Call for response: File Manager Redesign

Over the past couple of weeks we have given you insights into some of our proposed design changes across both Messaging and the Dialer Instant Contact Card. It has been great hearing your feedback, learning what you like and dislike. You’ll be happy to know that many of these suggestions are being reflected in the final product. Today, we’re excited to share with you our proposed File Manager experience.

File Manager has been a core part of the CyanogenMod portfolio, but has typically been an app that only advanced users use. We conducted a survey in March that indicated that by far the largest user complaint is the app’s unintuitive UI, especially when it comes to moving files around the system. In addition to this, the usage of cloud storage has increased over the years, and we wanted to enhance the platform and file manager experience with a tight integration to these services.

With this feedback in mind, we began the File Manager refresh with these goals:

  • Rethink the core user experience to be simpler, faster, and more intuitive

  • Overhaul the app’s styling to be consistent with Material principles

  • Build support for an extended storage access framework api so that File Manager and other apps can take advantage of the cloud services

Based on these points, we’re completing this project in two phases.

File Manager’s first phase will focus on building the extended apis for the cloud services to hook into and implementing high-level UX and UI changes for many of the core user flows. Large improvements to navigation, presentation of the file system, actions and properties, and a simplified search experience all aim to make File Manager an easy, friendly destination for every user. The storage section of settings will also undergo UI restructuring to better present storage sources.

The second phase will start with restructuring the current UI in Settings to better present the cloud storage sources. It will also cover new UX paradigms like the ability to move and copy files via direct manipulation and a clearer filepath navigation system. In addition, more capabilities in search, a secure storage UI update, helpful progress notifications, and more.

We recognize that it is important to be as transparent as possible when redesigning core applications. Our reason for sharing this ahead of time, is to solicit feedback and give you a chance to voice your opinions (both good and bad). Our hope is to do this early and often as we move forward together and shape the device that we all want to use.

The launch of this new experience will be part of the nightlies once we refine it based on your feedback.

Please feel free to join the mailing list to provide your feedback, or leave a comment below.

  • Martin Spacek

    No no no! I love CM file manager just the way it is. Please don’t go and break it with space-wasting candy for newbs that don’t understand what a file manager is about. But then, I’m still running cm11 on my Moto X 2013 (ghost), cuz I don’t want “material design” (what a dumb name, btw). So feel free to disregard this comment…

  • Ruben Alamina

    – The selection toolbar should be displayed on top. In the bottom looks out of place. Maybe you can also try to implement it in a FAB.

    – Having a dividing line between folders and files could be optional, in case you haven’t thought about disabling it.

    – File or folder operations operations like copy and move can be better handled using a FAB. This is the better way after seeing it implemented in several third party file managers. Please consider using this approach.

    – Regarding my last point, you could also have the pop up toast like multi select screenshot to choose between file operations and sharing instead of the FAB. Just another option to consider but I think a FAB is more handy for single files/folders.

    – Please, please, please make a dark theme available. Having an option to use square file and folder icons could be great too!

    Keep up the good work!

  • Romane

    Just a quick note. Like what I see. User interface seems quite improved, though I have been quite happy with the one we have now, albeit having to always tap those three dots at the bottom does become a little frustrating at times.

    Though not using the root capacity often, when I do it is so good to have it available.

    The CM file manager is the only one I use – no other file manager has catered to what *I* want. But, if a dual-pane set-up is implemented as suggested by another in this thread, it should include the ability to turn it off and on so both sides of the fence will be happy. I personally intensely_intensely (yes, that much) dislike dual-pane, and if am forced to it would be forced to find another file manager.

    Samba – can take it or leave it. For my purposes, KDE connect does just what I want. That said, having Samba capacity would be beneficial to many who do not run Linux *and* KDE

  • kolAflash

    At first:
    The Filemanager is already very great! What I’m going to say is just to make it even greater!

    SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol / Secure File Transfer Protocol) and CIFS would be very cool!
    Even better would be a function, to share files/folders via CIFS, SFTP, HTTP or FTP over WiFi. Make it just easy to use for everyone. E.g. show a QR-Code the receiver can scan to open the remote folder. (use WiFi IP address as default)

    Support for other Archive formats than ZIP would be nice too. E.g. 7z, tar.gz, tar.bz2, tar.xz.
    And I think currently it’s impossible to extract ZIP archives with set Unix ownership or Unix file permissions on containing files. In that case, the Filemanager currently just stops extracting because it fails to recreate that permissions. But instead it should just ignore them.

    And don’t waste too much blank space. Either use it for useful information (e.g. file size, change date, …) or just put the files tight together. I like to see about 10 or 20 files at once. And I don’t wan’t to scroll minutes to get to the end of a long directory (e.g. music folder).

    I know, currently it’s not obvious how to move/copy files. But keep in mind: If you know how it’s convenient, also if you’re moving multiple files. That ability shouldn’t be lost!

