|Windows Explorer is a reasonable selection for simple file management
activities. A question I ask myself is what happens when I want any
customization, tabbed browsing panes, or simply more options? That is
when I look at one of the great free Explorer alternatives out there
The Explorer that now comes bundled with Windows 7 is a substantial improvement over the version available in Windows XP. It still lacks many of the powerful features in the choices below but is nonetheless, a marked improvement.
| One of the most popular in this category is xplorer2 lite.
It offers similar features of a paid program called Directory Opus and
is completely free. As a bonus, its user interface is very similar to
Windows Explorer, so most users will find this tool easy to learn and
The lite version supports dual panes and folder tabs, and shares the same desktop browsing and file management engine as the Pro version.
is another strong contender. It uses a tabbed view rather than a
two-pane view which is better when working with multiple folders though
not quite as efficient as the two-pane approach when working with only
XYplorerFree is packed with features including one of the best file-finders I've seen. It's one of those products that impresses more with use. In fact, I suspect that if you use it for a month then you'll end up using it permanently. Unfortunately, the free version of this program has been discontinued, but the last free version that was released (v5.55) can still be found on various unofficial sites.
|Some folks just love FreeCommander,
a classic two-pane Norton Commander style manager, with a tabbed
interface and other features such as, optional tree view for each panel,
built-in file viewer, archive handling, FTP client, file splitting,
calculation of folder size, folder synchronization, etc.
It's certainly powerful but I find the interface a little dated. However, it's free for both private and commercial use and that's a big plus.
is a file manager which aims to replace Windows Explorer. Its goal is
to be easy and pleasant to use but still have enough power for more
advanced usage." That is a quote from Cubic Reality, the producer of
CubicExplorer, and accurately sums up the product.
CubicExplorer offers only a single listing window interface but makes good use of tabs which can be easily opened and closed and sets of tabs can be saved to open with the application. Overall it is very appealing visually, with a clean, nicely laid out interface. Themes and skins can be applied to easily change the appearance. The product is actively developed.
A tree view called Folders is only one of several "panels" that can be activated. Bookmarks, which can be easily managed are in another useful panel. A very clever Filter panel permits quick selection, by checkbox, of file and folder types within the current directory. A Quickview panel will display graphic images.
The toolbars can be customized and rearranged easily. Toolbars and panels can be detached and made to float apart from the main window; I'm not sure whether or not that I view that as a desirable feature. Double clicking in the listing window will cause it to go up one directory level, a feature that I have really come to appreciate in some other file managers.
A feature lacking in CubicExplorer is saving view settings by directory, the way that Windows Explorer does. If you change to a list or detail view, for example, the view will remain that way as you navigate through directories. The only help available is on the web site, though the application is so easy to use and configure, you will likely not need any help.
I found the window management a bit flaky. The Folders panel always appears as an undocked window and I found it rather difficult to dock. CubicExplorer crashed a couple of times while I was moving windows around. The author doesn't publish any information about supported platforms. I evaluated it using Windows XP 32 bit.
|If you find that you keep many Explorer windows open at the same time, you should take a look at Q-Dir.
Q-Dir offers one capability beyond the others, four simultaneous
windows, a feature termed Quadro-View by the author. A toolbar across
the top of the screen permits instantly selecting virtually any
combination of 1, 2, 3 or 4 file listing windows. Additionally, each
window can have any number of tabs.
A tree view can be enabled. It can be either a single tree view, on the left side, or a tree view for each displayed listing window. Similarly, the address bar has choices of no address bar or one at the top or one for each list window. It has a very nice ability to create and manage Favorite folders, offers a file preview window and even a small, built-in magnifier.
Q-Dir has a very small disk footprint, seems to be very fast and is simple to use. Besides the Quadro-View mentioned earlier, it lacks some of the more advanced features available in other offerings in this category. The configuration is mostly limited to window arrangement. The toolbars are appropriately compact, but cannot be customized.
Q-Dir seems to be actively developed and supported. It is available in many different languages. Supported operating systems include everything from Windows 98 through to Windows 7 with separate 32 bit and 64 bit versions available. The installation offers a choice of a portable installation in addition to a standard install. It will execute nicely by simply copying the program into a folder.
|Other File Managers to be reviewed:
These File Mangers were brought up in the user comments section. I'm currently reviewing them. Please be patient.
|File managers that were written as 32-bit applications will generally
work on 64-bit Windows, but functionality will be limited in two ways:
Related Products and Links
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My Review of Alternative File Managers
I ran my own review of alternative file managers and recommend 4, which are simple, show the folder size, and offer integration with my IrfanView Graphic Viewer and 7Zip archive manager. All these work in Windows 8 64bit. I liked xplorer2, Explorer++, CubicExplorer, and FreeCommander XE. See screenshots below.
xplorer2 v.1.65 lite - simple, clean, and fast