We are all used to the different flavours of file managers in Microsoft Windows, but just how good are any of the freeware file manager apps available for Android devices? Let's find out.
Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
When I first opened X-plore File Manager, it immediately reminded me of a piece of Windows software that I used to use years ago called Xtree Pro. That old software, in conjunction with a serial or parallel cable, would allow you to transfer files between one computer and the other. X-plore File Manager allows you to transfer files between folders on the same device. Cool. And what I mean by 'cool' is that, like Xtree Pro, it splits the screen in 2 (best viewed in landscape). But unlike Xtree Pro, it puts the menu buttons down the centre, which I think is great.
You can have your device on one side of the split screen and your external storage on the other. It shows the total memory size and amount of free space - folder hierarchy listings and thumbnails - and when drilling further into a folder, it again shows you file sizes: but then also allows you to manipulate them between device and storage or open them using the menu buttons or by tapping the files.
The menu buttons are clearly labeled and you can also configure them to behave or run how you want them to. There is a general configuration option as well that allows you to do many things such as show hidden files, change the theme, add a password to the program and a host of other options to play with.
And throughout it all it remains very easy to use and professional, which considering it's free, is amazing. Oh, and by the way, you can even manipulate files within web storage or on the LAN, view APK files as Zip, create Zip files, and it even has built-in viewers for images, video, audio, and text too. What more could you ask for? Lots probably and no doubt you will find them within this app. There are no adverts either!!
Overall, I really like it but the split screen view (landscape) doesn't show that well on a small screen Android phone, but it does look the bees-knees on a tablet.
AndroXplorer, when opened, gives you a visual display not unlike an open source operating system. It utilises the Android logo to its full advantage by showing that cheeky chappie (or chapess) in a variety of poses which gives each thumbnail a quazi-professional look. And not to be phased by these thumbnails, it gives you a description under each.
Navigation is simplicity itself using the thumbnails and you are quickly sped to your destination with a single tap. At the top of each screen visited is the title, a search option and an icon that looks like a back button, or it could be an enter/go option (I'm not overly sure though more play time may give me an answer). When you have gone to the page you want, by tapping once on the title bar brings a drop-down menu that gives you a whole host of options (depending on the page you're on) including a Home icon. Useful as I still can't get that funny backish looking button to work! (Of course using the back option on your device works too.) To the right of the title bar is Name (as default). Tapping on it means you can sort your files by name, date etc.
AndroXplorer presents to me things I need to know about my device and storage. It can give you a breakdown of your Memory Info and has an option to Backup and Restore. There is a Recycle bin, which I can only assume works similarly to the recycle bin on your desktop, My Programs which shows you your programs, and Shortcuts (though I don't know why) plus a few others.
Up until a few moments ago the only thing I couldn't find was how the hell you copy, paste, or delete something!! But now I know. When you go to your memory card for example, it shows you a thumbnailed display of your folders. The usual tapping on them will bring up the contents.
But back to the folders. If you hold your finger over a folder, a dinky menu appears at the bottom of the screen that includes our favourites, cut, copy, paste, delete etc. Now when I say "dinky" I really mean "dinky". I've got large fingers and I have already tapped the wrong icons because they are so small. A stylus at this point might be the better option. But the same principle of holding works on files too and the menu will appear for them as well. And deleting will put the deleted item into the Recycle bin (it will ask you to confirm deleting a file or folder before recycling it).
So, overall a pretty neat tool but once again, on a tablet or large Android phone it will be fine (though you may need a stylus at times), whereas I can see it might be a pain in the proverbial on a small screen device. Definitely an app to keep in your device toolbox. And one more thing, there is also a thumbnail for a Pro version but I will leave you to explore that option.
The FX File Explorer is - in my opinion - one of the most beautiful file managing apps around. Its user interface looks well designed, and almost everything is freely customizable. Its major issue? It is feature-restricted. There is a paid "Plus" add-on available which adds network and cloud integration as well as media management features, so if you need them, this product is not for you. Personally I prefer to manage my cloud services with separate apps, so I honestly don't know if the paid version has any more differences to this version.
