Baobab Review

very good
key review info
application features
  • C/gtk+ application
  • (2 more, see all...)

Not long ago, I was downloading a Linux distribution CD image (ISO) and suddenly, the downloader gave an error saying there is no more free space available. And there I was, wondering where did all the free disk space go, considering that /home directory had only 1% used from the total hard disk space. So I started checking other directories for their size to look for files I don't use anymore. Unfortunately, the structure tree for each Linux system consists of a lot of directories and small files and it will take forever to delete a few hundred files in order to free just ten mb of space.

Fortunately, I found a program that will list the whole directory tree and display the disk usage percent for each directory a system has. This way, you'll be able to go straight to the directory that's occupying the most disk space. The program is called Baobab. It also features an advanced search engine that will scan the whole filesystem for the keywords you provided.

To install Baobab, you must follow one of the few install instructions provided by the author, depending on your distribution. For example, to install Baobob on your Debian system, run the apt-get install baobob. You can use the same command to install Baobob on Ubuntu Dapper but that's about it. For other Debian-derivative distributions, you'll have to use the provided .deb package for now. However, at the time of writing this review, the ftp server hosting the .deb package was down, so I was forced to use the source package, another installation method, to install Baobab on my Ubuntu Edgy system. I don't really enjoy installing a program from source package as there is a high probability it will require unknown preferences, the compile process will fail for various reasons and so on. Somehow, this was the case here, as the configure process required an impressive list of dependencies which I had to manually search for and install using Synaptic. After that, everything went smoothly.

Once the program is installed, it can be run either from Gnome main menu / Applications / Accessories, from a terminal window or from Nautilus "Open withÂ…" context menu (it only works for directories). When started from Gnome menu, Baobab remains in idle mode, waiting for your action. You can either start a full scan, select a specific directory branch to search, select a remote directory to search or search for a file. You can also set the program's preferences from the File / Preferences window.

Once the program is launched using the Open with method, it will display the requested tree. You can either browse the tree, sort it alphabetically or by directory size. Running the application from the Gnome menu or from a terminal will require you to scan either the whole filesystem, or a selected directory. The directory tree results will skip the /proc dir, nor any file size that is not related to a "plain" file. Symlinks, character blocks and device blocks will also be skipped from the directory size.
Right-clicking on a directory from the main tree will pop-up a context menu which allows you to either open the directory in the default file browser, list all files in selected folder in the program's search window, draw a graphical treemap of the folder or more the directory to Trash. Moreover, Baobab will display sizes in the directory tree as allocated space, which means that the displayed size refers to the actual disk usage rather that the apparent directory size. If you want to view the apparent file size, check the Allocated space box in the toolbar. Also, if you need to scan a remote folder, Baobab can connect to a server through ssh, ftp, smb, http(s) and display your directory.

The file search dialog box offers full and easy to use file-searching capability. The filename text box allows wildcards such as * or ? and also allows exact or extended search. The first search type will return only results that match completely, while the second will return results that are partly matching the keywords. The search results can also be sorted by name, size, type or date.

Another interesting feature is the folder graphical map option, which will open a full-screen window with the graphical treemap of the selected folder. You can open as many graphical maps as you want. This function shows exactly how space is allocated and what is occupying the space, even if it's a directory located several depth levels down. The depth level can be configured from the toolbar which also offers buttons for zooming, taking a screenshot and refreshing the graphical map. Unfortunately, the preferences dialog offers only two preferences, which devices to be included during system scan (/dev/hda1 etc) and whether to enable auto-detect monitoring of home directory.

The Good

Baobab allows you to analyze disk usage in any desktop environment by scanning either the whole filesystem tree, or a specific directory branch (local or remote through ftp, ssh, or http) specified by the user. It also includes a complete file-search functionality and can also automatically detect any changes made to your selected directory. There's also a full graphical treemap function available for each selected folder which will generate a graphical map of the selected directory and its subdirectories located at a customizable depth level.

The Bad

There's only one thing not quite right with this application: whenever I try to scan through SSH a remote directory located on a server that runs the SSH daemon on a different port, I get an error saying the directory does not exist.

The Truth

Whenever you want to retrieve some free disk space by deleting huge old files, Baobab will guide you right to the directories with the highest percent of disk usage. For each directory and file their actual size on disk is displayed and the usage percent of the total disk space. Baobab also allows you to delete any file or folder right from the application's interface. You can also use this program as a search tool.

Check out some screenshots below:

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user interface 4
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
 
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