  • Ark Yuco

    Release da nightly cm12.1 for i9100g plz…thanx devs…

  • Asher @ Cyanogen

    Network connections like these are definitely something we want to add but right now reshaping the app and adding cloud support are our main concerns. Rest assured they will make it in at some point. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Asher @ Cyanogen

    Thanks for the great feedback Hergen! As part of the design process we audit many of the existing solutions on the market and while we would all love to add every feature we can, focusing on making the core experience better first is extremely important.

    We’ve looked at two-pane solutions and I while I agree with you about its benefits, doing it right is important. For this first release we’re not implementing this feature but rest assured it is something being looked at.

    Network connections like these will also be supported at some point but right now it is not our primary focus. Don’t worry – it’s definitely on a future menu.

  • Asher @ Cyanogen

    If we make make that 50 seconds amazing, my job here is done :)

  • Asher @ Cyanogen

    Great questions Alexander.

    The two buttons at the top of the search screens are filter and sort.

    At a high level, Material is based on “quantum paper” concepts that allow surfaces to separate and combine with other surfaces. As part of the Phase 2 selection method, the floating bar will “physically” raise out of the list, exposing a sub-layer background that shows the silhouette of the item as if it were still there. This design further cements the idea that the user is directly manipulating the file(s) that he or she has selected.

    The first phase involves a basic selection bar that will be swapped out with the full floating bar method in the second phase.

  • Asher @ Cyanogen

    Thanks for the points kolAflash!

    Network connections like FTP are on our radar but will not be included in this first major refresh. Rest assured they will be added in the future.

    As a centralized place for users to access their files, making sure support for as many major file formats is important. Thanks for shedding light on a place where we can improve this.

    Changing list density is an interesting idea. Thanks for bringing it up!

    I agree that the current flow is heavy and confusing. The file selection system in the second phase aims to make moving and copying easy by taking inspiration from desktop file browsers. Clearer multi-file selection support is definitely a part of this design update.

  • Asher @ Cyanogen

    Hey Romane,

    Thanks for the big ups. We’re trying to make everything simpler and more accessible with the design refresh.

    Advanced system access modes is not going away; it’s actually been improved. It will operate similarly with the current implementation.

    A two-pane system is definitely something we’ve looked at and while it won’t be part of this first release, I do see the benefit to having it. Designing it to maximize those benefits with minimal user interruption and confusion will be what gets it into a future version.

    Network connections like FTP and SMB are on the radar but will not be in this first release.

  • Asher @ Cyanogen

    Thanks for the great feedback Ruben!

    You are correct that in normal circumstances the selection state would replace navigation options in the app bar. In this case, however, the final selection system is designed to be used concurrently with the navigation options of the app. It is also designed to be manipulated through gestures which require it to be easily reachable.

    Because of the similarity in visual design between folders and files, the divider helps users of all types quickly separate the two sections of the list. It is therefore a permanent addition.

    While I would agree with you on the appeal of the FAB for its visual simplicity, it is designed to start a single, primary action (and sub-options that appear as part of the action’s flow). It cannot contain multiple, unrelated actions that the selection system has. From a usability standpoint, we moved away from the FAB route in favor of clarity, organization, and more direct interaction.

    We didn’t design a dark alternate look with this version, but I’m sure if we don’t add it, someone will have a theme available to make the app look like whatever you’d like!

  • Asher @ Cyanogen

    Thanks for the feedback magnamentis!

    If visual design is less of a concern to you, I hope you will enjoy the usability improvements in this release.

    List density is something a few others brought up and is an interesting consideration that will be looked into.

  • Nkansah Rexford

    Exactly, and that’s why I’m excited about the revamp.

  • milind

    hello sir i have a issue with data usage limited .. i have one plus one handset … my data usage was set from 8 june to 9 july , but now it should be change to 9 july to 8 august ..but its not showing and my internet is not working due to thins.. plz guide me

  • Andy “CrossGate” Yan

    Still a huge fan of multi-tab and checkbox multi-selection designs, that’s why I’m still sticking to Root Explorer even if its interface is decidedly Holo.

  • Renat

    Hello! I’m sorry, please tell me when officially released the upgrade to Cyanogenmod 12.1 on OnePlus One? In general, the update will be in the air?

  • Sourav Bagchi

    Try to copy the features of ES file Explorer with this new Design. Es file explorer is also fast

  • Sourav Bagchi

    Need Backup option for installed application as .apk file

  • Michael Sasser

    I never used the File Manager, because it’s not supporting the common network protocols like smb, sftp, FTP and cifs.

    This is, what i really need, so I installed and used ES File Explorer.