Starting the app, I am greeted with some kind of a - themable - "home screen" as seen on the screenshot. While I can't turn it off, I would not consider this as a minus as I rarely want to do the same file managing task again and again, so starting a new "session" would be required anyway. FX lets me configure what's on the home screen so it's not a big deal. I can set bookmarks, hide the add-on link (which only points to one free and the aforementioned paid "Plus" add-on) and even add a link to the built-in (but pretty basic) text editor named FX TextEdit. This is enough flexibility for me. A propos flexibility: FX supports dual-panel view, the two panels are displayed horizontally or vertically, depending on your device's rotation. I guess I like that. (Admittedly, I haven't tested it on a 4-inch or smaller display, so at least the vertical view could cause usage issues.) When it comes to add-ons, it is probably worth mentioning that FX asked me to install the free root add-on when I tried to open my device's root directory. The fact that this is not a built-in feature is a good security improvement for less experienced users and can help avoiding serious damage. I know I repeat myself, but: I guess I like that.
The built-in Help system, available from the default home screen as well as from the app menu, is basically a collection of text-only HTML pages which explain quite every detail of FX. It does not mention which features require the paid version though, but that's minor. FX also features an archiver (available from the file menus) and an image viewer. The actual file managing tasks are easy to handle: FX presents different view modes (all available from the always visible "View" menu), including list view and a very graphical "Usage" mode, showing files' and folders' relative space on the device. It seems that the developers invested quite a lot of time into the design. I seriously wish more of them would do that. Of course FX can also display image thumbnails.
One more feature worth mentioning is the tasks history, available from the Window menu on the top right edge of the file manager. This window lists all recent and ongoing actions (like deleting and copying files) and has a "Stop all" button so you can break any accidentally started actions which could come in handy if you're drunk or just inattentive. The history feature pretty much completes my impression that FX is a well-thought and near-perfect file manager which is definitely worth checking out.
ES File Explorer gives you a quick and easy way to browse through folders and files on your Android device with a Favorites button, pretty convenient as you can use it to instantly get to the SD card home folder, root directory, bookmarked or frequently used folders and files.
Basic file operations are user-friendly too. You can easily move, copy, rename or delete files or folders by touching and holding an item in a list or icon view with a multi-select option. Zipping and unzipping with encryption also comes in handy when you need it.
Using the app to search files by file type or name inside a defined folder and subfolders is also possible but a tad slow when tested.
Besides functioning as a file manager, ES File Explorer also doubles up as an app manager for you to install, uninstall, backup apps, and a note editor for editing text so that you don't need to install too many other apps on your device.
And it doesn't end there. Many other features are included although you might not need all of them, such as transfer files over Bluetooth, Samba file sharing via Wi-Fi, built-in task killer, view and edit root-only files, SD Card Analyst and more.
Astro File Manager has been designed to help you organise and view your pictures, music, documents and other files on your Android device very quickly and very intuitively. It has a clear, crisp and uncluttered front end menu with easily understandable menu options that will lead you to the correct content management of your choice.
Once an option has been chosen, the next screen presents you with an easy way to navigate through your internal and external memory, the file types, and other file types such as Podcasts, Ringtones, Downloads, USB Storage, and much much more.
I love the sub-menu concept it provides where you can drag it up or down like a scroll bar using your finger and the options give you such scope to do so much more with the files stored on your device. For example, you can move, copy, drag your files, create new folders, view them in a list or in a grid, sort them, set preferences etc. The options are great and depending on how much you actually keep stored on your device, you could spend a while fiddling with it but it will lead you nicely and conveniently to your content.
What it also gives you on the front menu are options for Application Backup, Task Killer (Process Management), and SD Card Usage. Each one in itself is really useful. I especially like the SD Card Usage as it gives me a clear and easily understandable view of how my micro SD card is being used.
There is a Getting Started option (Astro v3 Help) which is very informative and explains the majority of the functions with screenshots. Plus it will take you to Astro's Support Portal if you really get stuck.
Ghost Commander has been around since 2009. Its main advantage is the two-panel navigation which, similarly to X-plore, allows me to work with two folders or SD cards at a time. On a rooted device Ghost Commander lets me navigate through the root file system. There are free plug-ins for SMB and SFTP support available from the Play Store which integrate rather well, FTP support comes built-in.
During the first start-up an info window appears, describing the basic file operations and all predefined hotkeys (which are a lot). This info window is available later by pressing the "Help" button on the bottom of the window. Each of the two panels has a default start page which allows quick access to most of Ghost Commander's functionality, including Favorites which allow me to set bookmarks on certain folders for quick access and managing installed applications. The Favorites add-in supports creating shortcuts on my home screen which could come in handy if I regularly need to have some folders one tap away.
