This article helps provide a simple guide to the usage of this excellent software QTTabBar before full documentation is available to the product.
Editor's Note: This review is based on QTTabBar (version 1.2.3 Beta) developed by QuizoApps. It has yet to be updated to base 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.
What is QTTabBar?
QTTabBar is a shell extension for the standard Windows Explorer, like others found in Best Free Windows Explorer Add-ons. It transforms the Windows Explorer into a tabbed browser with many other customizable functions and features. This extension, if properly configured and customized, could make Explorer a serious rival for other file managers reviewed in Best Free File Manager, and indeed betters all the other file managers I have tried.
How does QTTabBar work?
The software extends the capabilities of Windows Explorer considerably, and can be extended itself with various add-ons and plugins if desired. It may be used by average users with the default installation, but it is probably best suited for intermediate to advanced users who wish to spend some time setting it up and harness the extra power and functions available to the program.
System requirements and Performance
QTTabBar works on Windows XP with .Net Framework 2.0 or later, without having loaded other Explorer extensions which use .NET Framework 1.0 /1.1. This program works well on Vista although some minor problems have been reported. Unfortunately, a large part of QTTabBar does not work on Windows 7.
Quite a few people asked about the speed. As far as I can determine it only slows Explorer down by milliseconds, if at all. This is of course difficult to measure. It is faster than any other file manager I have tried. The exact behaviour of many functions also depends on how your standard Explorer default options are set.
Usage of this Article
This article may be considered as a basic QTTabBar guide, QTTabBar manual or QTTabBar tutorial. I have tried to make it as comprehensive as possible, but it does not cover every single detail of the software, neither does it describe every single possible customization, setup, or mouse click. Except where specifically specified, the illustrations in this article apply to Windows XP Home or Professional.
- Installing QTTabBar
- Customizing the Toolbars and Menus
- Tabs Control and Features
- Window Functions
- Search Box
- Keyboard Shortcuts
- Desktop Tool
- Breadcrumbs Address Bar
- Other Compatible Explorer Extensions
To install the basic QTTabBar, go to the download site and download the zip file. Unzip the file to a folder of your choice and run QTTabBar.exe to install the software. After successful installation, you must either log off and then log in again, or re-boot your machine.
The current stable release of the program is Version 126.96.36.199, which applies to this article.
Open "My Documents", and the Explorer Window will open. Click on "View/Toolbars" in the menu (press <Alt> to show the menu bar on Vista).
If "Lock the Toolbars" is checked then uncheck it, click on "View/Toolbars" again.
Select "QT TabBar" to enable the toolbar. You may also check "QT Tab Standard Buttons", a component mentioned on the QT site as "Button Bar".
As you can see here, a bar called "QT Breadcrumbs Address Bar" is enabled. This is an extension I will cover later in this article. I have disabled the Standard Buttons as they are not necessary. The QT TabBar appears after a short delay.
You may now customize toolbar positions as desired by dragging the handles with your mouse.
Right-click on any of the icon buttons along the new tool bar, select "Customize" from the context menu to open a "Button options" window. This will allow you to add or remove icon buttons and separators between the two boxes, and to shift them along the tool bar by using the "Up" or "Down" buttons. You may also choose other icons if you wish, using "Browse Image".
Because the possibilities here are extensive, I have used about the default setup as a starting point. You may change this as desired of course. When you have finished customising the menu bars to your liking, lock the toolbars and the menu to prevent any accidents.
That completes the basic configuration I use.
Below the toolbar, you can now see a single "tab", which is "My Computer", on the left of the tab bar. This is the default setting with at least one tab open when the Explorer window is open. If you close this tab, you will close the whole window.
Now, regardless of how you open Windows explorer, from a shortcut or from some other program, the window will show the contents of the first tab, and the first tab will be the target of the shortcut you opened. If you click on a "Desktop" shortcut somewhere, the contents of the tab will be "Desktop".
By clicking on the navigation icons you can now navigate this tab to wherever you want. If the "Go Back" or "Go Forward" icon is grayed out, it shows that no further navigation in that direction is available. The "Up One Level" icon is for quick access to the parent folder.
To open another tab you click on the "Clone this" icon on the right. The "New window" icon on the left is to open up the current tab in a new Explorer window.
