Best Free Windows Explorer Add-ons

toggle-button
 
Introduction

This article reviews Windows Explorer extensions and add-ons, such as QTTabBar, which provide some of the desirable features found in commercial file managers/Explorer replacements. For example, dual-panes, tabs, favorite folder access etc., while retaining the speed and familiarity of Windows.

For more info on file managers that can totally replace the file management of Windows Explorer see Best Free File Manager and Comparison of File Managers.

Strictly speaking, an Explorer add-on is any program that enhances the taskbar, start menu, desktop, context menu, toolbars, file management system or any other aspect of Windows involving explorer.exe.  However, this article will focus mainly on add-ons to the file management system, especially add-ons that help users access their file system. Thus, it will generally exclude Program Launchers and Right-Click Context Menu Extensions, although there is some overlap.

I will continue adding more reviews over time, but I give priority to Vista-compatible software. Also, be aware that Windows 7 makes significant changes to Explorer that may break many features of the programs reviewed here.

 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion
Best Free Windows Explorer Add-ons - Quick Select Index

 

A. Multifunction Explorer Extensions

B. Fast Folder Access Extensions (quick access to favorite folders, recent folders, and more)

C. Cascading Folder Menus (explore directory structure with cascading/fly-out menus)

D. Other Explorer Extensions (other visual and functional enhancements to Explorer's GUI)

E. Conclusions And Comparisons

 

A. Multifunction Explorer Extensions

 

QTTabBar (QT)


Editor's Note: This review section about QTTabBar is based on version 1.2.3 (Beta) developed by QuizoApps. It has yet to be updated and is not based on the new version, 1.5 (Beta), which works with Windows 7. You can find the new version developed by Paul Accisano and hosted at Sourceforge.net here.


Add a wide range of features that transform Windows Explorer to help users explorer their files and folders more quickly.

  • Access where?  Toolbar, tab-bar, file/folder list view, desktop/taskbar
  • Access how?  Buttons, right click on toolbar, shortcut keys
  • Favorites menu?  Yes: submenus, cascading menus
  • Recent menu?  Yes
  • Dialog window settings?  No
  • Additional window functions?  Close to tray
  • Customizability: Extreme
  • Additional Features: lots and lots (see below)

QTTabBar tabbar

You can see the Explorer toolbar in the picture above. One of the most unique features of QT is the addition of tabs (like in web browsers). The tabs allow you to have multiple views or instances of Explorer all contained within one window. A single click will allow you to switch between them. QT allows you to clone, copy, move, delete and undo closed tabs. The program also includes endless options for customizing tab function and appearance.

This barely scratches the surface of what is a very powerful, easy-to-use utility that may significantly change the way in which you do file-handling.

QT: OTHER FUNCTIONS

Tools:

  • Tab-related - every tab-related function you could imagine is available and customizable
  • Copy Tool - button/menu on the toolbar allows you to copy selected file path, file name, folder path, folder name, file hash, paths of all open tabs
  • Search - Vista-like search box on the toolbar.

 QTTabBar exploring from tabs

Explore folders from:

  • Tabs - clicking on the folder icon on a tab launches a cascading menu exploring the open folder
  • Folders - a little arrow appears when hovering over a folder on the desktop or in the listview pane of Explorer, clicking on it launches a cascading menu exploring that folder
  • Favorites - folders added to the favorites menu appear as cascading menus rather than as short-cuts that simply launch the folder
  • Toolbar/Tabbar - right click on the toolbar or tab-bar gives you an option to "Browse for Folder" with the standard folder browse pop-up
  • Desktop - double click on desktop or on the QT desktop tool button (see More about QTTabBar for more info) lets you explore tab groups, closed tabs, recent files and favorites (with cascading menus).

QTTabBar favorites menu

  • Favorites (Applications) Menu: add files or folders, can organize with sub-menus, cannot add on the fly, accessed only from toolbar
  • Recent/History: recently accessed folders appear in a simple menu on the toolbar, recently accessed files appear in menu when you right click on tabbar
  • Tab Groups: define groups of tabs (i.e. folders) that can be launched with a single click in the Groups menu on the toolbar or via right click on tabbar
  • Shortcut keys: fully customizable
  • Explorer Appearance: full row selection, grid lines, alternate row color in details view (customize background and text color)
  • Previews: hover over an image, video or text file to show a pop-up preview and file info with customizable width and height
  • Plugins: I haven't had time to explore all the plug-in capabilities, but for more info see the posts at More About QTTabBar


