[Windows] Best free file manager program — Q-Dir vs Xplorer2 Lite vs Explorer++ vs FreeCommander vs Multi Commander

Windows Explorer is the default file manager provided with Windows. It is fine for most people but is not ideal in many aspects such as moving files around. This is where freeware file managers come in; with options such as multiple panes, these programs make managing your files a breeze! On that note, here are the best free file managers available for Windows.

This review is part of our Best Free Windows Software section. Check out more articles on the best free Windows programs from here.

Table of Contents

Best Free File Manager

Q-Dir ScreenshotProgram Name: Q-Dir

Developer: Nenad Hrg

Download Size: 455KB

Version Reviewed: 5.47

Requires: Windows NT/98/Me/2000/XP/2003/Vista/Server 2008/7

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 7.96MB

Pros

  • Portable
  • Supports up to 4 panes
  • Has tabs
  • Supports drag + drop
  • Supports filters
  • Supports different views
  • Has a magnifier (magnifies any portion of the screen)
  • Ability to add favorites
  • Has a preview pane (in addition to the 4 panes) for previewing files/folders
  • Has all the normal file management functions that are found in Windows Explorer

Cons

  • Too many panes can become quite cumbersome

Discussion

Q-Dir is both simple and effective and is a very capable file manager solution.

One of the best aspects of Q-Dir is its user interface. This may come across as strange but the program offers users several options for adjusting the layout to their preferences. Users can choose to do the following:

  • Display the default 4 square panes arrangement
  • Display a 3 pane arrangement with only one horizontal window at the top
  • Display a 3 pane arrangement with only one horizontal window at the bottom
  • Display 2 vertical panes
  • Display 2 horizontal panes
  • Display 4 vertical panes
  • Display 4 horizontal panes
  • Display 3 vertical panes
  • Display 1 vertical pane in the left pane and 2 horizontal panes in the right pane
  • Display 2 horizontal panes in the left pane and 1 vertical pane in the right pane
  • Display a single pane

In addition to panes, tabs are supported.

There isn’t really a best display option; the option anyone chooses depends on their preferences and how many files or folders they will be manipulating at any instant. Q-Dir also gives users options for the type of icons they want to display such as tiles and small icons. It also includes the option of using a color filter in order to differentiate between different types of items. Also handy is the zoom tool which allows for any area of the screen to be magnified. Users can also choose to duplicate the window and choose and select any one of several themes which are available.

Another brilliant characteristic of the program is the ability to save the current state. This allows users to resume browsing at a later period of time, after closing the manager, as if the program was never closed in the first place. Users can implement built-in windows functions from directly within the program such as:

  • Shutting down
  • Opening the run prompt
  • Opening the command prompt

There is also an option for restarting the manager which may be necessary to allow certain changes made to files or the program itself. In addition, provision is made to include files from network locations. Q-Dir can also be set as the default explorer and thus can essentially completely replace all of the functionality of Windows Explorer. Users also have the option of previewing their audio, image and video files before opening them. Finally users can add frequently accessed locations to their favorites so as to have quick and easy access to them.

The only issue I have found with this program is that when using multiple pane configurations, the program can become quite cluttered especially when using 3 or 4 panes. But then again, more than two panes is the attraction of Q-Dir.

Q-Dir is an excellent program which should comprehensively address all of the basic to advanced needs of anyone using the program.

Runner Up

X2Plorer screenshotProgram Name: Xplorer2 Lite

Developer: ZABKAT

Download Size: 1.77MB

Version Reviewed: 2.2.0.2

Requires: Windows

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 3.24MB

Discussion

Xplorer2 Lite is a complete file manager solution which bests Windows Explorer in many aspects.

Firstly Xplorer2 Lite makes use of a dual window system where 2 separate folders are displayed in one window thus allowing for the easy transfer of files. Additionally the program makes use of tabs. These two features alone make Xplorer2 Lite a very powerful contender. Also there are various options for how the icons are displayed. These are:

  • Large icons
  • Small icons
  • List
  • Details
  • Thumbnails

Bookmarks allow for the fast access of user favorites and can be added quite easily. Another interesting feature is the sticky selection feature which is similar to holding ctrl and selecting items. Xplorer2 Lite also makes use of a built in text viewer/editor and allows for the previewing of .txt files as well as audio, video and image files.

Perhaps the most powerful feature of Xplorer2 Lite is its DOS command functionality. Users can use this provision in order to create scripts to process batch files. Xplorer2 Lite also allows users to clone their current windows and manage the corresponding files.  The program also allows users to save the state of their browsing just before closing the program which allows for its reopening in exactly the same state as it was in before.

My two main issues with Xplorer2 Lite are the lack of a powerful built in search function and, the annoying prompts which appear if a feature which is not included in the LITE version is unknowingly selected by users of the program.

Despite these 2 gripes, it is clear to see that Xplorer2 Lite is both an effective program, capable of some quite advanced functionality such as the DOS command feature.

Honorable Mention 1

Explorer ++ ScreenshotProgram Name: Explorer++

Developer: David Ecreg

Download Size: 578KB

Version Reviewed: 1.3.4.485

Requires: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 13.54MB

Discussion

Explorer++ is a lightweight but effective file manager.

The GUI of Explorer++ is similar to that of Q-Dir when the single division option is selected along with the ‘one-4-all’ option under extras tree view. In other words, Explore++ only has one pane but it does use tabs. It’s interface is very well laid out. Explorer++ offers users options such as bookmarking and a command prompt option and the ability to customize the colors of the program.