  • Ashwin

    Also give an option in settings/menu to give write access for memory card like in fx file manager.
    The designs look fab

  • اسامة سينوي

    I have a condor c4 plus phone or the so called PGN-403, and I needed a system Lollipop him, can you develop rom cm12 for my phone? I would be grateful for that ☺

  • Michael Franzl

    I use the File Manager to listen and watch to a great number of audio and video podcasts in mp3 and mp4 formats. Please add ability to tag files in different colors (similar to what the Apple Mac Finder does) so that I know which files I’ve already listened to. Also, it would be great if a video or audio file would be resumed to the position where it was last left off. And in any case, there should be an appropriate, sensitive-enough scroll bar to search the audio/video stream.

  • Michael Franzl

    I want to add: There are 10 Million different third-party audio and video player apps available, but I don’t want any of them. They are all heavy in ads or spyware, and they focus on anything but a simple viewing of content. I’d rather prefer a simple viewer that is well integrated into the File Manager.

  • Tim

    +1 The only reason I ever use a file manager if for getting things off the network SMB/CIFS/FPT/NFS/SSHFS

  • Comediante

    The File Manager is now awesome. Just dont understand why people didnt find it “confiused” beore. Compared to ES File Explorer its super intuitive.

  • Gohar Imran

    There should be an exit button that frustrates a lot and also a system to extract files
    That are reasons why i use es file explorer

  • Thomas Güttler

    Yes, a re-design is needed: Dear developers, please don’t forget the default user and his way of looking at the world. The default user has a commercial non-rootet android device. But he has a need for a solid file manager. Please make the cyanogenmod file manager available at the google play store.

  • ibrahim biten

    So when we are going to see one of this? Cm13? There is no gello here too

  • JP Coquelle

    Hello, great design. What about the implementation, post is from 2015 june. I want to definitively leave es explorer and think cm filemanager is a good choice. Thanks

  • Julian Andres Klode

    Permissions are not confusing, but the essence of the Unix access control. A file has a user and group that owns it. There is read, write, executable; and you can assign a combination of those to user, group, and others.

    That’s a very simple mechanism. Other systems like Windows use far more complex permissions.

  • Julian Andres Klode

    That’s impossible. Vendors like to trick you by putting apps in a vendor directory, so they can be uninstalled, but the file will still remain anyway.

  • wajd

    They can and i have uninstalled them before, it just requires root, and one of the reasons for downloading ROMs like cyanogenmod was to get a clean install of android. cyanogen has been going to shit anyway and now all their apps are basically imperfect replicas, that also can’t be uninstalled so fuck that. i went ahead and packaged my own AOSP containing zero bloat and then added google apps.

  • Tim

    cyanogenmod should just skin the open source ghost commander because it has SMB

  • Julian Andres Klode

    Well, if you have root, you already have what you asked for. Without root, it’s not possible. And they will come back after an update.

  • wajd

    Jesus man, I haven’t met someone as bulkheaded as you. 1. Cyanogen is an ROM, can be installed without root on your phone and replaces all stock apps including bloat ware. However they add their own apps becoming the bloat ware themselves. 2. CyanogenMod the ROM version that needs root to be installed also has some stock apps that also call the be uninstalled forcing you to have 2 versions of every app, CyanogenMod apps and Google Apps. And you can’t uninstall the cyanogen ones. I don’t care whether you like them or not, they should allow them to be uninstalled. The purpose of installing ROMs is to be rid of bloat ware. As it stands, Cyanogen and CyanogenMod just replace Manufacturer and Carrier bloat ware with their own useless shit copies of Google Apps. What pisses me off is that they’re the only major ROM left after Paranoid Android closed shop and so they’re probably the only alternative to people who don’t want to buy Nexii.

  • Julian Andres Klode

    Let me try to explain it to you again, it detail, so you’ll understand it: There are two options to pre-install apps:

    (1) put in /system/app – You can remove them with root manually, but they’ll come back after an update.

    (2) put in /system/vendor – The app gets then copied to /data/app on the initial boot – You can “uninstall” those apps, but that won’t actually free any space. That’s what Cyanogen OS does for Boxer, Boxer Calendar and others.

    Apparently, you don’t like the 1st choice. But the second choice does not provide any benefit over disabling apps, because the file remains in the /system partition. It’s just eye candy to make users feel better.

    It is also unclear if you even refer to Cyanogen OS or CyanogenMod.

    You asked “allow me to uninstall all the pre loaded apps from cyanogenmod” – which you can do manually with (1). Offering (2) here does not make sense, since you already have (1).

    Cyanogen OS, without root, is a different matter. It would be an option to choose (2) here, but that’s just a perceived advantage for the user, there is no real advantage compared to disabling the apps: In any case, the app stays in the /system partition (you also cannot modify /system without root and without breaking OTAs).

  • Salad Fingers

    Can this be side-loaded on snapshot builds? Is it available somewhere to download?

  • Aashish bhatia

    It’s been a year. When are we going to get it?

  • Abhishek Maurya

    If they build such file manager I will stop using other file manager

  • Aashish bhatia

    Please add this in CM14 <3 This is so good. It's been more than a year.