You can open as many tabs as you like. Once the tab is open you can click on it and navigate to any disc, folder, or file. Tab behaviour is completely customisable, as are most mouse commands, but I have left these at the installation default settings for this article.
You can also open new Tabs by:
- Dragging and dropping a folder onto the tab bar
- Double-clicking a folder shortcut on your desktop
- Using the context menu item "Clone this".
You can re-order tabs by dragging and dropping, or by selecting "Tab Order" from the right-click context menu.
If you right click on the icon button in a tab you get a fly-out menu of the contents.
If you right click on the tab itself, you get this context menu on the right.
You have a lot of options here, one of the most important being "Create new group". If you click on this you get a pop up asking for a group name, and with a check box called "Add all tabs". Here, I have called the group "Main Folders".
Clicking on OK creates this group containing all the tabs you had on the bar, and the "group" icon button, a yellow star in this case, has changed from gray to its normal colour to show that it is active. When you want this group of tabs to open, click on the group icon button and choose the group you want from the drop-down menu. You can have as many groups as you like.
You may also drag an application (any executable file) to the tab bar, and it will be automatically added to your "Applications" list.
The tab context menu also gives you a number of other options, most of which are self-explanatory. Try them out! You can lock tabs, close selected tabs, view the tab history, view tab properties, etc.
If you now right click on a blank part of the tab bar or a blank part of the QTTabBar icon tool bar, you get another context menu.
This is also a powerful menu, and contains the entry to the control centre for customising QTTabBar. Most of these menu items are once again self-explanatory.
Some items are grayed out here. They will only be enabled when you use the related functions in the tab bar, or actually have some content, such as "Groups" and "Recently opened files".
The last item on this menu however, "Options" opens a large window with a number of tabbed folders where you can configure every aspect of the tool bar -- how it looks, how it behaves, add plug-ins, what commands or mouse actions do what, and how, and a lot of other options.
These folders offer you an absolutely incredible number of customisation and operational choices. You can set things up exactly as you want them. Find and use exactly your own way of doing things. Once again, in these menus most items are self-explanatory, but some are a little obscure. The best way to find out what they do is to try them! You can change a setting and this takes effect immediately when you click "apply" at the bottom right of the folder window. Various other settings and functions require other input.
As stated at the beginning of the article, the function of various items is also affected by your standard Windows Explorer settings.
Try various things until you are happy with the results, or change things you are not happy with. Don't try to change everything at once though, this will only cause confusion.
In the main Explorer window you now have a number of useful functions. If you move your cursor over a disc or a folder containing data, then a blue arrow appears next to it. If it is empty no arrow appears.
Clicking on this arrow will give you an immediate cascade menu of the disc or folder.
Once the flyout is open you can simply follow tree menus with the mouse cursor. Text and images under the cursor will be displayed in a large flyout preview. Information on other files will also be displayed in fly-outs and/or in the status bar depending on the file type. The standard explorer actions when selecting files, clicking on file names and so on, are not affected and work as normal.
The QTTabBar search box (adding to the tool bar using "Customize" from the tab context menu) works more or less instantly on the open directory.
Put your search term in the box and it will act as a mask for the window. Here is the window before a search. There is merely a light gray text in the search box "Search".
Here, the term "dll" has been entered in the box while in the main windows directory, the same directory as above. This hides all files except those containing the search term.
These are the default keyboard shortcut assignments.
|Ctrl + Alt + Left||Go back to start|
|Ctrl + Alt + Right||Go forward to end|
|Ctrl + Tab||Select next tab|
|Ctrl + Shift + Tab||Select previous tab|
|Ctrl + W||Close current tab|
|Ctrl + Shift + W||Close all but current|
|Ctrl + Shift + Z||Undo close|
|Ctrl + N||Clone current tab|
|Ctrl + Shift + N||Open current folder in new window|
|Ctrl + L||Lock / unlock current|
|Ctrl + Shift + L||Lock / unlock all|
|Ctrl + O||Browse folder|
|Alt + O||Open option dialog|
|Alt + Comma||Show toolbar menu|
|Alt + Period||Show current tab menu|
|Alt + G||Show group menu (button bar)|
|Alt + H||Show recent folder menu (button bar)|
|Alt + U||Show user application menu (button bar)|
|Alt + M||Show / hide menu bar|
You can set the mouse operations in the "Options" menu to do a number of things. When you double click in the blank part of the window, for instance, the default setting is to go up the file tree one level. Right clicking will pull up the normal Explorer context menu. All the usual Windows Explorer options are of course still available as well. You can change the file views, sort order, and the other usual Explorer items.
