Windows Explorer, the default file manager for Microsoft Windows, hasn’t really changed all that much over the years. Below you’ll find reviews, screenshots and links to download
10 11 12 14 15 different alternatives.
Note: this has been updated to be a bit more current for 2020. Links have been fixed and in some cases removed, as a few of these are no longer available.
If I haven’t included your favourite file manager (for Windows..) in this list, by all means please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me. I’d be more than happy to include it.
|Ac Browser Plus||$21.00||yes||**|
|Directory Opus||AUD $85.00||yes (30 days)||****|
|Far Manager||$25.00||yes (40 days)||***½|
|Servant Salamander (2.5)||$30||yes (30 days)||****|
|SpeedCommander||37.95||yes (60 days)||***|
|Total Commander||$34||yes (30 days)||****|
|xplorer²||19.95||yes (21 days)||***|
|XYplorer||29.95||yes (21 days)||****|
Requirements: Windows 2000, Windows XP
Download: NO LONGER AVAILABLE
A43 took up about 18mb of RAM after using it for 5 minutes. It dropped down to 3mb of RAM after 15 seconds of not using it. Its response time was very quick while renaming, moving and copying files. The drag-and-drop zip/unzip and rar/unrar feature is pretty neat – if I made zip files often I would find this very helpful. Also, you can fit A43 on a floppy and take it with you to use on any PC (doesn’t require an installation). The built-in text editor was easy to use, as was ‘quick launch’ section. The ‘file filter’ feature (use wildcards to sort files) is well located and works exactly as you’d expect. Between the features and the price, this is a file manager that I won’t delete right away.
bottom pane – quick launch
Ac Browser Plus
Requirements: Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP
Download: NO LONGER AVAILABLE
Lots of features, but the interface feels very “Windows 95” at times. If it was free I would consider leaving it installed and maybe try it out for a while longer. Because some of the other file managers are as feature-rich (or more so) and have a more consistent (and at times much more attractive) interface, I can only give it two stars out of five.
easy to view detailed info
purchase to change background
ac browser plus options
Requirements: Windows 95 (untested), 98, ME, NT (untested), 2000, XP, Vista (works, not supported yet)
NO LONGER AVAILABLE
Homepage: NO LONGER AVAILABLE
Here’s why I gave CubicExplorer 3 stars instead of 2 or 2½ – it has potential, and it’s free. Since it’s not even at version 1.0 yet (0.77a as of 10/13/06), it can only get better (right?). Unfortunately, the 0.77a has been around since March of this year, and the forum indicates that work on .80a started a while ago (but it’s still not out). With all of that said, the Quick View feature is something that I would use, frequently. Showing actual html code when an .html file is selected, rather than a ‘preview’ of the web page, is ideal for me. The built in text editor is excellent for stashing snipits of text, html, web page addresses etc, and allowing that text to be a tab is fantastic. While this version has too few features for me, I will certainly give the next one a try.
Text as a tab
Quick View files
Requirements: Windows 95/98/ME or NT4/2000/XP
Directory Opus is a great File Manager. There are a lot of features and options, and nearly every aspect of this program is customizable. It really is an Explorer replacement, and it offers to do so during the installation – so when you open any folder, Directory Opus will launch. The built-in FTP client works exactly as you’d expect. The many different view options are easy to access and just “make sense”. While in use, Directory Opus took up 28MB of memory on my system. The instant that it’s minimized, its memory use dropped to 1MB. If I used Windows more often, I would gladly pay the $85.00 to purchase this software. In fact, the next time I have a day job that requires Windows use, I will.
quick ftp connect
contextual (and excellent) auto-help
extra (audio) file info
huge “file” list
replace Windows Explorer
Requirements: Windows 2000, Windows XP
Download: http://www.explorerxp.com/index.html#download (scroll to the bottom)
Pretty straight forward Explorer-like File Manager. While it doesn’t have as many features as many of the other reviewed file managers, it is free (for non-commercial use) and makes a great “first” upgrade for beginners. Anyone who has used Windows Explorer for more than 5 minutes will feel right at home using ExplorerXP.
Requirements: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000 or XP
Far Manager is a pretty old-school File Manager. Mouse support is provided, but this is a File Manager for keyboard commandos. Very cool plugins add great extra features (FTP, email, Winamp control etc). I’m not sure that I’ll pay for this File Manager, but I will be using it until the 40 days is up before I decide.
Far Manager default view
execute a command in Far
select multiple files
built in text viewer
search in Far
Requirements: Windows 98, ME, NT4 SP6, 2000, XP or Vista
FileMatrix is quite unique among all of the other File Managers reviewed in this article. The interface is much different than the typical explorer-style manager. The use of “boards” and “containers” makes viewing and grouping files a snap. If you’re tired of the same-old-file-manager, give this one a try. And be sure to make use of the included Wizards and help files – they will really come in handy.
config and help wizard (very helpful!)