One of the assets of this program is the ease with which it allows users to copy file, folder and universal file paths. Users simply need to select the file/folder and select the required action under the file menu. Also the options for ‘removing’ files from folders go beyond what one would typically expect. Users can choose to:

  • Delete (moves to the recycle bin)
  • Delete permanently (skips the recycle bin but the file may be recoverable via a data recovery program)
  • Destroy File(s) (the file in question will not be recoverable)

Explorer ++ also allows users to use the wildcard select function. This function is used to help persons search for files whose names they are not sure of; users simply need to type the portion of the file name that they do know, followed by an asterisk which represents the missing character(s). Under the ‘Go’ menu shortcuts to popular locations such as ‘Computer’, ‘My Documents’, ‘My Music’, ‘My Pictures’, ‘Desktop’ and ‘Recycle Bin’ among others can be found and accessed.

There are 2 issues I have found with Explorer ++. Firstly, the interface is not as customizable as that of Xplorer2 Lite or Q-Dir and users are limited to a single window system. In addition there is no preview pane available.

However, Explorer ++’s lightweight nature combined with its ease of use and great features still make it one of the better file managers out there today.

Honorable Mention 2

FreeCommander ScreenshotProgram Name: FreeCommander

Developer: Marekk Jasinski

Download Size: 2.54MB

Version Reviewed: 2.8.2

Requires: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 11.64MB

Discussion

The additional functionality offered by FreeCommander over Windows Explorer is a sure way to improve your file browsing experience.

Like Xplorer2 Lite, Free commander uses a dual pane window system with tabs which allows for ease of navigation and file transfer between folders. Users are given several choices as to how they would like to display their icons such as:

  • List
  • Details
  • Small Icons
  • Large Icons
  • Thumbnails
  • Display split/dual windows in a stacked manner or side by side.

Unlike Xplorer2 Lite however, FreeCommander does include its own powerful search functionality, allowing users to track down files with ease. The program also has powerful filtering capabilities.

FreeCommander has the unique functionality of being able to pack and unpack files which would come in quite handy as no additional programs need to be opened in order to carry out these functions. Also, FreeCommander gives users the ability to create and verify MD5 Checksums. It also gives provision for several time saving shortcuts and allows users to set their favorite tools which are programs of the users’ choice. Additionally users can save frequently accessed or important locations using the ‘favorites’ option. FreeCommander also allows users to take desktop snapshots if desired.

Perhaps one of the stronger points of FreeCommander is the way it integrates some of the elements of Windows directly into the program. For example, the command prompt, control panel, start menu, desktop and a few select system directories can be accessed via icons located on the toolbar of the program. Clicking on these icons opens up drop down menus and allows for the selection of the desired folders/options.

The main issue I have with this program is the lack of the preview option. According to some dotTechies, it is possible to download TotalCommander plugins and use them with FreeCommander; one of those plugins adds the preview option. I haven’t tried it myself, though.

FreeCommander is definitely worth trying out as a Windows Explorer substitute since it possesses some great features which Explorer simply does not offer.

Honorable Mention 3

MultiCommander ScreenshotProgram Name: Multi Commander

Developer: Mathias Svensson

Download Size: 5.ooMB

Version Reviewed: 2.8.1

Requires: Windows

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 9.06MB

Discussion

Multi Commander is another powerful option for all of your file manager needs.

On opening the program users are prompted to choose how they want the interface to look and given the following options:

  • Commander Style “Look ‘n’ Feel”
  • Windows Explorer Compatibility “Look ‘n’ Feel”
  • Option to choose from multiple profiles

Like Xplorer2 Lite and FreeCommander, Multi Commander uses a dual window system with tabs. It also takes full advantage of tabbed browsing which is an invaluable feature in the world of file managers. Users are also given the option of customizing the interface of the program to their preferences.

Similarly to FreeCommander, this program also allows users to pack and unpack files. In addition it allows for the testing of the integrity of these packed files. It also has ftp support. In addition users will have access to tools for the simpler tasks involved in photo manipulation such as the rotation and conversion of picture formats. It can also display media information for movies as well as view the properties of audio files. Multi Commander also allows for the renaming of multiple files at once which could come in quite handy. It can also convert text to different formats such as the format for Unix. The search function must not be forgotten as this is extremely important for locating files. In combination with the advanced filter options present, users can easily find their files.

One of my main issues with this program are the buttons at the bottom of the program window make the window very cluttered and are simply not laid out very well. Also, there is no preview option.

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119 comments

  1. BearPup

    [@Giivaonni] Now that’s Beartter! Just Manager looks like this century, and it has some interesting options and ways of doing things.

    Unfortunately its still in Alpha Channel development, but perhaps soon it’ll grow up to be a fully fledged application. Nice find Giivaonni.

  2. RobCr

    [@bobad]
    I nearly slashed my wrists when I saw the screenshots.
    I was tempted to ask Giovanni what he was smoking, but I was too polite.

    Rob

    PS AIP,
    Once one has gotten used to Tabs, one can never go back. I don’t think A43 has Tabs

  3. BearPup

    [@Giovanni] I usually agree with your recommendations, but on this one I’ll pass. As bobad says, its DOS / Windows interface is something that was great when it came out in the early 80′s – but that’s so last century! I’ll stick with xplorer2, thank you anyway.

  4. BGM

    If any file-manager program (I use FreeCommander XE) is capable of adding custom buttons with custom run commands, you can always attach scripts to those buttons (autohotkey, autoit, powerpro, vbs) to work magic on the selected files and folders. It is another manner of getting scripting into the file-browser. I use autohotkey with FreeCommanderXE all the time.

  5. RYAN

    Just a quick could of notes about Multi Commander:

    1. There is a full custom scripting language, which makes it extremely powerful and expandable.

    2. You can fully customise the buttons, including removing them.

    For what I was looking for in a file manager – fast, compact, feature-rich and customisable – MC is an excellent option.