QT: WEAKNESSES

  • Missing functions: there are no functions added to context menu or save/open dialogs
  • Performance: cascading menus are a little slower than Explore's own cascading menus (especially in Vista) and openning explorer may be slower, otherwise performance is only minimally affected by QT
  • Documentation: isn't very helpful, although more has been recently added.  See: More About QTTabBar for installation details and more usage info
  • Vista: slower performance
  • Windows 7: nothing works consistently, main problem is that for the toolbar to function normally it has to be disabled then re-enabled whenever it is newly openned, various other functions have problems too: http://qttabbar.wikidot.com/forum/t-101934/windows-7

QTTabBar is an amazingly flexible program with an endless array of functions that transform Windows Explorer, making easier to access and manager your files and folders.  The level of customizability is unparalleled.  Tabbed exploring, favorites menu, cascading menus, customizations, and plugins are only a few of the functions that make this program unique and  indespensible.  Perfect for XP, a little slower with Vista, and not compatible with Windows 7.  See:  More About QTTabBar for installation details, and more usage information.  Compare to similar programs: DMEXBar

QTTabBar summary & rating.

 

DMEXBar
Add additional toolbars to Windows Explorer that provide a variety of new file management functions.

  • Access Where?  Explorer
  • Access How?  Toolbars, right-click context menu, and customizable keyboard shortcuts
  • Favorites Menu?  Yes: on-the-fly additions
  • Recent Menu?  No
  • Dialog Window Settings?  No
  • Additional Window Functions?  Only for Explorer windows: arrange side-by-side, save/restore positions, etc.
  • Customizability: Low
  • Additional Features: A variety of new file management functions added as buttons on toolbar and items in context menu

DMEXBar

After installation, I enabled the 3 new Explorer toolbars shown above: a breadcrumb-like button bar (below Explorer's address bar), a favorites button bar (below the breadcrumb bar), and a multi-function file management toolbar.

Adding folders and files to my Favorites toolbar was easy: I browsed for the target, selected it, then the caption was automatically entered (or I could change it).  I could add separators but not submenus.  It was also easy to add Favorites on the fly by calling the menu from an open folder and choosing "Add".

My Favorites were added as buttons on the Favorites toolbar, as menu items when I clicked on the Favorites menu button (blue star), and as items in DMEXBar's context menu (accessed by right-clicking on a file or folder in explorer). Clicking on one my Favorites simply launched that folder in the open Explorer window.  However, right-clicking on one of the buttons in the Favorites toolbar opened a cascading (fly-out) menu of folders, letting me explore the directory structure.

DMEXBar cascading menu

The breadcrumb toolbar was similar to Vista's toolbar in that it displayed buttons for every folder in the path I was exploring.  Just like the Favorites toolbar, clicking on one of the folder buttons opened the folder in the open Explorer window, while right-clicking on one of the folder buttons opened a cascading (fly-out) menu of folders. 

 The buttons on the other toolbar provided access to a variety of different file management tools.  Most of the tools were also accessible from DMEXBar's context menu (accessed by right-clicking on a file or folder in explorer).  Samer from freewaregenius.com wrote a great review that thoroughly described each of these tools.

One of the most unique functions provided by DMEXBar was the ability to arrange Explorer windows side-by-side, mimicking a dual-pane file manager.   A number of other arrangement options were also offered including, maximizing window height, starting a full-screen mode, and saving/restoring window positions.

DMEXBar effectively adds quick access to my favorite folders in Explorer and adds a variety of new file management functions accessed from new toolbar buttons and from new context menu items.  Many of the functions were useful and unique (described in more detail here: http://www.freewaregenius.com/2008/02/06/dmexbar-brings-the-functionalit...).  However, the use of some of the functions was not intuitive and some of them were obscure and not as useful as other functions that could have been easily included in the program.  I would also like to see more customizability, which was relatively absent.  After a quick installation on Vista, DMEXBar seemed to work fine, but many functions were not operable in Windows 7.  Compare to similar programs: QTTabBar

DMEXBar summary & rating.

 

StExBar
A smaller program that adds a toolbar to Explorer and allows advanced users to add buttons with customizable function.

