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A File Manager provides a convienient way for the end users to work with file systems and perform various operations on files and folders such as create, edit, rename, copy, delete, modify file attributes, compare folders etc. While Windows Explorer provides a fair amount of simple file management activities, a dedicated file manager helps you to keep things unsophisticated and gives you various tools out of the box to manage a large number of files at a time. File managers gives you faster and easier management of files and folders on your PC.
The various special features that I'm looking forward to in a file manager are Dual panes, Tabbed interface, Bookmarks, History, Archive handling, Advanced File Search, MultiRename, Folder Size Enumeration, Folder Compare & Synchronize, FTP support, File viewer, File sorting, File splitter, Filtered view, Keyboard shortcuts, Easy access to system folders and more.
So here's the top 5 products that I found after months of testing, that combines the best of interface, features and customizability among all the file managers out there. Since these top 5 products include most of these features mentioned in the introduction, I won't go in detail about them in each review.
By: Marek Jasinski
FreeCommander XE is the top pick for this year. FCXE has an elegant and user friendly UI. With a 2 pane interface and shortcuts available along the vertical and horizontal toolbars, there’s a lot to love here. The file manager provides one touch access to most of the system directories, desktop items, start menu and control panel items. Different layout as well as column profiles can be configured and individually saved.
FreeCommander by default makes use of Windows explorer for file operations, and the same can be done using built-in facilities too. FCXE boasts a huge feature set and a few are to come along the way, like FTP client, File Splitting and Content plugins (.wdx). File searching function is extremely powerful, you can even search within the archives too. It also provides a plain view for files and folders, where instead of the files being nested inside different folders they are all shown in a single view.
The customizability provided by FCXE is immense. Starting from the toolbar, nearly every button and bar can be customized according to your wish. There’s also immense keyboard customization support where shortcuts can be provided for each and every function. You could backup and restore all the customized settings at will. It also includes a desktop snapshot feature.
By: Max Diesel
If any file manager comes close to the look and feel of Total Commander (TC), it’s Unreal Commander. There’s the usual 3 different view styles:- List, Details and Thumbnails. There’s a powerful filter system to filter the items that you want to view. Panels can be arranged horizontally or vertically and a quick view panel is available. UC packs multiple visual styles with different color categories for files as well as fonts for interface elements. Themes and button bars can be downloaded/configured as well since it supports TC extensions. The file manager also also supports background pictures.
Selection can be made in Norton Commander mode or Windows standard mode. Various settings that have been made are saved on exit. Quick searches can be done for files from the main window. The built-in FTP client is really powerful, data ports can be protected using SSL/TLS and connection can be made anonymously. With background picture support you could skin the file manager according to your tastes.
Although Universal Viewer is being used as internal viewer for various files, this can be customized to include any viewer that you find suitable. Same is the case with file editor. Just like Total Commander, you can configure Lister plugins (.WLX), Packer plugins (.WCX) and Content plugins (.WDX). Settings that have made can be stored as different ini files for Main settings, Visual styles, FTP connections etc or to the registry.
Note: Unreal Commander is donationware, meaning a nag screen will pop up (only once during each system restart) to donate for the product if you like. Also you’ll have to register the product with a free license key.
By: Eugene Sichkar
Nomad.Net is the successor to Nomad and this time completely re-written in .Net programming language. This file manager has a simplified and clean interface. The tabs unlike other managers are not panel based and hence provides ample space. You may use tree view like Windows explorer, and the layouts can be customized for future use. The breadcrumb folder toolstrip let’s you view a wealth of information.
The file manager gives importance to multithreading, so lengthy file operations can make good use of multi-core CPU’s. The file manager also houses a powerful search engine with complex search rules as well as a strong filtering system. A unique feature is the ability to customize individual folders view and options and make it to remember them. You may also lock the folders to prevent changing it. Nomad.Net not only allows you to bookmark your favourite folders, but even your FTP sites and searches. The program has a wipe function and allows to clean free spaces.
Nomad has extensive toolbar customization capabilities along with keyboard mapping support for almost every function. Although the file manager allows full internal support for a long list of archive types, it also supports WCX plugins to view, create and edit archives.
By: Mathias Svensson
A great file manager for power users is MultiCommander. You could control the look and feel of MultiCommander on startup, and choose between Commander Styled, which is optimized for keyboard or Windows explorer Styled compatibility. In addition you could choose from multiple look’ n’feel profiles for mouse, keyboard, color and overall settings. Various tips are provided during launch to ease you into the functionalities of the file manager. You’re greeted with unique button panel at the lower portion of the file manager for various functions that makes it all the more convenient to use.