  6. Rob (Down Under)

    OOPs WARNING
    Talking about magnifiers, he has other free programs, one of which is OneLoupe.
    http://www.softwareok.com/?seite=Microsoft/OneLoupe
    I have an earlier version, which I ran full screen. It appears as good as my purchased one.
    Anyway I downloaded the latest version and McAfee gave A SEVERE WARNING.
    I forced through the download, but have not run it yet.
    Could someone else (that has more scanners than me), give it a check out.
    Thanks,
    Rob

  7. h_warriner

    Hi, was browsing your best free windows articles, saw your remarks on Q-Dir, thought to try it.

    AVIRA doesn’t like the setup file because of AdAware virus –

    what do you recommend?

  8. MarkQ

    [@Rob (Down Under)]
    To determine whether or not I needed that folder from ‘Application Data’ that I mentioned in my first post and which I had renamed ‘Data’, I deleted it as well as Startup.ini and ran the program from a USB flash drive on a computer where it wasn’t installed. It ran once again without a problem showing it’s registered to Glarysoft Giveaway. It simply created a new ‘Data’ folder upon execution. So, yes, I can confirm the result of your experiment and agree that it couldn’t get any more portable than that. By the way, the developer also asserts this fact on his website. FWIW, I use a setup similar to yours for running portable programs that I need/prefer to have on my hard drive.
    Thank you very much once again Rob for your taking time out to help (this isn’t the first time, and hopefully won’t be the last, that you’ve been helpful to me). Best regards.
    Sincere thanks to Ashraf as well for letting people like myself learn from those who know better, even if sometimes things go somewhat off-topic. Cheers.

  9. Rob (Down Under)

    I did this with an earlier GOTD giveaway, but I cannot find the usual stuff that I save at the same time. I suspect that I installed it in one of my other PCs, so as to keep my main PC simple. And no doubt the info files that I saved at the same time are in that PC (wherever it is)
    This is my recollection -
    Go to the folder where it is installed and copy the whole folder.
    (In XP that is the ‘Program Files’ folder.)
    (I hate and detest the ‘Documents and Settings’ folder, so I don’t think I went there at all.)
    I have a lot of portable programs in a folder in my C Directory, which I call C:\PGMS_NoInstall\
    So just paste the XYPlorer folder into there.
    Then change the name of Startup.ini to ___Startup.ini or just delete that file.
    If you then double click XYPlorer.exe it should run as portable.
    I actually changed that XYPlorer folder name to C:\PGMS_NoInstall\XYp_VB\, and I later copied the folder, giving that copy folder a new name C:\PGMS_NoInstall\XYp_ToDo\
    You can have as many folders as you like.
    Because I am a nervous ‘old woman’ I NEVER RUN MORE THAN ONE at the same time.

    I will be cooking and eating for a while.
    I did download the Glarysoft giveaway and install it in another PC.
    Yell out if you have any problems, and I will follow my instructions above, to ensure they work.

    Rob
    PS Only Mark is allowed to read the next bit.
    I just did an experiment. I copied my C:\PGMS_NoInstall\XYp_ToDo\ folder to another PC, and just ran it.
    It ran fine, and showed it was registered to GiveawayOfTheDay, and was the correct version number. So if Glarysoft’s is similar to GOTD’s, then you don’t get any more portable than that.

  10. MarkQ

    Good thing I downloaded and installed XYPlorer giveaway and even better to know that you are willing to help in making it portable! So, Rob, how do I do that? I understand from one of your posts in an older thread (thanks to jayessstee via forums) that I need to copy a certain ‘Data’ folder to the one on my removable drive where the EXE is located. Would that be the one found in my user profile, e.g., “C:\Documents and Settings\Mark\Application Data\XYplorer”? Anyhow, that is what I did and it runs (registered) without a problem, but I’m not sure if this is because it’s running on the same machine where it’s already installed as well. Thank you in advance.

  11. Rob (Down Under)

    Bob and Mr Dave,
    If the Favorite Folders are not too many, in XYPlorer, I do this -
    I have created a folder C:\DOWNLOADS where all my programs are trained to Save or Download to. I have that folder set to order by most recent. I lock that Folder to prevent it ever leaving the DOWNLOADS folder.
    If I have any Favorite folders, I place them on the left of the DOWNLOADS Tab. I then Iconize those Tabs so the Tab is only a very tiny width.

    Love XYPlorer,
    Rob

  12. bob

    [@Rob (Down Under)]

    Thanks for the heads up! XYPlorer is indeed a great file manager. 1 thing that bothers me though is the lack of X64 support. None of my X64 apps show in the context menu. Currently, the my favorite is FreeCommander XE (in beta), which works with all my X64 apps.

  13. Rob (Down Under)

    If I were being sent to Mars, and was allowed only one File Manager, and I could choose any program NO MATTER HOW EXPENSIVE, the one I would take (to Mars) would be XYPlorer.
    It is FREE FOR THE NEXT 21 HOURS -
    http://giveaway.glarysoft.com/xyplorer12.30-247/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+giveawayglarysoftcom+%28Glarysoft+Giveaway%29

    Rob
    PS After the giveaway period, if any of you have grabbed it, I will tell you how to make it portable.

  14. Mr.Dave

    [@bob] Why should you have to choose between tabs or windows?

    I love having tabs for my most-used folders. Easy to switch to any of those folders, and it’s also easy to drop files on a tab to copy or move them to one of those folders.

    Alas, I have far too many folders to have a tab for each of them. I find it very helpful to have a tree view open so I can quickly get to any folder, or drag files into the tree to move/copy them.