  • Access Where?  Explorer
  • Access How?  Toolbar
  • Favorites Menu?  No
  • Recent Menu?  No
  • Dialog Window Settings?  No
  • Additional Window Functions?  No
  • Customizability: High
  • Additional Features: Adds a few buttons with simple functions, but allows you to add and program new buttons.

StExBar screenshot

StExBar adds a toolbar to Explorer with buttons for the following file management functions: show/hide system files, open console from here, copy file/folder names, copy file/folder paths, new folder, rename, and a text box that filters the listed files.  On the surface this program is minimal but effective in offering what it claims to offer: "what Microsoft forgot to implement in the explorer".  Some of these functions have since been added in Windows 7, yet the program works fine in XP, Vista and Win7.

StExBar customization

What makes StExBar unique and wonderful is that it lets you add new buttons that perform customizable command line functions.  Your command line can include special variables that allow you to include selected files/folders and text.  In the dialog pictured above, I created a button that searches from the current folder using the program Everything.  Now this button can be arranged with the others on Explorer's toolbar.  So, StExBar serves the same function as FileMenuTools, except items appear on Explorer's toolbar rather than in the context menu.  Needless to say, these features require knowledge about using command line functions, parameters, and syntax. Less advanced users will find more features are available in similar programs reviewed above.  Compare to similar programs: QTTabBar, DMEXBar

StExBar summary & rating.

 

B. Fast Folder Access Extensions (quick access to favorite folders, recent folders, and more)

 

FileBox eXtender (FE)
Get quick access to favorite & recent folders from buttons added to Explorer and dialog boxes.

  • Access Where?  Explorer, Open/Save dialogs
  • Access How?  Buttons added to windows, customizable keyboard shortcuts
  • Favorites Menu?  Yes: on-the-fly additions, submenus
  • Recent Menu?  Yes
  • Dialog Window Settings?  Yes: size, view mode, sort order (not consistent in Vista)
  • Additional Window Functions?  Yes: on top, roll up
  • Customizability: Moderate
  • Additional Features: "On top" and "roll up" buttons added to all windows, can add program exceptions, "Update Shortcuts" to fix broken links in favorites menu

Handy buttons

Upon installation, the Favorites and Recently Accessed buttons were immediately added to all Explorer and Open/Save dialog windows next to the normal minimize, restore, and maximize buttons.  Adding folders and files to my Favorites was easy: I browsed for the target, selected it, then the caption was automatically entered (or I could change it).  I could add separators and submenus so that my Favorites menu would be more organized.  It was also easy to add Favorites on the fly by calling the menu from an open folder and choosing "Add".

Favorites

A single click on the Favorites or Recent buttons quickly openned the menus.  There were no cascading (fly-out) menus, the FE menu items simply openned the selected folders.

The picture shows the Favorites setup, and shows other options including Exceptions which told FE to ignore applications that I specified.  I was excited about the ability to set dialog/explorer window size, view mode, and sort order, but they did not work consistently for me (on my Vista machine).

The "push-pin" Always on Top button and a Rollup button were added to all windows (if desired).  Both functions were also added to the "system menus" of all windows, accessed by right clicking on the window captions.  These functions worked well and were useful when I want to keep an eye on one program, but use another.

FileBox eXtender effectively adds quick access to my favorite and recent folders in Explorer and Open/Save dialogs.  The Always on Top and Rollup buttons work well in all windows and they proved to be very useful.  However, I would like to see full support for Vista, more customizability, more ways to access the menus (e.g. via the context menu), and cascading (fly-out) menus.  Unfortunately, according to the developers website, this program is no longer in development.  Compare to similar programs: Direct Folders, FlashFolder

FileBox eXtender summary & rating.

 

Direct Folders (DF)
Get quick and customizable access to favorite & recent folders from a menu in Explorer and dialog boxes.

  • Access Where?  Explorer, Open/Save/Browse dialogs
  • Access How?  Double clicking in white space, customizable hotkeys
  • Favorites Menu?  Yes: on-the-fly additions, submenus
  • Recent Menu?  Yes: global and per application
  • Dialog Window Settings?  Global and per application: size, view mode, sort order
  • Additional Window Functions?  Yes: on top, roll up
  • Customizability: High
  • Additional Features: ClickSwitch makes file dialog jump to the folder already opened in Explorer

Adding folders and files to my Favorites menu was easy: I browsed for the target, selected it, then the caption was automatically entered (or I could change it).  I could add separators and submenus so that my Favorites menu would be more organized.  I liked that I could also choose an "Alternative traget" that would be launched when I "Shift+Clicked" the item.  This is a rare feature that really showed me how customizable DF was.  It was also easy to add Favorites on the fly by calling the menu from an open folder and choosing "Add here".

