Four superior Windows Explorer replacements

Sven Krumrey

As Windows advances, one important part of it remains as imperfect as ever: Windows Explorer. It may be enough to navigate around your files but if you value a little comfort or miss the old split-view (present up to Windows 95), you're out of luck. Why Microsoft doesn't offer a decent alternative is beyond me! Luckily, there are better, more feature rich and often free file managers out there - and one piece of software that has been painfully missed for over a decade is making a return!

Inconspicuous but important: file managers
Four windows and neat features: Q-Dir

Q-Dir is the Swiss army jackknife to move and copy mountains of data between folders. If you have multiple partitions, network drives or juggle a myriad of external disks, you'll quickly appreciate the feature set. Spread across four windows, Q-Dir saves up to 64 folder combinations as favorites for fast access. In addition, every window supports tab navigation to suit the needs of professional data jugglers. Folder contents can be exported as documents in various formats and different colors can be used for different file types for better readability. And since Q-Dir follows the design of default Windows applications, it doesn't take much getting used to.

Smart and with near limitless customization options: FreeCommander

This application has been around for quite some time and recently reached version XE 2018. It offers the classic two-window split view and is crammed with features - which may scare off some users with numerous icons hiding smart functions at every corner. The visuals, views and program behavior are highly customizable, giving the program a bit of an IKEA feeling as you slowly design your perfect file manager. Naturally, standard features like copying, moving, deleting and renaming files and folders are present but the program can do a lot more. For example, every window supports the classic tree view, image formats are previewable and, thanks to plugins, even compressed archives pose no problem. Comfort features like multiple file renaming, folder size calculations, secure file deletion and folder syncing are also built in. A lot of effort has been put into this program and it shows!

The master of archives: Double Commander

Visually a little on the sober side but very tidy is a good way to describe Double Commander. As the name implies, the program also supports the two-window split pane view that pretty much everyone except Microsoft expects from a file manager these days. Handling file archives (7z, ZIP, ARJ, CAB, LZH and RAR) is where this program shines. With a powerful search option, files can not only be scanned for common parameters like size or creation date but also for embedded characters. If you can still remember what you wrote but forgot which document you put it in, this feature is for you. Renaming files with ease is another strength of the program with support for savable naming schemes for later use. The integrated FTP client, file splitter and sync feature are nice addons. And for those who love keyboard shortcuts: there's a shortcut for almost everything. Sounds like fun, right?

What software used to look like! What software used to look like!
A classic returns

Finally, we come to THE solution for traditionalists - and I mean traditional as in old school! Microsoft's Craig Wittenberg has an interesting hobby. He breathes new life into the file manager that originally came with Windows NT 4. The result looks and behaves exactly the way file managers looked and behaved back then, which may feel a little out of place on a Windows 10 machine, and yet it works! Suddenly, you feel reminded of pixelated resolutions, unintelligible icons and your first steps with Windows 3.11 - it's a flashback to the humble beginnings of modern PC GUIs. And since the project is open source, meaning the code is available to the public, newer and slicker versions will likely come out soon. If you're an inveterate nostalgic or on the lookout for a lean and fast file manager, this program is for you.

What I would like to know: Do you use third-party file managers or are you fully content with Windows Explorer? Did I miss any great free file managers?

If you were looking for Total Commander (still the Holy Grail for many): the program isn't free but certainly a great alternative.

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