MultiCommander has a vast array of features in it’s arsenal. The multi-view feature let’s you browse folders on one panel and the contents are immediately available on the other. You could configure viewers, editors, launchers to use for different file types. Various plugins are available that expands the file system, file operations such as auto-sort, auto-unpack and support application extensions expands the file manger with various new tools. Also for the ultimate geeks, you could tweak the read/write strategies used and also set to keep broken/unfinished files. Accessing windows registry right within the manager and quick access to Control Panel is a pretty neat feature. Moreover certain useful Audio, Video and Picture tools are also available.
The file manager is a powerhouse of customizability enhancing the file navigation experience. The multi-update feature automatically updates MultiCommander to the latest version so it saves you the trouble of manual updation. The buttons available on the panel can be configured to execute various external programs, activate functions inside MultiCommand, call scripts etc.
By: Andrzej Stefanczyk
Master Commander will please all average users. There are no extensive customization options, the program is simple and straight forward but powerful enough. A tabbed interface with optional tree view is provided for each of the 2 panels. A useful history and bookmark manager is provided to manage tasks and files with ease and keyboard shortcuts for most basic file operations is visible at the bottom.
Out of the box, Master Commander packs in the most features than any other. A text editor with syntax highlighting most programming languages as well as a hex editor for modifying files is provided. Among the features rarely seen in any other file managers include, support for creating ISO images as well as verify & sign digital signatures for files. It also packs in a CD-DVD burner, process manager and a download manager. One feature that’s certainly missing is clickable crumbbars.
Customizability is not the strong point of Master Commander. For instance, the toolbar cannot be customized and there aren’t any keyboard shortctuts that could be defined. Although, the font and color for text and background elements are available to play with according to users wishes. You could also define background images for the list view. This is a no frills, simple yet advanced get-go file manager for daily use.
More File Managers
Although the best are listed above, it doesn't hurt to know more options out there, if you aren't satisfied with the any of the above.
- Modern interface - Probably the most modern and sytlish interface that I've seen.
- Work Folder - If you set a folder as an work folder. you can go to that folder with shortcut key right away. Also copy/move/extract files/folders to an work folder with only two step keyboard shortcut.
- Innovative Folder Tree - The hierarchial represeting let's you see all the sub-contents at a glance.
- Colors - You can customize colors for file listings and folder free. Different colors for various file types lets you to easily distinguish files at a glance.
- Advanced Built-in text editor - One of the best text editors I've seen, with syntax highlighting.
- Shortcut menus for USB flash drives - Makes starting applications very easy right from your USB drive.
- Portable - No installation or uninstallation required.
- Linux styled interface may not please everyone.
- Multifunctional address bar - Specifying folder names and visual filters and for running windows applications.
- Autocompletion - Paths and other frequently typed information.
- Dockable Thumbnail bar - To preview images, html and office applications.
- No hotkey cusomization and uses windows search.
- Free version limited. See feature comparison
- Ribbon sytled tabbed explorer for Win 7 & 8
- Drive usage analysis chart
- Conditional selecting - filtering, searching, selecting.
- Is just an enhancement to the Windows 8 explorer
R.I.P File Managers
These file managers were once great, but are no longer developed. They continue to work on latest versions of Windows, but won't be featured in the main review.
- UltraExplorer (Last Update: Jul 27 '09)
These file managers were tested but falls short in features and overall usability. They are either too simple or too restricted in features for daily use.
- EFCommander Free (No longer featured on home site.)
- Just Manager (Not yet out of alpha stage, but a promising new file manager.)
- Proto (Claims to be the fastest, but not really a file manager)
- Saladin (Too simple, not really a choice)
- SE-Explorer (project dead)
- Turbo Navigator (project dead)
Other File Managers to be reviewed:
These File Mangers were brought up in the user comments section. I'm currently reviewing them or have finished reviewing and waiting to be listed in the main article during the next review update. 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:
- Shell extensions (i.e., file context menu entries) of 64 bit applications won't appear in a 32 bit file manager.
- 32-bit file managers will not be able to access the "system32" directory of a 64 bit Windows installation, they will be deflected to the "sysWOW64" directory instead.
- 32-bit programs have not full access to the control panel.
Dec 27 2013
|More file managers added|
|Dec 23 2013||Major Update to the article (New top pick)|
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Quick Selection Guide
This software category is maintained by volunteer editor George.J. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.
file manager, windows explorer, file explorer, free software, freeware.