu i don’t see the option ‘Open with archive manager’ as i had in Ubuntu 22.04 as 1st option. So I must select ‘Open with’ and search for an app … and if I don’t know file-roller==archive-manager I’m lost.
… so I opened a bug: Bug #2065847 “Right click on a zip file does not offer 'open wit...” : Bugs : nautilus package : Ubuntu

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