Favorites Menu

My favorite feature was the "Recent" submenu (shown below).  It displayed a highly configurable list of recently opened folders that could be tracked by application (like jump-lists).

        Recent Sub-menu

After installation, the "Test Direct Folders" window appeared.  This might be a little confusing for some.  But it allowed me to see the three areas where DF is implemented: Open/Save dialogs, Browse dialogs, and Explorer.  
I could access the Favorites menu by double clicking in the white space of dialogs or Explorer, or by using costumizable hotkeys. The activation of menus and launching of items was nice and fast.  There were no cascading (fly-out) menus, the DF menu items simply opened the selected folders.

DF was highly configurable with lots of options that could be specified globally or for each application.    I was excited about the ability to set dialog/explorer window size, view mode, and sort order, but they did not work consistently for me (on my Vista machine).  There was also an extra window that appeared above dialogs but had no useful function.  The program froze on me once while clicking around on the window above the test "Browse" dialog.  Luckily, this could be disabled in the settings.

Direct Folders effectively provides quick access to favorite and recent folders from the context menu of Explorer and dialog boxes.  The program's strength is in its customizability.  However, I would like to see some cascading (fly-out) menus, some buttons in Explorer's toolbar or in dialog boxes, and some additional features that can't be found in Vista & Windows 7.  These OS's allow you to manually put favorites in most dialog boxes (at least in Vista & W7) and add to the  taskbar additional toolbars or short-cuts of favorite files & folders.  Compare to similar programs: Filebox Extender, FlashFolder

Direct Folders summary & rating.

 

FlashFolder (FF)
Get quick access to favorite & recent folders from a toolbar added to  dialog boxes.

  • Access Where?  Open/Save/Browse dialogs
  • Access How?  Toolbar above dialogs, customizable keyboard shortcuts
  • Favorites Menu?  Yes: on-the-fly additions, submenus
  • Recent Menu?  Yes: global and per application
  • Dialog Window Settings?  Yes: size, position, view mode, max hieght of folder combobox, max height of filetypes combobox
  • Additional Window Functions?  No
  • Customizability: Moderate
  • Additional Features: Address/location display in the toolbar, an option to show all file types in the dialog windows, Total Commander integration

After installation, a toolbar floated above all Open, Save as, or Browse dialog windows.  Some of the buttons on the toolbar included History (of open folders), Currently Open Folders (in other applications), and Favorite Folders.

FlashFolder screenshot

Adding folders and files to my Favorite Folders was easy in FF: I browsed for the target, selected it, then I selected the caption from alternatives or could edit it myself. I could add separators and submenus so that my Favorites menu would be more organized. I could add Favorites on the fly by clicking a button on the toolbar, then selecting "Add current folder".  There were no cascading menus, clicking on a FF menu item simply navigated to the selected folder in the dialog window.

FlashFolder effectively provides quick access to favorite & recent folders from a useful toolbar added to Open/Save/Browse dialogs.  In XP, the visually appealing toolbar worked well and the program was able to effectively adjusted the size and view mode of dialog boxes.  However it is limited to only dialog boxes and does not work in Vista.  Compare to similar programs: Direct Folders, Filebox Extender

FlashFolder summary & rating.

  

Folder View (FV)
Effectively add favorite folders to Explorer's toolbar and context menu.

  • Access Where?  Explorer, Open/Save dialogs (not in Vista)
  • Access How?  Toolbar in Explorer, right-click context menu, tray icon
  • Favorites Menu?  Yes: on-the-fly additions, submenus
  • Recent Menu?  Yes
  • Dialog Window Settings?  No
  • Additional Window Functions?  No
  • Customizability: Low
  • Additional Features: Cascading (fly-out) menus follow directory structure, "Copy to" and "Move to" in context menu

After installing FV, a Configuration Wizard asked me to select a "Main Folder", which was "My Documents" or my user folder by default.  The folders contained in the Main Folder became buttons in Explorer's toolbar and context menu, in the tray icon, and in Open/Save dialogs (but not in Vista).  Clicking on a button opened a cascading (fly-out) menu of folders, letting me explore the directory structure. 

