Windows Explorer was designed as a way to navigate and manage computer files more easily. However, as the number of files and directories (or folders, if you prefer) on the average user’s computer disk has blown up so fast that it’s insulting to call it "exponentially", Windows Explorer has fallen way behind.
Microsoft’s original strategy was to try and corral all user files in a single "My Documents" folder. These days only the most basic level of computer users stick to the My Documents, My Music, My Pictures model as first envisioned.
In fact, the paradigm was conceived to appeal to the lowest common denominator of users in a bid to be considered more "usable." Windows Vista partially abandoned the model by dropping the either obvious, or inaccurate, "My" from the structure (one wonders whose files they were otherwise?).
This file paradigm partially explains the out-of-date file explorer that comes installed by default with Windows. In a world where the only things a user does with their computer is edit MS Office documents, download pictures from their camera, and put some music files on their computer for fun — the default Windows Explorer is just fine for sorting, organizing, and finding files.
In the real world, where users have not just music files, but maybe 18 kinds of music files, something better is called for.
Xplorer2 Lite – Windows Explorer Replacement
Xplorer2 Lite is free for home users and students, and has pretty much any feature that most computer users would need. There is a Pro version of Xplorer2 as well which adds numerous bells and whistles.
The key to most all Windows Explorer replacements is an extra pane. When Windows Explorer was first conceived, 640 x 480 was the most common monitor resolution; gigabyte hard drives were the stuff of the future.
Under these conditions, a three pane file utility wouldn’t have been very usable. However, with the move to 800 x 600 and then to 1024 x 768 and higher, plus computers commonly equipped with two or more multiple gigabyte hard drives, three panes became not only possible, but commonsensical.
The great thing about Xplorer2 is that you already know how to use it. There are the same list, thumbnails, icon, details, choices. Clicking, double-clicking, and right-clicking all work the same. It works just like Windows Explorer except that it has one more pane, and that makes all the difference.
In the default explorer, moving some of your picture files from a subfolder to a parent folder or to a specific folder on another drive involves repeatedly cutting or copying your files then navigating to the new home and pasting your file selections. This limitation would probably just be something to get over except that for a lot of file operations, one isn’t always exactly sure just where the destination will be, or what it is currently called, or how it should look.
For example, consider a user who has lots of family photos on their computer. The user has the original files all downloaded into one folder, but there is a subfolder for each year. Inside of each year, there is another folder that corresponds to the date the picture was taken. (This is the default in many image programs including Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.) For some, but not all pictures, there is an edited version that has been made smaller for better emailing.
Now, suppose the user wanted to restructure how some of the older files were stored because they were going to store those files offline. However, there were some files the user wanted to leave on the hard disk under two different sets of folders for certain projects. Can you imagine the back and forth nightmare inside of the default Windows Explorer?
With Xplorer2, the user simply would set one pane each to the destination folders, and the other to the source folders. Then, simple dragging and dropping allows the user to manipulate the files or folders to new locations and subfolders even if it was necessary to navigate into and out of subfolders to check and see where the final location would be.
Thanks to the three panes, all of this can be accomplished without a single cut, copy, or past operation.
Oh, and by the way, there is no need to refresh to see new files or to get them to re-sort. Xplorer2 dynamically updates the file lists.
Even More Features
Xplorer2 offers much functionality past the basic moving and sorting of files. Features include the ability to do mass renames of several files, "shredding" files so that they cannot be recovered, advanced methods to select files including a "sticky" selection that keeps files selected even if you click on other things, and so on.
One of the best features is the ability to bookmark folders that you frequently access instead of always having to navigate there. Instead of having to choose a single default and then navigate everywhere else, with Xplorer2 Lite you can bookmark not only your main photo folder, but also the 2009 folder since that’s the one you use most.
Several bookmarks are possible making it easy to bookmark say, your personal documents, your work documents, your freelance documents, and your wife’s documents, all for quick easy access every time.
In fact, there are so many features in the free version of Xplorer2 that most users will never touch them all. However, this does not increase the complexity of the program since they are all stored unobtrusively under menu options by default.
There is plenty of customization available to make sure that the features you do use can be made more accessible.
Try Xplorer2, it’s free and once you’ve used it for a few days, you’ll never consider going back. Let me know how you like it!