    I keep a second pane (window) of files so I can see what’s inside anything in my folder tree without loosing my place in my main, tabbed pane.

    Finally, I also like having a list of system-defined folders I can quickly get to, so they’re all a few clicks away. And for those that I don’t use every day, but have a very hard time remembering how to find, my day is saved by bookmarks. One click to open the list, one more click and I’m in Sandboxie’s temp folder so I can check what an installer is doing (or wants to do) to my system.

    I don’t have to chose, whatever I need is there, it’s readable, fast, and reliable and doesn’t disable some or all of my right-click menu choices like many others. I’ve been using Xplorer2-lite well over a year now. I’ll take a look at FreeCommander XE one of these days, but I’m hesitant to trust my files to anything that says “beta”. I don’t know what it could offer to get me to switch.

  15. bob

    1. FreeCommander XE. It has just the right feature set, though the Beta has a couple of tolerable bugs. I especially like the ability to configure most everything in all 3 of these. I can use TeraCopy, something I can’t do without.

    Explorer++ is very much the same as FC EX.

    CubicExplorer is by far the most handsome and least buggy of all I have tried. Too bad there is no X64 support.

    Q-DIr is OK, with good X64 support, but the tool bar icons are so tiny they are all but invisible.

    I find it weird that Explorer replacements use both tabs and multiple windows. They do the same thing, and tabs are much neater.

  16. BearPup

    DPI Problem Solved: For those of us that need to use a large DPI setting (my visual impairment requires that I use a DPI setting of 150%), the issue of font sizing has been solved! It was suggested to me by Nikos (Xplorer2 Author) that an undocumented compatibility setting was the answer; testing has borne this out.

    The Solution: right-click on a program’s desktop icon and select Properties, then select the Compatibility tab. Once there, do the following:
    1) Check the Run in program compatibility mode box, and from its drop-down menu select Windows 7.
    2) Check the box in front of the line that reads Disable display scaling on high DPI settings.
    3) Check the box in front of the line that reads Run as an administrator.
    4) Click “Apply” (on the bottom row of buttons).
    5) Click Apply to all users box.
    6) repeat these same settings for all Users.
    7) Click “Apply” (on the bottom row of buttons).
    8) Click “OK” & “OK”.

    I have successfully used this technique in Thunderbird (email program), my 3rd-party file manager (Xplorer2) and Firefox in order to maintain the font size I set in them.

    Unfortunately, you have to do this individually for each mis-behaving application, and the settings don’t always hold, but its the best, and to date only, work-around I’ve found to the problem.

  17. Rob (Down Under)

    PS BearPup,
    Regarding your problem, of not being able to read the text -
    If I could quote from the documentary ‘JAWS’ -
    “You are going to need a bigger boat”
    A 22″ wide screen monitor only has the vertical height of the old 4:3 19″

    If you are not prepared to get a bigger monitor, try using a lower resolution.
    Also there is a brilliant screen magnifier program that I use.
    I press the Scroll Lock key and my whole screen is double the magnification.
    Press Scroll Lock again to return to normal.
    http://workerscollection.com/wcollect/english/html/mg_pro.html

  18. Rob (Down Under)

    MS should be shot for offering that setting.
    Set it back to what it should be 100%
    . . .
    What it does, is offer to enlarge the text displayed in the controls (EG Textbox) on a Form, but not enlarge the Form nor graphics on the Form.
    I was an analyst for 20 years, and it appalls me that MS offers that setting.
    Mind you I have a feeling that MS only hires programmers, and not Analysts. EG -
    - The Ribbon
    - The removal of classic Start Menu
    - I could list more, but I won’t

  19. BearPup

    [@Mr.Dave] I’m running Windows 7, SP1, 64 Bit version, with an ATI Radeon 5570 graphics card. The monitor is a new LG IPS224T.

    When I contacted support I was told it was because I was, “using a large DPI setting for [my] desktop which has bugs for programs like xplorer2″ and likely causing errors. My DPI setting is set @ 150%. And since I can’t see the writing at 100%, its not a theory I can realistically test. Why that should make a difference I don’t know, but that was the explanation.

  20. Mr.Dave

    [@BearPup] What version of Windows are you running? I’m still using Vista Home Premium 32-bit, and Xplorer2-lite works great on my system – with an HD monitor (Dell 2407WFP-HC). I have an Nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti graphics card. Been using Xplorer2-lite for about 2 years now and love it. I tried over 30 file managers and this fit my needs the best). I hope to be able to pay for the full version soon….

  21. BearPup

    I’ve used Xplorer2 for several years now, but it has developed a major flaw that has sent me here looking for a replacement. On my (new) high def monitor, Xplorer2 can’t keep track of the main window font setting.

    It constantly nearly doubles the font size (from an 8 to a 14 point size font). This renders the program virtually useless – I never know what font size will open when I start or wind my way through the program. Its become a deal breaker for me.

    Anybody else have or notice a similar problem on high def settings in any of the other programs in the list?

  22. Scott Youngman

    @Ashraf: Fair enough. There are good reasons not to bother with betas in general. Suffice it to say that if FreeCommander XE is only a “preview” now, the standard of comparison will be higher once it is ready for full release.

  23. BGM

    @Ashraf: Ashraf, thanks for the update; I admit I was giving you a hard time about it all, but you take it well! What about a “poll” approach to go along with the commentaries? After a certain amount of commentaries have been provided, you could make a poll where the details can be rated, yielding a better voted outcome – along with the separated ratings for each feature. That method might yield more useful results too, by which users can choose which application they prefer.

    By the way, FreeCommander has the preview option natively, without any plugins. The plugins just enhance the option.

    It is my pleasure to contribute here.