The file manager's user interface is quite simple, it only features the panel switcher on the top and the customizable shortcut bar on the bottom side of the window. In portrait mode only one of the two panels is displayed and you can swipe between them, rotating the device to landscape mode makes Ghost Commander show both panels side-by-side. Each row is divided into two parts: Tapping a folder or file name selects it, tapping its icon (or double-tapping the name) opens it. By default, Ghost Commander is in multi-select mode so I can perform batch file operations easily. When I navigate through the root file system, the particular panel gets a bright red title bar. Nice!
The integrated Zip client works well and smooth. Ghost Commander also features a (very basic) image viewer and a text editor; no video player though. Both do what they are intended for, but don't expect too many features. Ghost Commander's settings allow a couple of neat tweaks, including a "finger friendly" mode which enlarges UI elements, setting interface colors and changing the default text editor. Ghost Commander can show thumbnail previews of image files in a folder, it does not fit their widths though so thumbnail previews look a bit cluttered. At least I could change the relative thumbnail size from the settings.
In summary, Ghost Commander seems to be a light but functional file manager with no major issues. Personally, I would want to have a more shiny GUI but that's a matter of taste.
AndroZip File Manager is another Android file management tool that has the look and feel of a well-built app. The first thing I like about it is that it installs to your memory card rather than to your device. It also does a lot of things the other management apps can do but doesn't have the screen split into two. What it does have is a clear, crisp look and feel and this is from the scroll-bar menu options to the scrolling of your folders, to the way a simple tap can move you backwards or forwards without any unnecessary fuss or finger-tapping technique.
You have a series of default folders that you can create to the left like Downloads, Music, etc so you can store all those files in one place, and there is also a Favourites if you don't want to trawl through all the unnecessary system folders. The scrollable menu options are well presented allowing you to do things like create new folders, search, see what your CPU is doing, kill any tasks or apps, and the settings have a wide-range of options to do much more. There is also a useful Backup feature for your apps. If you hold down on a folder or file, another menu appears giving you a range of options from delete, to rename, to copy and move etc.
And like the name implies, you can also create zip files. You can even send files and get properties on them which is quite useful. When you switch between memory card and device, it reminds you of this in a nice big bold pop-up that says you are leaving your memory card and is it OK to continue, which I think is a nice feature as sometimes you can have a mind-blank when doing things if you get distracted. And to go back you simply press the Home thumbnail in the scrollable menu.
Another nice (but potentially dangerous) feature is the ability to multi-do something like zips, delete, move and copy. If you know what you're doing, fine, but if you are unsure, don't use it!!
No adverts on this app, which is always a good thing, and overall a good solid app to have on your device. Works especially well on an Android tablet and again, there might be some difficulty on a small screen without the use of a stylus (or sharp finger nails).
Lime is the youngest file manager in this review. Having been published in early August 2013, it evolved rather quickly and is still undergoing rapid development with a couple of added features. Its main difference to the other file managers listed here is the lime-colored arcade-themed user interface which is humble but mighty.
Starting Lime is impressively fast. Once done, you are presented a clean white-black-lime-colored list (can be set to be a grid instead) of files with some sort of breadcrumb navigation on its top. If you prefer a more streamlined look, Lime's settings panel (available from the collapsed sidebar) allows you to use your system's default font instead of the own vintage "Shang hei" font (as seen on the screenshot); the author sadly removed the option to enable a black theme (useful for AMOLED) around version 1.5.0. The lime-colored banners all around the user interface won't go away though, but they are actually rather pretty anyway.
The icons above the file list let you switch between the particular parent directory, your device's root directory and your internal SD card. Long tapping a file or directory will enable the multi-selection mode which allows you to perform batch actions like copying, deleting etc. over multiple files at once. To leave this mode, you'll have to press the Back key. File actions are available by tapping the "menu" element on the right side of the file listing. Lime itself comes with a plethora of (basic but working) managing tools such as an archiver and a text editor. Adding bookmarks is easy too: Select a file or a folder and tap the star on the top right side of the window. All bookmarks are listed in the sidebar as "favorites".