This assumes that your mouse software is also set up correctly. Some mouse driver software may give curious behaviour, and you might have to alter either the mouse configuration, or the configuration in the "Options" menu to achieve what you want.
Right-click on the blank area of Windows taskbar, select Toolbars, and check "QT Tab Desktop Tool". This will enable the Desktop Tool function of QTTabBar.
Now, a double click on the blank area of the taskbar will open the Desktop Tool menu. What is displayed depends on what you have enabled and entered in QTTabBar. It will display groups, recently closed tabs, files, applications, recently used files and whatever else you have configured.
Clicking on any location in this menu will immediately open the Explorer with that location in a tab and displayed in the window, clicking on a recent file will open that file with the application you used to open it, clicking on a group will open that group of tabs with the contents of the first tab displayed in the explorer window.
The Desktop Tool menu is also a "fold up / fold down" menu. Left clicking on a menu title bar once will fold it up or down, depending where it was when you clicked. Hovering with the mouse on a folded up menu bar will open a flyout menu showing the contents and you can then navigate down to whatever file you want. The menu autohides when you click anywhere else, open an application, or the Explorer.
Up to now I have only covered the basic QTTabBar, the ButtonBar and the Desktop Tool which are installed with it. The program can be enhanced further by plugins for a variety of purposes. The plugins are installed as DLL files and available as zip files here.
Each one has to be downloaded and unzipped to a directory of your choice.
Right-click on a blank part of the tool bar or tab bar, select "Options" on the context menu to open up the "QTTabBar Options" window.
Select the "Plugins" tab and click "+" button to add a plugin. In the window which opens, navigate to the directory where you placed the DLL files, mark them all and click "Open". They will be imported to the "plugins" tab.
These plugins are now available for use under the tool bar "Customize" menu. Some of these plugins also have sub-menus allowing one to alter their functions, how they display, or enable and disable them.
These are some plugins which I consider very useful.
Folder Tree Button
Folder Tree Button is one of the frequently used plugins. After enabling this plugin, you can click on the "Folders" icon button in the tool bar and this will open a directory tree view as a side bar. Clicking on it again will close the tree view.
View Mode Button
This plugin allows you to view the files in a folder by filmstrip, thumbnails, tiles, icons, list or details with a slider.
FileTools plugin pack
This plugin adds a pack of useful Toolbar buttons including Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete, Copy To Folder, Move To Folder, Undo, Send To Parent, and Properties.
This plugin installs a "Folder Memo" function. Using this memo function you can add notes to folders. When enabled, it pops up a small transparent memo box on your desktop for the folder you have marked with the mouse. You can add any notes you want, and they will be saved automatically. They will pop up every time you move to that folder. You can set it to pop up only if notes exist for that folder, or to always pop up when you move to a folder.
Other than plugins, the software can be further extended by adding QTAddressBar, a separate executable file, which can be obtained here.
Download and unzip this file to a folder of your choice, and execute it. This installs the Breadcrumbs Address Bar. Log off and log on again, or re-boot the machine to enable the bar. Apart from enabling it in the Explorer tool bar menu, no other configuration is required. You can drag it by its handle to wherever you want it on the menu after unlocking the Toolbars.
The address bar is now ready for use. You can navigate the hierarchy by clicking anywhere on it. Mousing over on any location in the bar will highlight the location in light blue, and clicking on this will jump to that location immediately. If you click on the "arrow" next to the name, a cascade menu will open in that location.
This bar always tells you exactly where you are in the hierarchy, no matter how deep in your file system you "dig".
This is another extension called QTToolBar2, which is installed using an executable file. The file is available here.
You need to run the installer, then log off and log on, or re-boot your machine. The tool bar can then be selected by right-clicking the Explorer Menu bar or Toolbars.