  24. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @BGM: Thank you. Updated article to reflect the TC plugins aspect.
    @Everyone: Please do realize, it just isn’t possible for us to talk about and discuss every detail in programs; there is just too much things going on to discuss it all. We try to hit the highlights with our insights on what we think differentiate the programs and what makes them good. It is up to dotTechies, who collectively have more intimate knowledge about programs than us, to supplement our reviews with feedback in the comments, like many of you have. And for that I thank you — please keep it coming!

  25. BGM

    In your rating of FreeCommander, you say, “The main issue I have with this program is the lack of the preview option.”

    Now, I don’t understand that. FreeCommander can, (if you use the settings correctly) preview just about anything, and on top of that, you can even use TotalCommander’s lister plugins, which lets you preview even vector files and psd files. In IMHO, I don’t think the Surveyor spent enough time trying out the programs.

    Also, FC has a lot of color options, too, and can do anything XPlorer2 can do, except maybe it doesn’t have as many commandline options.

    But I think something that was NOT mentioned, that should have been mentioned, was the feature whereby FC allows for the creation of an indefinite amount of customizable command buttons, which can perform any kind of commandline functionality. Q-Dir is very limited in this respect. Plus, FC has an awesome set of toolbars – which the others lack (only TotalCommander has any comparison there).

  26. Jeff

    I wish you would revise this page to reflect the proper name of the ZABKAT program: Xplorer2 Lite. In the article headline, and in the section headline for the program, you use Xplore2 Lite–dropping the “r.” If you run a search on the page, you might turn up other uses of the wrong name as well.

  27. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Bub: @Scott Youngman: You are right, we didn’t focus on tabs as a differentiator between products because they all support tabs! And, to be fair, we did mention explicitly tab support for Xplorer Lite but did not for the other four. I’ve updated the review to reflect that all five programs we mention have support for tabs.
    Thanks for your feedback!

  28. jayesstee

    @Rob (Down Under): Re: colours, I said:
    “Colours for individual file types can be set by clicking on “Extras”, then “…more options” and then “Colors”. Various document suffixes are included, but not “.txt””

    To save you looking, here is the list of file types that can be cloured:

    *.zip; *.rar; *.gz; *.7z; *.mp”; *.avi; “.wma; #DIR *.jpg; *. jpeg; *. Png;
    *. git; *. bmp; “. ico; *. Html; *. htm ; *.url; *. pi; *. cgi; *. php; *. pdt;
    *. doc; *. rtf; *.cpp; *.hpp; *.h; *.exe; *.dll; *.bat

    Enjoy!

  29. Scott Youngman

    @Bub: I agree with you, Bub. Even if the reviewer may not value tabs for himself, it’s remarkable in light of their frequency in these comments that he doesn’t even mention them.

    Dual panes have certain benefits, and tabs have other benefits. For example, dual panes make it easy to visually compare two folders at once, and to easily copy or move files between folders. Tabs make it easy to switch between or return to favorite folders. A user might have a single pane with multiple tabs, or dual panes with no tabs, or dual panes plus multiple tabs depending on personal work style and what needs to be done.

    I used to be quite satisfied with a paid version of Servant Salamander because it offered dual panes. But after I discovered the value of tabs (in dual panes) with FreeCommander, tabs became one of my top criteria when evaluating file manager programs. As you pointed out, Bub, this review offers no help on that front. I’m not saying the reviewer should value tabs as highly as I do. But they should be recognized as a significant feature of the genre, and at least mentioned in the features for each program.

  30. Scott Youngman

    Despite replies #30 and 54 which explicitly distinguished FreeCommander XE from the older FreeCommander, I find it remarkable that the reviewer makes no mention of the former. If he had tried FC-XE, he would have found that it indeed does have previews — the lack of which he objected to in plain FC.

    FC-XE is in active development with frequent releases, while FC stopped development in 2009. I’d like to see a review comparing the most up-to-date versions of the candidates.

  31. Scott Youngman

    @Jim Carter:
    Don’t let the beta status prevent you from trying FreeCommander XE. It’s not beta in the sense of “be careful, this might ruin your data” — but rather “the developer is still adding and testing features before the official release.” Some new feature might not work entirely as expected. Well, no problem; everything else works great. And users can test it and give feedback to improve a later version. You can get an idea of what the issues are by browsing through the Beta Bug Reports section of the FC forum. I don’t think there are any deal-killers there.

  32. Rob (Down Under)

    @jayesstee:
    When I tweaked version 4-444 it was not just a one click exercise. EG getting Tree on left, and details on right, and getting it to not throw ones hard work out of the window when it closed/restarted. (what fool does not want such programs to re-open they same way as when you closed it. Would you believe some browsers discard your hard work)
    Perhaps he got flamed enough that he made it easier ?
    I notice that he has adopted some common functionality, that he did not have in 4-444. EG Ctrl N for a new sub folder
    . . .
    Regarding coloring one file type (eg .txt) are you saying that cannot be done ? (I have done it)

  33. jayesstee

    @Rob (Down Under):
    Rob, you do to seem to like to make hard work for yourself with your “tweaking” and “transferring” of Q-Dir.
    Until this thread started I was extremely happy with FreeCommander XE and XYplorer, but I last Monday I downloaded Q-Dir portable (version 5.47). “Un-paning” it is as simple as clicking on the appropriate icon on the menu bar (RHS).
    Colours for individual file types can be set by clicking on “Extras”, then “…more options” and then “Colors”. Various document suffixes are included, but not “.txt”
    Q-Dir seems to be a great find as under “…more options” it is highly configurable.
    I think you mentioned that you don’t like “panes”, I find that most file managers allow single pane viewing if you have a look hard enough. Personally, I frequently use both tabs and panes, but when extra panes get in the way, I switch to single pane.