Of course, Lime also has root support, you can traverse and edit "protected" system directories and files easily. Beware that Lime's user interface might let you forget that you are doing such. During my long-term test which lasted from the first versions to version 1.4.0, the only thing that confused me was that Lime sometimes doesn't handle root privileges well. On one smartphone it just froze for a while and worked well then, on another it did not even try to gain those rights. As Lime is actively being developed, I'm confident that this will be improved soon.
For now, Lime is a noteworthy newcomer and deserves a try. Maybe it is exactly what some of you needed.
File Manager is a very visually fresh way of managing your data on your Android device. When you first open it, it displays all the menu icons in a friendly fashion that doesn't scream "basic" but rather in a well thought out and dare I say it, professional way. The navigation vaguely reminds me of customised CRM view I once used. It defaults its Home Directory to your external memory card but this can be changed through the settings and you can also change the theme to Light or Dark but who cares? It's more about what it can and can't do.
The software, like a lot of the others described here, can do a wealth of file manipulation, searches, sorting, creation of folders etc. The settings are clear and easy to navigate though the front-end may take you a while to get used to if you're not a regular Android app user. Apart from the local file management, you can also scan your network and manage files that way too. I haven't tried that but if you do, let me know if it works well or not.
There is a very nice tool in this app called Storage Analysis, which I really like. It shows, at the top of the screen, your device and any external storage, total amount of memory and available memory. Underneath it lists all your folders, their size, and the percentage of storage it uses. Not really useful I suppose if memory size doesn't interest you, but useful if you are careful about how big an app really is when it creates its installation folders. (I promise you I'm not an anorak!)
Again I will mention the Help or in this case, the lack of. If there is a Help option somewhere in the app, I can't find it. Also, I am running this on my my tablet and overall, it works really well both physically and visually. I'm not overly sure how it will visually work on an Android phone unless the screen is a pretty decent size.
File Expert is described as the "ultimate app for managing your files". Not only does it manage your files locally but will also allow you to use your device as a sharing server to share files with your friends over a Wi-Fi connection. They can use a web browser, FTP client or Bluetooth to access your File-Expert device. It also gives you an option to set up your own cloud. However, a lot of these special features (and some of the normal ones), are only available with the purchased Pro Key.
The default app menu is very straightforward and easy to use albeit colourless and flat, though there are themes you can download. The navigation is also straightforward and uncluttered (although a bit clunky in use) and the information, once you have chosen an option, is clear and easy to follow. Optional menu items are again, easy to navigate.
If you are used to Android apps then you will have no problem navigating around this software, but if you like to read the Help every now and then, especially if you want to set up file sharing, clouds, etc, well... I couldn't find it!!
Overall, a good app but not truly freeware (I have no idea how much the Pro Key is as I didn't want to click the option to purchase in case I automatically paid for it!!). And on a personal note, I think that there could be potential security issues with anyone, apart from myself, accessing my files remotely from my Android device.
Total Commander, upon opening, has a nice simplistic layout that allows you to navigate easily. The categories allow seamless movement throughout the app without screaming simple. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the whole slew of features this app supports natively. From common functions such as paste and delete (which are located on the bottom toolbar, paste being the button with two documents, and one blue arrow and delete is a document with a red x over it), to more advanced setting such as bookmarks, file packaging, and the ability to add buttons to the toolbar on the bottom so it best suits your needs. The user interface could be a bit cleaner at times but it's certainly not a breaking factor in this case.
The thing that really ‘blew my mind’ about this app was not only does it support local device support, but it also supports network file managing/browsing. It does this through a nice collection of plug-ins through the Google Play marketplace which can be found in an app on the main screen by clicking on Add plug-ins. Right now it supports FTP, SMB connections, and the ability to connect to WebDAV servers.
The mechanics of this app flowed flawlessly as well. I had no problem using this app from renaming files to copying huge files from one storage device to another. Another plus is that if you’re lucky enough to have a rooted device then Total Commander supports it and gives you a couple of extra features such as being able to browse and manage system directories.
Reviewed but not recommended:
- OI File Manager
- Linda File Manager
You might want to check out these articles too:
X-plore File Manager
ASTRO File Manager
AndroZip File Manager
FX File Explorer
ES File Explorer
This software category is maintained by volunteer editor Cthulhux. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.
best free file manager for Android, best free mobile file manager, top free file explorer, best free file manager for mobile device, smart phones, tablet
Please rate this article: