Ranger is a lightweight but powerful file manager with Vi-like key bindings. It shines at exploring file trees, looking for specific files, and performing bulk operations on folders and files. Three column layout will be very similar to Mac OS X users: center column shows contents of the current directory, left column lists contents of a parent directory, and the right column contains preview for the selected file or folder.

Ranger supports movement with familiar to Vi users h, j, k, and l keys, has internal command line which is invoked with :, as well as many other features and key bindings similar to Vi. Another great selling point - Ranger can be extended with custom commands and key bindings. Utility is written in Python, therefore all the commands are nothing more than Python scripts.


Ranger is easy to install and can be found in most public repositories, just install ranger package using your favorite package manager. While you’re at it, you may want to install some external utilities to help Ranger properly display file previews (list is taken from ArchWiki page on Ranger):

  • atool for archives.
  • highlight for syntax highlighting.
  • libcaca (img2txt) for image previews in ASCII.
  • lynx, w3m or elinks for HTML.
  • mediainfo or perl-image-exiftool for media file information.
  • poppler (pdftotext) for PDF.
  • transmission-cli for BitTorrent information.
  • w3m for image previews.

After all the dependencies are installed, quickly start up ranger, exit it with q, and run ranger --copy-config=all to generate configuration files in ~/.config/ranger.


Here are a few of the key bindings and commands I found useful:

  • Use spacebar to select files one by one. By selecting multiple files, you can perform bulk operations on them. Use V to perform visual selection. Lowercase v reverses current selection. For instance, you can run :delete after selecting multiple files and folders.
  • As mentioned above, execute :delete to remove currently selected file (or files).
  • To fullscreen a preview window, hit i. Hit i again to return the preview window to it’s normal size.
  • Vi’s gg and G allow you to jump to the top and bottom of the file list respectively.
  • Hit zh to toggle hidden files display.
  • As in Vim, / searches for a file in a current buffer, while n and N let you navigate to the next and previous matches respectively.
  • Similarly, :filter allows you to only limit your view to the files matching a pattern. It’s also interactive - changes are applied as you type.

If you’re an avid Vim user, you’ll find using Ranger surprisingly intuitive. Otherwise you might get confused and scared away, probably for a good reason. Ranger is designed to provide Vi-like feel for file browsing, and it does that job well.