    BTW, a link for Q-Dir 5.47, (portable or installer), (32 or 64 bit) is:
    http://www.softwareok.com/?Download=Q-Dir

  34. Jim Carter

    I own a PC repair business, so a File Manager is something I use to the max. For many years PowerDesk was my choice. It offered every possible feature I required, but every version proved to be buggy. Fast forward to October, 2012 and I’ve switched to Windows 8. Due to cost savings moves and terrible reviews for the newest version of PowerDesk, it was time to search for a freeware alternative. My criteria: multi-pane, highly customizable, compatible with Windows 8, loaded with features. For my use, I eliminated anything not compatible with 8, any application not being actively developed and any application that differed from PowerDesk (I like panes, not tabs). I was left with: Multi Commander, xplorer2 and Free Commander. xplorer2 ultimately would require payment, so when it didn’t stand out it was eliminated. Free Commander (the new version) seems perfect, but it’s in beta so I have to eliminate it (FOR NOW). Multi Commander has won out. As the reviewer stated here, the buttons make it cluttered so I customized the app by removing them. Multi Commander is stable and serves my every need with the exception of a file viewer for PDFs. Free Commander has such a viewer, but I don’t use software in beta. To be continued….

  35. Rob (Down Under)

    @JackS:
    I had portable version 4-444 of Q-Dir, which I have now updated to the latest version. As I recall it took a lot of tweaking to get rid of the panes, and get it the way God intended. Luckily I found an easy way to ‘transfer’ all my tweaking to that new version. I have written to the author, suggesting that he includes an easy way to un -pane it.
    . . .
    What you might be interested in, is I have worked out how to tweak the colors for individual File Types. EG Say you wish .txt files to be a different color (lighter blue, than the other blue ones).
    Yell out if anyone is interested.
    You can write me direct if you like, so that we do not clutter up this web page with tweaks, etc for just one program.
    robhp AT iprimus DOT com DOT au

    Rob
    PS I am liking Q-Dir (Tab tribe)

  36. Rob (Down Under)

    @BearPup:
    |I got’s to know (Dirty Harry Bank robber on the footpath after Harry has emptied his revolver)
    Do you use Panes ?
    (That is not a minor preference as you are implying, it would be a crucial factor in choosing a File Manager)

  37. BearPup

    Lets acknowledge that everyone has their own favorite for their own personal reasons. For me its Xplorer², which I have used for years and am quite happy with. My main reason is its customization options, which allow me to tailor it to my personal tastes.

    I’ve looked at several of the others mentioned here (plus a few others) and none offer as much customization as Xplorer². My opinion, my personal choice.

  38. Rob (Down Under)

    @eric506:
    If I can take the liberty of expanding Bub’s comment (thoughts) -
    It would be helpful, if those of us writing in to recommend a program, would indicate whether they are using it ‘in panes’ or ‘in tabs’
    That is, in which of those capacities/capabilities are you recommending it
    I am sure many of us appreciate and react to members recommendations, and those belonging to either the ‘pane’ tribe or the ‘Tab’ tribe, will know which recommendations to check out.

  39. eric506

    I, too, love Free Commander – dual panes, tabs, etc. What more could you want? I’ve tried all the others mentioned here, and more, (in addition to the XYPlorer freebie offered recently), and keep coming back to Free Commander.

    I don’t understand the comment about no previews. I can get a quick view of virtually all my files (although I had to download some Total Commander plugins). That’s another huge advantage to Free Commander – the availability of all the add-ons developed for Total Commander.

  40. Bub

    After the mini-debate within these very comments about dual panes vs. tabs, I find it surprising that the reviewer does not even acknowledge tabs as a differentiator. He fails to mention which of the candidates have this feature or not.

    This review may be useful for those who never use tabs, but not at all for those of us who do. It would be better entitled “Best free multipaned file manager program”.

  41. Scott Youngman

    I forgot to mention one other useful feature in FreeCommander XE:

    Favorites pane, similar to a folder tree but stocked with your favorite links, organized as you desire.

    I’m going to need a lot of forgiveness before this is over ;^)

  42. Rob (Down Under)

    @Scott Youngman:
    As long as it has Tabs, that is all that matters in the world for me.
    My favorite free one was(is) XYplorerFree
    When Frank D said it was not free, I nearly said “Shirley you can’t be serious” However in post 42 Eric989 got frank with him (PS Eric989 is correct)

  43. Scott Youngman

    Take it easy, Rob. There are so many features in FreeCommander XE that we just forgot to mention tabs.

    You can have one or two panes.
    Panes split to any proportion or 50/50.
    Panes horizontal or vertical.
    Folder tree or no tree.
    Tabs or no tabs.
    Locked tabs or not.
    Remember tabs for next session or not.
    “File container” tabs (virtual folders).
    Color individual tabs as desired.

    I have certainly not mentioned many other useful features — but you’ll forgive me for that too.

    BTW, you didn’t say what your favorite free file manager is.

  44. Rob (Down Under)

    @MrBux:
    If I could lock 10 of you dual pane lovers in a room, I could train 8 of you into loving tabs INSTEAD.
    If I had a time machine, and could go back to the pre-pane days, and invent tabs first, then the 8 of you would have never learned to love dual panes.
    But I am a tolerant individual, so I am prepared to ‘live and let live’ and leave the 10 of you the way you are.
    However to have not mentioned Tabs, in your list of features is unforgivable.