For example, I added "c:\" as a button, then I could access any folder on that drive from FV's cascading menu.  I really liked this capability.  FV also added a "Recent" button that showed recently accessed folders.  



I liked that I could choose any folder, because using My Documents became a problem.  If I wanted to remove a button it would send the real folder to the recyle bin.  So, instead, I chose a folder that contained short-cuts to other folders.  To my surprise, it turned these short-cuts into buttons and cascading menus just like they were real folders!  This is the safest way to use the program because you can add and delete the short-cuts without affecting your real folders.  

One major disappointment was that the menus did not show files, only folders (unlike explorer's own cascading toolbar menus).  So I could not access any files directly from the cascading menus.  This was a severe limitation for me because I like to launch files from cascading menus.  This should at least be an option.

Folder View  effectively offers quick access to my favorite and recent folders from the toolbar and context menu in Explorer.  The cascading (fly-out) menus and the toolbar additions are excellent features that are rarely found in other programs.  Everything but the Open/Save dialog add-on worked in both Vista and Windows 7.  But I would like to see more customizability, the ability to access files, and additional features.  Some of the functionality can be found in Explorer alone, by simply adding a folder toolbar to the taskbar.  Compare to similar programs: Explorer Breadcrumbs

Folder View summary & rating.

 

C. Cascading Folder Menus (explore directory structure with cascading/fly-out menus)

 

Explorer Breadcrumbs
A smaller program that makes Explorer's address bar in XP look and act similar to the one in Vista.

  • Access Where?  Explorer
  • Access How?  Toolbar
  • Favorites Menu?  No
  • Recent Menu?  No
  • Dialog Window Settings?  No
  • Additional Window Functions?  No
  • Customizability: Not much
  • Additional Features: Browse through directory structure with cascading (fly-out) menus

breadcrumb screenshot

Explorer Breadcrumbs adds an Explorer toolbar that mimic's the address bar in Vista.  But it was actually more useful because it included features missing from Vista: an "Up" button and the ability to explore the directory structure with cascading (fly-out) menus.  Surprisingly the program seemed to be working fine in both Vista and Windows 7.  Although minimal, this program does what it promises and does it well.  Compare to similar programs: Folder View

Explorer Breadcrumbs summary & rating.

Folder Guide (FG)
A smaller program that offers quick access to favorite folders from the context menu.

  • Access Where?  Explorer, Open/Save dialogs, Start button
  • Access How?  Right-click context menu
  • Favorites Menu?  Yes: on-the-fly additions
  • Recent Menu?  No
  • Dialog Window Settings?  No
  • Additional Window Functions?  No
  • Customizability: Not
  • Additional Features: None

Folder Guide Screenshot

Folder Guide simply adds folder short-cuts to the context menu, with no other options or features.  The same features are available in Folder View, but with more options.  Or the same launching capabilities can be found in more custimizable and asthetically pleasing launcher programs. Or the same functions can be added with freeware programs that edit the context menu (right click menu), like FileMenuTools.

Folder Guide summary & rating.

 

D. Other Explorer Extensions (other visual and functional enhancements to Explorer's GUI)

 

FolderBox (FB)
A smaller program that adds another Explorer window within the standard Explorer window to make file management easier.

  • Access Where?  Explorer
  • Access How?  FolderBox "toolbar"
  • Favorites Menu?  No
  • Recent Menu?  Yes
  • Dialog Window Settings?  No
  • Additional Window Functions?  No
  • Customizability: Low
  • Additional Features: None

FolderBox screenshot  FolderBox in XP

FolderBox is an unique program that adds a "FolderBox" at the bottom of each Explorer window, allowing you to perform file management functions between the FolderBox file display and the normal Explorer file display.  The screenshot on the left was taken in Windows 7 and shows the FolderBox highlighted in red, the other screenshot is from XP.  Inside the FolderBox is a standard file list display where all of Explorer's functions (like dragging/dropping, context menu, etc.) work like normal.  The FolderBox also provides up to 5 tabs that can open pre-defined folders. So, you can explore a folder in the FileBox while exploring a different folder in the normal Explorer window, with the ability to drag and drop between them.

FolderBox seemed to work fine in XP, Vista and Windows 7.  All in all, it is a very useful program that does what it's intended to do very well.  However, it was not very customizable.  A commercial version is available that allows 10 tabs and an on/off button.

FolderBox summary & rating.

 

E. Conclusions And Comparisons

 

Navigating Through Folders: Folder View (FV) vs. Explorer Breadcrumb (EB)

Folder View (FV) and Explorer Breadcrumbs (EB) both provide access to your folders (but not files) from cascading (fly-out) menus on Explorer's toolbar.  However, the toolbar in FV contains a customizable set of favorite and recent folders, whereas EB's toolbar works more like Vista's address bar in that it contains the current path of folders opened in Explorer.  FV also adds this functionality to the right-click context menu in Explorer, dialog boxes, and the tray icon.  So, FV offers a wider range of features across a wider range of situations.  But, only EB is fully functional in both Vista and Windows 7.

Accessing Favorite and Recent Folders: Filebox Extender (FE) vs. Direct Folder (DF)  (vs. FlashFolder)

Filebox Extender (FE) and Direct Folders (DF) both display menus of favorite & recent folders that can be accessed in Explorer or dialog boxes.  But FE's menus are primarily accessed from several buttons that are added to each window, while DF puts it all in a single pop-up menu that is accessed primarily by double-clicking on any white space in a window.  Both programs can also launch their menus with customizable keyboard shortcuts.  Both programs also offer "on top" and "roll up" window functions, but FE seems more polished in this respect.  Both programs can also set the size, view mode, and sort order of dialog boxes and Explorer windows, but neither performed consistently in Vista.  After all these similarities, you'll be surprised at how different these two programs look and feel.  Deciding between them may simply be a matter of personal preference.  However, if you like customizablility, DF is the better choice.  DF also offers a commercial Pro version that adds some relatively useless functions.

FlashFolder offers similarly effective access to favorite and recent folders but only in dialog boxes in XP.  Like FE & DF, FlashFolder also offers customizable keyboard shortcuts and the ability to customize dialog box settings, but it does not offer the "on top" and "roll up" functions.  So it is much more limited than FE and DF, except it is more visually appealing and it offers more dialog box customizations.

Table 1: Comparison of Explorer Add-ons.

comparison tableClick to enlarge.

 
Related Products and Links

Check out our detailed QTTabBar review at More About QTTabBar

Explorer Visual/Style Enhancements

  • Folder Size (not for Vista) adds a new column to the Details view in Windows Explorer. The new column shows not only the size of files, but also the size of folders. It keeps track of which folders you view, and scans them in the background so you can see the complete size of all files within the folder.
  • ExplorerView gives you the ability to turn off the way Explorer attempts to auto-detect the contents of a folder in Vista.
  • TweakXPlorer is a portable program that allows you to skin or customize the look of Windows Explorer.
  • Rainbow Folders allows you to change the color of any folder icon.

Tooltip & Thumbnail Enhancements

These programs enhance the windows that pop-up when you hover the mouse over a file in Explorer.  There are also some good reviews at Freewaregenius.com and a detailed tutorial describing alternatives.

  • InfoTag Magic displays extra data stored in the tag fields of MP3, WMA, APE and Ogg Vorbis files in a tooltip window when mouse pointer is hovered over a file in Windows Explorer. Also it provides a quick preview for plain text files, shortcuts properties and version information of executable files.
  • MediaInfo supplies technical and tag information about a video or audio file. The installer is bundled with adware OpenCandy, but you can opt for a zipped package without the installer.
  • GSpot identifies the codec required to play an AVI file and supplies other information as well.
  • ThumbView enables image thumbnails and tooltips in MS-Windows Explorer for filetypes that are not natively supported. It started with PCX, TGA, DDS and PNG images, but now ThumbView supports an amazing 19 image types - directly inside any Explorer window
  • AudioShell allows you to view and edit ID3 metadata tags directly in Windows Explorer by displaying audio file tag info on mouse-over, adding tabs to properties window, adding audio-related columns in Explorer's details view.

XP "Places Bar" Editors

The "Places Bar" is on the left side of Open/Save/Browse dialog boxes in Windows XP.  It shows a list of buttons that you can click to open common folders, like the Desktop, My Documents, etc.  You can use the free programs below to customize the Places Bar, or you can try doing it manually: "How to edit the Places bar in Windows XP".

