Xfce and GNOME To Get Support For File Creation Timestamps

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The Linux Kernel has had support for file creation timestamps since 2017. Several file systems support the file birth timestamp and KDE as well as the Cinnamon file manager Nemo are able to show it in addition to the modification, creation and access timestamps most GNU/Linux are familiar with. Xfce and GNOME are finally moving forward with support for file creation timestamps.

written by 윤채경 (Yoon Chae-kyung). published 2020-01-07last edited 2020-01-08

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The Nemo file manager from Linux Mints Cinnamon desktop can show file creation timestamps.

Being able to show when a file was created may seem like a really basic and obvious feature of any modern operating system yet the Linux Kernel lacked support for file creation timestamps until a patch adding a new statx system call for "enhanced file info" was added to the Linux kernel in March 2017. The ext4 and xfs filesystems became capable of showing file creation times in April 2017 thanks to a ext4 patch which exposes inode creation times (i_crtime) to statx system calls as STATX_BTIME and a xfs patch which exposes di_crtime as STATX_BTIME. btrfs got statx support in July 2017 and f2fs got statx support in January 2018. orangefs got support in June 2018.

The Nemo file manager for Linux Mint's Cinnamon desktop got support for file creation times in April 2018. The Linux Mint developers quietly wrote and used a Nemo-specific patch leaving everyone else in the GNU/Linux community none the wiser. The KDE community did wise up later that year with a series of patches which made all software based on the KDE frameworks capable of showing file creation times in things like the file picker.

Xfce and GNOME and the glib framework they are based on still lack support for file creation times making them the laughing-stock of a certain technology-related community (/g/). Xfce developer Andre Miranda has now picked up the torch and begun the lengthy process of adding support for file creation timestamps to glib's G_FILE_ATTRIBUTE_TIME_CREATED after numerous complains from mostly me about Thunar's lack of support for file creation timestamps. A series of patches with initial support were submitted to GNOMEs GitLab on January 6th. Adding it to glib instead of a Xfce library ensures that a wide section of the free software community get to benefit from these improvements.

It will take some time before glib and file managers based on it (who do not implement something on their own like Nemo did) get to benefit from Andre Miranda's hard work in this area.

"There is still lots of things to sort out before getting that merged"

Andre Miranda
January 7th, 2020

It is now only a matter of time before Thunar and other file managers using glib can show file creation timestamps. You can look at Andre Miranda's work so far in gnome gitlab merge request 1310.

On an interesting side-note: Linux file creation timestamps reflect when files are created on the local filesystem, not when they were made. It will only reflect when a file was actually created if the originally copy was made on the local filesystem. A file from 2010 which is copied to a new computer can therefore have a (preserved) modification time from 2010 and a creation timestamp from 2020.


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