  45. MrBux

    best FREE filemanager:
    FreeCommanderXE (still in beta but very usable)
    -real freeware (no shareware etc.)
    -fully portable
    -highly customizable
    -dual pane
    -extremely feature rich
    -quick filter (very useful thing)
    -flat view of files/folders
    -sophisticated file/folder search
    -excellent multirename

  46. Scott Youngman

    FreeCommander XE, far above the rest — really excellent.

    I’ve tried many file managers over the years, including special offers of paid software on GAOTD and BitsduJour. I start off with high hopes, and before long am disappointed or frustrated. I always go back to FreeCommander, and am glad to be back there.

    BTW, dual-pane is a must-have feature for me.

  47. BGM

    It would be good if the original Gizmo’s poster could also provide a poll as well as the commentary. Definitely, Total Commander and XYPlorer are ruled out on account of their shareware status. We aren’t discrediting their abilities – only ruling them out of this topic because they don’t fit.

  48. Eric989

    Don’t know if anyone has mentioned MultiCommander yet. It has a ton of options and is very actively developed so it is constantly being improved and so it will probably include many missing features in the future.
    I second the votes on Q-dir and CubicExplorer.
    @RealBull: There is still an old free version of XyPlorer available, you just can’t get it from the developer anymore. I believe Ashraf has a link to it somewhere on this site just search for it on Dottech.

  49. Rob (Down Under)

    @Frobie:
    I am giving total Commander a try (Will report back in 32 days).
    I resent with a vengeance programs that grab some of my vertical screen space (EG MS with it’s Ribbon)
    Your program appears to be doing similar, except it is grabbing some of the top of the screen and some of the bottom.
    I have reduced the Toolbar Icon size to 12, which made it smaller.
    There is now room for the box that shows the current folder. I think that may be the box down the bottom ? I want that up the top to the right of the (now smaller) Icons
    That would free up the 2nd line from the bottom (IE get rid of it)
    I don’t want the bottom line hogging a lot of space just to tell me what the F keys do.
    It will be a deal breaker, If I am unable to get back most of the height of the screen, so as to show what I am using the flippin program for – Showing the Tree structure, and the files in the current focus’ed folder.

  50. Rob (Down Under)

    @jayesstee:
    “The part that you may need assistance on, is how do you find the sub folder called ‘Data’ which has to be copied into the same folder as the EXE”
    What happens if I don’t have the ‘Data’? I really haven’t got one, ‘Everything”, “Windoes Explorer” and “XYPlorerer” can’t find one.
    Any ideas?
    . . .
    . . .
    Yes.
    Delete the file called Startup.ini and run the program. It will create a new Data folder, in the folder that you are in.

  51. Dreamer

    @Tim Yao: @Frobie:

    Frobie – sorry, but what about to read the topic name? “Provide suggestions for best free file manager program on Windows”?? There are just three free file managers – old Servant Salamander 1.52, FreeCommander 2009.x and FreeCommander XE – for me the best is the FreeCommander XE, there are just few features left in the XE version and for me the best free file manager if definitely the FreeCommander XE! It’s better than Servant Salamander 1.52, better than Salamander 2.x and even better than Total Commander! Hundred times better!!

  52. leland

    There are so many I know of where do I start. First my main file manager is Directory Opus. That said I am always trying out different file management software just because I like to know what else is available. See the following list for some of the ones I have tried.

    Cubic Explorer http://www.cubicreality.com/ce/
    xplorer2 http://zabkat.com/x2lite.htm
    FreeCommander http://www.freecommander.com/index.htm
    BetterExplorer http://better-explorer.com/
    SurF http://surf.svprogramming.net/
    UltraExplorer http://appnee.com/ultraexplorer/
    SE-Explorer http://se-soft.com/en/Products/Explorer/
    Double Commander http://doublecmd.sourceforge.net/

  53. wwgorman

    I have tried many File Managers trying to get one that would work like Norton File Manager did in Windows 95. I have been lucky to get it to work in Windows 7 32 bit but not 64 bit. I use Q-Dir as my 64 bit file Manager. I have tested PowerDesk and XYPlorer and feel Q-DIR is the best of the lot—–and at the moment it is free.

  54. naveed

    Another vote for Q-Dir.

    I like the idea behind Nexus File, it’s different and innovative. I really like the full black look, although it can be changed if that’s not your style. But it leaves me a little wanting and just a little bit unstable. The developer is very responsive though and I suppose, if I spent time working with him, he’d probably be able to fix and improve it. Worth trying for sure.

    http://www.xiles.net/nexusfile/

  55. jayesstee

    @Rob (Down Under): “The part that you may need assistance on, is how do you find the sub folder called ‘Data’ which has to be copied into the same folder as the EXE”

    What happens if I don’t have the ‘Data’? I really haven’t got one, ‘Everything”, “Windoes Explorer” and “XYPlorerer” can’t find one.
    Any ideas?

  56. Frobie

    Total Commander without a doubt also. I have used it for at least 12 years even when it was called Windows Commander. Here is a quick rundown of it direct from the website ( http://www.ghisler.com/)
    It is Two file windows side by side
    Multiple language and Unicode support
    Enhanced search function
    Compare files (now with editor) / synchronize directories
    Quick View panel with bitmap display
    ZIP, ARJ, LZH, RAR, UC2, TAR, GZ, CAB, ACE archive handling + plugins
    Built-in FTP client with FXP (server to server) and HTTP proxy support
    Parallel port link, multi-rename tool
    Tabbed interface, regular expressions, history+favorites buttons
    Thumbnails view, custom columns, enhanced search
    Compare editor, cursor in lister, separate trees, logging, enhanced overwrite dialog etc.
    Unicode names almost everywhere, long names (>259 characters), password manager for ftp and plugins, synchronize empty dirs, 64 bit context menu, quick file filter (Ctrl+S)
    USB port connection via special direct transfer cable, partial branch view (Ctrl+Shift+B), and many improvements to ftp, synchronizing and other functions.
    And many more!
    Total Commander, Version 8.01 is a fully functional shareware file manager for Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista/7/8 32 and 64bit.
    I adore it..I copy, pack, unpack, delete files and dirs., run applications from it, network 5 computers using it, can change attributes and calculate occupied space with it. I’d be lost without it. I use a paid version but the shareware version I had only used a nag screen at startup which was a minor bugbear but didnt affect full functionality. Anyway my 2 cents worth.