This is another great toolbar from QuizoApps with a lot of functions.
Clicking on the first Icon button copies the name of the current focused disc, folder, or file, to the clipboard.
Clicking on the second icon button opens the Windows "Cmd line interface" window (often referred to as a "Dos Box").
Clicking on the third icon button does nothing! This is merely a "descriptive" icon. Entering a search term in the box, and either pressing <RETURN>, or clicking on the green arrow icon button on the right will return a list of items matching the search term in the current folder.
Clicking on the small black "arrow" on the right of the box gives you a list of options;
Attributes (spelled incorrectly in the menu but no big deal!) gives you the file attributes for the currently focused file. If you click on any of them, the value is pasted to the box.
Summary gives you a file information summary for the currently focused file. Clicking on any of them pastes the information to the box.
MD5 will give you a checksum of the currently focused file.
Folder Analyze will give you a pie chart analyzing the similar types of files in the focused folder.
Paste will paste what you have in the clipboard to the search box.
Clear and Deselect should be clear enough.
Google Search will open your standard browser, open Google, and do a search on the focused file name, or the name you enter into the box.
Search Helper gives you an advanced search for files with several matching criteria.
And last, but by no means least, we come to Option. This will give you a pop-up window containing "General" and "User applications" tabs for various settings.
Well, you can also do lots of nice things! I must be honest here and admit that I am not entirely sure what some of these things actually do yet. I still have to try a few more intensively.
The program also supports skins, which allow you to change the appearance of the toolbar icons, tabs, and background colors or images. You can get skins from the web page here.
Change Toolbar Icons
Go to the above web page, right-click on a ButtonBar image and save the image into the folder you like.
Next, on the Explorer, open up the "Button Options" window (by right-clicking on an icon button at the tool bar and selecting "Customize" in the context menu), click "Browse Image", locate and open the image you have saved, then click OK. You will now see the icon buttons have changed to your liking.
Change Toolbar Background Image
Similarly go to the above web page and get a background image you want, save it into the folder you choose.
Next, on the Explorer, open up "QTTabBar Options" window (by right-clicking on a blank part of the toolbar or tabbar and selecting "Options" in the context menu), select "Appearance" tab, check "Toolbar background image", locate and open the image file you have saved, then click Apply or OK. You will now see the background of the Explorer has changed.
This is a distinction between the default and new skins before and after I have changed the icon and background images. Of course, there are many other ways of changing the skins. You might want to give it a try.
Although I have tried a great deal of stuff in this program, I have still not tried everything! You may have noticed that I am extremely enthusiastic about this software. It is simply the best and most useful software I have ever used, and I have used a very great deal. It seems extremely complex at first, but is actually quite intuitive if you play around with it for a while.
If you want to uninstall QTTabBar, you have to use the uninstaller provided with the installation file. Just run the QTTabBar.exe again, click "Next" and choose "Uninstall". This similarly applies to any other QT executable files you have installed.
That basically concludes the article on QTTabBar itself. There are a couple of add-ons and plugins I have not covered here as I have not tried them extensively enough yet. I will add them as and when I have tested them sufficiently.
There are a couple of other things, like a Google launcher, an attribute editor, and one or two other things on the QT site, but they are not directly related to QTTabBar as far as I can see.
A variety of Explorer extensions that are similar and/or complementary to QTTabBar are reviewed in Best Free Windows Explorer Add-ons. As I mentioned earlier, some of these extensions are not compatible with QTTabBar and might cause problems. When Explorer crashes you can't do anything much anyway!
Happily, not all Explorer extensions are incompatible with QTTabBar. I have tried a few and found a couple of extensions which worked perfectly well together. Theoretically at least, any shell extension which does not use .NET Framework should be compatible, but some specific functions might not be.
One extension that I have found to work well with QTTabBar is FileBox eXtender. This installs itself in the title bar and works quite happily together with both QTTabBar and MyExplorerBar. Some functions are redundant but I like a couple that are not, so I keep it installed.
I only mention this here because I just like the extra comfort and functionality. They do not take up any more screen space, although using a little more memory. If you try other extensions and find more compatible ones, be sure to let me know in the comments below or in our Freeware Forum.
You might want to check out these articles too:
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