xplorer2 – a powerful file manager to replace Windows Explorer

I’m constantly going to my file manager throughout the day, opening files from there, moving, copying and renaming. A good file manager has always been important to me, ever since my first experiences with a PC back in the 1980s, well before the dawn of Windows Explorer. I used a program called PC Tools for file management back then and when I moved to the Windows OS I used a file manager called PowerDesk Pro which has seen me right through to Windows XP. On and off, I’ve use Windows Explorer but never really fell in love with it – too many restrictions on what I want to do.

I’ve recently moved to Windows 7, so I looked around for a good free replacement file manager to take over from my aging copy of PowerDesk. As usual, my first port of call was my Diigo bookmarks to check out my ‘file managers’ tag. Had a look at Free Commander and didn’t like it much, then looked at xplorer2 Lite – the free version from zabkat which is fully compatible with Windows 7. I’ve been using it for about 2 months now and found it’s a very able replacement for PowerDesk …and more. I find the free version has all the features I need for just now.

Some of the best features of xplorer2


One of the main features I need in a file manager is a very simple one. When I reopen the program I want it to have remembered which folder I was in when it was shut down – for my work I’m usually going back to the same work folder the next day so the ability to save settings on exit is really useful for me.  xplorer2 can also open multiple tabs as shown above, so you have quick access to a number of essential folders – again I find this a really useful feature. You can display the tabs at the top or the bottom of the window. Hit Ctrl-Ins to open a new tab. And you can rename tabs – right click and choose Rename. You can move or copy files by dragging them onto the tab of the destination folder. But if you don’t like multiple tabs in a window, you can set up quick access to all your favourite folders from the Bookmarks menu. And incidentally, you can set up FTP access for file transfers to your website or server again though your bookmarks. FTP access is explained in this excellent Lifehacker article which also gives a great summary of the program.

Filtering your list of files is easy. In the address bar, just type ‘*.jpg’ to list the jpeg files in that folder, or type ‘e*’ to list all files starting with the letter ‘e’. Incidentally, coloured folders as shown above on my Windows XP set-up isn’t a feature of xplorer2. That feature is from a free utility called Folder Marker Free. Once installed, just right click on a folder and change its colour.

I generally use the single pane interface (plus folder tree) as show above, but you can also have a dual pane set-up which is very handy for copying or moving files. I also like how you can  preview images, videos, pdfs and mp3s within xplorer2 using the Preview button at the top.

Another nice feature is the way it autorefreshes when you plug in an mp3 player or camera and the new drive shows up without having to press F5. PowerDesk didn’t do that.

Setting it up

I have it set up just the way I want it now. If you already use the program or want to try it out, here’s a list of the features I find useful and how to set them up:

  1. Save program state on exit: Tools, Options, General tab and check Save program state on exit.
  2. For single pane/double pane toggle: Ctrl-O.
  3. To force file names ending in a number to list in ascending number order 1, 2, 3…10, 11, 12, rather than 1, 10, 11, 12, 2, 3… go to Tools, Options, Advanced tab and check Natural number sort.
  4. To show folder in tree on left side, go to Tools, Options, Window tab and check Keep synchronized with folder in active view pane.
  5. To allow slow double click renaming of files: Tools, Options, Window tab and check Allow slow double click to rename files.
  6. To prevent truncation of file names when window is not maximized:  Tools, Options, Window tab and set Max list column width to 150 – although from reading the forums this doesn’t always work.

And there’s a good xplorer2 forum here.

I’ve only just scratched the surface here with the features I find useful.  Give xplorer2 a try and see what you think. You may find yourself quickly won over from Window Explorer.

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