  57. Rob (Down Under)

    @AFPhys:
    You haven’t tried my suggestion, to make the GOTD XYPlorer totally portable ?
    Then create another folder with one of the portable XYPlorers, Now only fire up that clone, when you wish to remember Folders or files.
    I currently have 3 clones, and intend to have more.

  58. AFPhys

    Please, when reviewing, take note if any of the file managers you review have a “shopping cart” type feature, eg., a place to drop files as a reminder you need to do something with them, to be decided individually (or collectively) later on.
    Thanks

  59. RealBull

    Wow! There are many. But I will list the 4 that I used the most over time from best to runner-ups. And list some honorable mentions.

    1) Multi-Commander: dual pane, many features and very customizable.
    2) Q-Dir, quad pane: good for dragging files to different folders, many other functions, too.
    3) Free Commander: dual pane with many features and functions.
    4) Ultra Explorer: the predecessor or precursor of Cubic Explorer (another nice explorer). Dual Pane and similar to Free Commander. I prefer this one than Cubic because it feels more polished. But Cubic is worth a try, too! The last version of UE is 2.0.3.1 and you can still download it from Softpedia.com.

    Honorable mentions:
    Master Commander
    Double Commander
    Explorer++

  60. stilofilos

    An other vote for Xplorer2 , definitely.
    I am using the paid version , absolutely worth every cent.
    Multiple user defined views with specific ‘columns’ per use case (images, audio-video, software) – tagging for all files (on NTFS) – multiple built-in extra columns – powerfull programmable search on all file metadata – tabs – handy scrap containers – even dual panes for the fans.
    Only misses that coloring gadget of XYplorer…

  61. nagelfar

    @Tim Yao:
    Yes, definitely Total Commander is the very best file manager, especially for us, the old boys brought up on DOS :) . However, as this is supposed to be a list of the best FREE file manager program on Windows, TC won’t count as it is a shareware (though worth every penny paid for it).
    As an alternative I would suggest Unreal Commander – a very good and stable clone of TC. The program is totally free, easily customizable and full of handy functions. Unfortunately, there is a fly in the ointment – the latest version of Unreal Commander dates back to 2010, a real pity the developer has suspended the fine job …

  62. JonE

    I’ve been using GPSoftware’s Directory Opus for just a bit over seven years now; far from FREE. I’ll tell you what my wife has told me for years, “I got it on sale.” It’s my most used File Manager.

    I also downloaded XYplorer during a recent Giveaway of the Day promotion. While there are some things I don’t like about it there are also some things that I’m very impressed with. I just can’t seem to get used to those tabs though. I mentioned XYplorer because it reminds me a lot of my favorite FREE File Manager.

    My favorite Free File Manager is xplorer² LITE, current version 2.1.0.2 and has been for years. I can’t afford to buy a File Manager for my wife’s computer so xplorer² LITE is what I have installed on her Windows 7 laptop. I do all the work on her computer. I read a review once where the reviewer stated that they thought it was very similar to Directory Opus, but I find it very similar to XYplorer. It doesn’t get very good reviews to be honest, but I figure that’s because most don’t realize how powerful it is. Or they do and don’t want to be bothered with it. I have always found it very capable.
    xplorer² LITE 2.1.0.2: http://zabkat.com/x2lite.htm

    I was wanting to download XYplorer for my wife’s computer too, except that her computer suffered a fatal error and by the time I got it back up and running the promotion was over so I was on the hunt for a possible 64 bit File Manager to try. What I came up with, recently, is a File Manager titled “Multi Commander”; seems to be pretty popular. But I have not been able to download it as yet; the Multi Commander site has been down the past couple days and redirecting to their facebook page. Understand I’ve never used “Multi Commander”, but it sounded good enough to try and receives pretty good reviews. And so I thought I would mention it.

  63. EleventhHour

    I second the vote for Free Commander. It has tabs and panels that can be easily swapped with a ready display of the total number of files, storage used, storage remaining and a nice search box at the bottom of every panel. It also has a handy multi-rename tool.

    .

  64. BGM

    Oh, FreeCommander by all means! I’ve tried them all, and choose this even over TotalCommander. FreeCommanderXE is the beta version – up to its 610th revision at this time, in preparation for its first release. It does everything you could imagine: dual-pane, multi-tabs, with a favourites panel. Best of all, you can create your own buttons and toolbars to do a variety of commands – even run autohotkey scripts. Here is the link to the beta: http://freecommander.com/fc_beta_en.htm

  65. Mr.Dave

    Xplorer2 Lite.
    Fast, reliable, tabs (can lock them if needed), dual pane with folder tree if you want, can set bookmarks to get to frequently used (or hard-to-remember) places, handles folders with LARGE numbers of files (many others fail between 1,200 and 3,000 files), properly handles right-click (context) menu (many others don’t at all, or show a limited number of options),can copy filenames and/or paths as text, doesn’t do the Stupid Vista Trick of changing folders to display picture (EXIF) or MP3 attributes (tags) if any files in a folder are pics or MP3s — it shows what I want to see unless I change it. All this in the FREE version, or you can upgrade to Pro for many more features.