Launching Folders & Programs

If you want to launch folders from the right-click context menu, folder locations can be added using many of the context menu extensions found here: Best Free Right-Click Context Menu Extensions

If you want to launch programs as well as folders, check out Best Free Program Launchers: Best Free Program Launcher

Here are some other useful tutorials:

 
Quick Selection Guide

QT TabBar

4.5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Powerful, extensive, customizable, transforms Explorer
Difficult to discover and activate all of its features, documentation needs improvement, menus are a little slow, not compatible with Windows 7
1.0.0.0
21.9 KB
Unrestricted freeware
v1.5.0.0 beta 2 released 23 April, 2011
Windows XP & Vista

Explorer Breadcrumbs

4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Adds a Vista-like address bar to Explorer that navigates directories via cascading menus; is more functional than Vista's address bar; works in most versions of Windows.
Not customizable and no additional features.
1.3.0.1
333.2 KB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista/Win7

FolderBox

4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Adds a configurable Favorites menu to the context menu of Explorer and Dialogs.
Not customizable.
1.20
898 KB
Feature limited freeware
Windows: All versions (including Win7)

StExBar

4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Adds a toolbar to Explorer where advanced users can add and program additional buttons.
Really only useful for advanced users, others will get more functionality from QTTabBar or DMEXBar.
1.8.4
340 KB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Open source freeware
Windows: All versions including Win7

Folder View

3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Adds some useful buttons and cascading menus to Explorer's toolbar and context menu, to a tray icon, and to Open/Save dialogs (not in Vista).
Only partially functional in Vista/Win7; does not provide direct access to files.
2.1.1b (2005)
1.2 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows 98/XP & Vista/Win7 (partially)

DMEXBar

3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Adds additional toolbars to Windows Explorer that provide a variety of new file management functions.
Not very customizable, a little difficult to operate, some functions were not very useful, others useful ones were not included, not compatible with Windows 7
12
4.7 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows ME/2000/XP & probably Vista

FileBox eXtender

3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Adds buttons to Explorer and dialog boxes that provide quick access to favorite & recent folders, adds useful "On top" and "Roll up" buttons to all windows.
No longer in development, dialog/explorer window settings did not work consistently in Vista.
2.01.00 (Feb 23 2011)
1.6 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
Windows XP & Vista

Direct Folders

3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Effectively gives you access to a configurable Favorites menu in Explorer and in Open/Save/Browse dialogs; claims to work in ALL versions of Windows.
Crashed once, dialog/explorer window settings did not work consistently in Vista.
3.73
2.0 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 98/NT/2K/XP/Vista/x64/Windows7

FlashFolder

3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Adds a toolbar that provides access to favorite & recent folders, effectively sets dialog box sizes and view modes.
Limited to only dialog boxes, does not work in Vista.
1.9.181 (2009)
514 KB
Open source freeware
Windows 2000/XP

Folder Guide

2.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Adds a configurable Favorites menu to the context menu of Explorer and Dialogs.
Simply adds folder shortcuts to context menu, no other options, no additional features.
1.2 (2008)
769 KB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista
 
 
Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Victor Laurie. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

Back to the top of the article.

 

Please rate this article: 

Your rating: None
4
Average: 4 (44 votes)

Comments

Another wonderful source of free apps, that add much to your Windows experience is Sordum company site, where the most close to the topic is Easy Context Menu app - http://www.sordum.org

I thought it's impossible to talk about Explorer extensions without mentioning of FileMenu Tools - http://www.lopesoft.com/index.php/en/download/filemenu-tools

A nice application that deserves to be added to the "Fast Folder Access Extensions" paragraph, is FoldersPopup (http://code.jeanlalonde.ca/folderspopup/). A nice portable and actively developed application written in AutoHotKey by Jean Lalonde who's very responsive to any questions/remarks/bugs you may have.
(The current version is 2.2, but v3 is in development)

I installed QTTabBar version 262 which is working on W/8.1. I also have Classic Shell, and so far no problems. By default it opens up new windows in tabs. To get to QTTB Options, I click on View>Options and then hit QT Button Bar and then hit the gear icon.

FolderSize got a new version with experimental support for Vista and later.

http://foldersize.sourceforge.net/

I think this must be the longest article page on Gizmos- Sometimes too much info is not helpful.
I installed QTTAbbar and almost gave up on it till I finally realized how to access the options area so i could delete and change groups and access other features. The article here might do better by just pointing out the main points and telling quickly how to use the program otherwise one can get lost in all the feature details. i.e. QTTabBar has many additional settings you can tweak from the Options pane. To do this, right-click an empty part of the tab bar, and select Options.

But, now that I've found the options I totally love QTTabbar. BTW, It is compatible with Win 7.