December 2022 update: this article refers to a historical bug with the GNOME file picker that is fixed in GTK 4.10. My toilets are still blocked however. They sent a camera down there and the guy spuriously claimed that it's caused by limescale and the toilets would need to be removed, which is a job not covered by them. Lol.

GNOME has no thumbnails in the file picker (and my toilets are blocked)

The file picker Windows 98.

A frame story

I have three toilets in my house. There are two upstairs; one in the bathroom and another in the ensuite shower room of the master bedroom. There is one downstairs; a toilet room by the front door. The two toilets upstairs do not work, they are blocked. This has been the case for over a year now. Just about everytime those toilets are used, they need to be plunged.

I have a genius workaround. I just use the downstairs toilet now. The downstairs toilet isn’t blocked, you see. What this allows me to do is be able to take doo-doo-craps and such into something that’s not a massive vase of sewage water. Sure, I need to go downstairs in the middle of the night, but it’s a no-brainer compromise. I do not use toilets that are disrespectful to me.

I’m having trouble explaining this workaround to my family. They are so used to using the two upstairs toilets that they can scarcely imagine altering their habits. I am the only person in the house who uses the downstairs toilet. I’m not mad at them or anything, I quite like having a toilet all to myself. But it’s curious. Such creatures of habit they are, that they’ve fatalistically resigned to always resorting to that nasty carrier bag that holds the plunger, a now longtime permanant fixture of the bathroom. They routinely plunge the toilet daily.

I live in the UK, a country where people spend far more time evading work than actually doing any. Can’t do is our work ethic.w I called Dyno-Rod drainage service to fix the toilet issue, but they said it’s a plumbing problem with the durgo valve. They referred me to sister service Dyno plumbing, who in turn said the other guy was talking nonsense—there is no durgo valve—and it’s a drainage problem. Twice in a row did these so-called professionals turn up to a problem just to stare at it before leaving.

The toilets remain blocked. I guess it’s much easier to accept mediocrity than to pursue adequacy.

GNOME has no thumbnails in the file picker

The file picker is the pop-up box thingy that appears when you’re opening a file, usually when uploading something online. The GNOME desktop environment uses the file picker package GtkFileChooser. This file picker does not have a thumbnail view. It is broken software. Thumbnails are not a cute little extra, they are essential. This is as bad as a file picker that doesn’t list the name of the files, only their creation date, or inode serial number. It is broken software.

No, individual file previews aren’t thumbnails.

If you use GNOME and this is a revelation to you, it’s because you’re used to mediocrity. If you think your experience all this time was normal, you’re completely mistaken—and it’s not least because you’re using a specific desktop environment that’s available only on Free operating systems that account for only a fraction of a percent of desktop computer usage anyways.

Have you ever tried to give a family member tech support, and when you watch what they are trying to do, you notice they are dismissing an important dialogue box without reading what it says, which is otherwise preventing what they’re trying to do. How silly of them! Let’s flip things around. Imagine these sorts of honest computer novices watch you use GNOME. Imagine how silly you look to the 99% of the population who uses a functioning file picker. I promise it looks just as maddening.

A file picker has one job, and it’s to be able to search and pick a file. I am unable to find pictures with it. Arguing about this is like arguing with my sister that no, the toilets aren't fine, it fails at its basic job. I am unable to completely convey how infuriating it is that people think this is fine, this is normal.

Bug report

The bug was first logged near the beginning of this century ().gl,bz

The bug report.
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?

This bug has received over one hundred comments over the course of nearly two decades. The total amount of time that generations of developers have collectively wasted writing out these comments have probably exceeded the amount of time it would’ve taken to fix the issue. The amount of written discussion on this issue is greater than 10,000 words, and now locked.

Gtk4 doesn’t fix this

I saw this tweet on Mastodon about how there is an operating system called GNOME OS. The entire operating system is GNOME, shudder. Tongue-in-cheek, I asked do the file pickers have thumbnails. It was meant to be rhetorical, of course it doesn’t have thumbnails.

Don’t take this personally Xerz, I love you.
It’s still only in list view, this is somehow worse.

So that’s that. But oh wait, this bug might be fixed as part of GTK4—a new version of the toolkit that implements the GTK components, which possibly means a functioning version of GtkFileChooser… Possibly…


What’s the point of doing a whole upgrade of the GTK toolkit while ignoring this problem? This is like completely redoing a bathroom but forgetting to fix the blocked toilet (which my sister once unironically suggested).

This is the weirdest thing to me. First of all, how do developers so casually ignore this issue? Second of all, how do users so casually ignore this issue? If you’re confused as why my family and professionals casually ignore two blocked toilets, then you should know how confused I am about this.

In conclusion

This is why Free desktop operating systems are a joke and haven’t been popularly adopted. It’s little things like this that add up. Why was there a Windows monopoly? I think it’s a stretch to just blame it on OEM bundling. No, it’s legit because there isn’t anything else.

For the record, this bug isn’t specific to GNOME. LXDE and Mint also use GtkFileChooser. I use LXDE, I still haven’t figured out a way to replace the file chooser with the KDE file picker, which does have thumbnails. Maybe I need to fully install and use all of KDE.

One may say, quit complaining, the GNOME developers are doing for free! Okay. Well, how much money should I pay for someone to fix this then? I’m legit offering a bounty here. Conditions are that this fix makes it into the master branch. It stands though that KDE seemed to have this feature working for ages, and they’re doing it for free too. Also, operating systems from the olden times also had it too—Windows 98, as you see at the top of this HTML document.

One might also say Just use KDE! Yeah, I guess I could use KDE, just like I use the downstairs toilet instead of the other ones. Maybe I’m being like my sister here, whose excuse to not using the downstairs toilet is that its too small.

GtkFileChooser remains broken. I guess it’s much easier to accept mediocrity than to pursue adequacy.


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