The OP's approach is perfect: always navigate to wherever the caret is placed. I would personally drop the ugly gradients in favour of hyperlink-style underlines, but seriously, thanks for an elegant solution to a simple problem.
There are additional operational semantics that are important, such how you bail out of a bad edit, what happens if you type in something non-existent, and so forth.
I hadn't realized how involved this UI is. People take a lot for granted.
I would say the average user doesn't understand correctly a good 70% of what's on his screen. Programmers sure do take a lot for granted.
Edit: missing "user".
Second thing to consider is how it's going to work on the file systems with lag. Anything over-the-network. Not only moving the cursor left and right would generate a lot of traffic, it would also fail to provide feedback comparable to that of local drives.
Third, take a step back and think who would actually use this. For example, the only time I use Location field is to copy current path to be pasted elsewhere. I tried remembering when I actually typed anything except for c:\temp in there and I can't. I'm sure there are people who do type in long paths, but the question here how many of them are there and if the UI should be optimized for their usage. If they comprise a percentage point, then clearly all this optimization is pointless -- it may very well still exist, but it should be off by default. In other words, as nice as this exercise is, it jumps to the design phase without first defining the problems it is trying to solve nor its target audience.
As others have noted W7 has something similar in Windows Explorer, but the field switches between the breadcrumb and text input modes. This looks like a sensible solution, and yet I personally find it fairly annoying in a day-to-day use.
Which reminds me that navigating around nautilus with the keyboard is really a bit of a pain. To be able to do this easily would really help. I noticed in Mint's nautilus the last time I tried it arrow keys would let me move back and forth between the sidebar and the file lists, it may not be the right key to do it - but makes using the file manager much easier.
If you are in the folder list and you start typing - you can select folders. Say you start typin P-i-c, it will select say your Pictures file or folder. I then go to copy the folder but I'm still in the find as you type box, but I don't notice. I move to another folder view and paste, and find I have done nothing. Then have to navigate back to where I just was. To get around it you have to hit escape first before the copy. I'm aware of how to do it correctly - but I repeatedly trip myself up.
The other issue is the text find tool overlay is hidden in the bottom right hand side of the window, which seems to sometimes escape your eye. And the interface then feels non-responsive. Love the feature, but there's something amiss in the interface.
If you start to type the name of a folder, and it matches something, hitting return will open that folder, which is great, but is slightly out of tune to trying to use say CTRL + C (which copies the text you are typing in the selection box.) The latter is something that you might want to do - not that I have ever done it. But there are two conflicting behaviours here.
In OS X, you have the path bar, though it's not very obvious that you can double click each path element. You can also right-click or control-click the folder name on the title bar to get a menu of the path hierarchy.
As for the other point, searching paths, I can personally see that being very useful, but most people expect that a search in a file manager will, you know, search for files. This would introduce a jarring discrepancy.
Wow, who designed the interface that ignores single-clicks and acts on double-clicks?!
I'd rather get rid of the 'back' and 'forward' buttons, which are quite extraneous for most users (browsing a file system is generally not like browsing the web). Agree that 'location' can go though.
The button view (not the slash view,) kind of reminds me of breadcrumbs, having recently viewed folders showed (with shortcuts) would actually be a pretty useful addition to Nautilus.
The slashes aren't the main point really. Its the confusion of not knowing whats going to happen when I click somewhere and start typing that I really disagree with strongly.
Another feature I always feel is missing is right click a folder, and have the option to create a new folder or file inside the highlighted folder.
Another feature missing from nautilus is being able to do multi-select with the keyboard alone. I think you can do this with the Kde file managers.
Every software developer should answer questions such as "What can make the experience easier for my users?", and constantly practice with UI concepts.
I talk more about this in my post about how I think "Interface Is All That Matters": http://www.pseudocodice.com/post/27983862986/interface-is-al...
See the post discussed at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4465904 for more changes in GNOME 3.6.
EDIT: Ignore my comment above, I missunderstood the part about the search button in the article.
And when it comes to monitor layout within Gnome I thought something like this would be good,
How about Super key and arrows to move between panes of an applicaton side bar, location bar etc. And make it very clear which part of the application window has the current focus.
Is it even possible?
If you want to see the files inside your phone in a file manager on your computer most people go with OpenSSH/Cyberduck. Personally I like Netatalk which makes your device just show up as though it was an external hard drive and breaks down the folder hierarchy the same any Linux distro.