Requirements: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT (from version 4.0), 2000, XP, Vista (?)
‘Easy access to system folders’ is one of the features that first jumped out at me. My immediate thought was “why isn’t that in all file managers?” I may have overlooked it in some of the others, so I certainly won’t say that this is the only one that has this feature. “Size of folders” (not enabled by default) does slow things down – as freeCommander calculates and displays the folder size. With that said, it’s very handy to try and figure out where your hard drive space has gone, and easy to get to when you need it. The image preview was a bit slow for me compared to most of the others. The screenshot feature allows you to chose between image types (bmp and jpg) and even adjust the quality. I think the biggest drawback to freeCommander is the lack of built in FTP support, and I suppose it’s not that big of a deal. This program, though free, is donation-worthy.
quick access to System Folders
Quick access to Programs
default freeCommander view
Requirements: Windows 98, ME, NT4, 2000, XP, or 2003
Homepage and Download: http://www.v-com.com/product/PowerDesk_Pro_Home.html
OK here’s my beef.. It’s not a bad File Manager at all. It’s very customizable, has all of the features you’d expect, but the ones you really want to try (add notes to files, ftp, sync folders) are only available in the Pro version (which there’s no trial for). The Standard version is free, but has a ‘nag’ bar that takes up too much screen real-estate. I would much rather a 10 day fully-functional demo version before I decide to lay down $40. Also, they added me to a mailing list when I specifically said I did not want to join (you must provide an email address to download the demo).
PowerDesk Standard options
customize the toolbar
Requirements: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT 4, 2000, or XP
Homepage and Download: https://www.altap.cz/salamander/downloads/
This is a list of the main features for version 2.5 RC1.
At the suggestion of a number of commenters, I downloaded and installed Servant Salamander 2.5 RC1. It’s another Norton Commander-style inspired file manager, and a pretty great one at that. It has every feature you’d expect, and then some. The plug-ins allow for features that go above and beyond a file manager (screenshots, encrypt and decrypt, sftp/scp etc). The ability to set a ‘skill level’ is a great idea. Executing commands is not only easy, but the command window doesn’t automatically close once the command has been executed! As it stands right now, I can’t pick a “winner” between Servant Salamander and Total Commander. I’m quite sure that it just comes down to personal preference. If Norton Commander-style file managers are your thing, I would strongly suggest you try both Total Commander and Servant Salamander, and decide for yourself which is best. If you’re on a limited budget, go for freeCommander. When the demo versions expire, I plan on buying either Total or Servant – I’ll update this after I decide.
Servant Salamander plug-ins
Servant Salamander prefs
set a user level
map network drives
Requirements: Windows 95/98/98SE, Windows ME, Windows NT 4, Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Windows XP/2003 x64 Edition
Lots of features (built in browser is cool) and very snappy response times. Macros are simple to use. Worth checking out, but the price is a bit steep. If I had an x64 version of Windows I would be anxious to try out this app.
Run a command
Requirements: Windows 95, 98, ME, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. 16bit version available for Win 3.1. Another for Windows CE and the Pocket PC.
Having only used it for about 30 minutes total (so far), take these comments with a grain of salt. Total Commander appears to be the fastest file manager in terms of response times. I asked it to calculate the size of 14 folders (that contained a couple hundred files) and it immediatley gave me the answer. The hard drive didn’t clunk away trying to count files, it just happened. As the screenshots below demonstrate, Total Commander looks very old school (though there are many options to customize the look and feel). As the name implies, it’s styled after Norton Commander, and as you’d expect it can be completely controlled via the keyboard. At $34 USD I’m curious to compare it to Free Commander (see comments at the bottom). I reserve the right to bump this up to 4 stars after I look at Free Commander :)
Total Commander prefs
customize the button bar
calculate file/folder sizes
Requirements: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT 4.0, 2000, XP, 2003 or Vista
Download: NO LONGER AVAILABLE
Arguably the most Windows Explorer-like of all the reviewed File Managers, XPlorer is certainly better than the default Windows Explorer. Here’s my only real complaint – when you delete a file, it remains ‘visible’ in the list of files until you refresh the screen. And you can only refresh by hitting F5 on your keyboard (no right-click, no Edit > Refresh etc). That one annoying ‘feature’ is enough for me not to use it (I replicated this problem on 3 different Windows XP machines). If that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, by all means check this one out because it’s not bad otherwise.
Requirements: Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003
The ability to search for files everywhere, with Omni-Finder, is actually very cool/powerful. The built-in Help is very useful, as it explains all of the features (and how to use them) clearly, with illustrations. At first glance xplorer² appears fairly average, digging deeper shows it to be a powerful File Manager.
Commands via a container
Requirements: Windows 95, 98, NT, ME, 2000, XP or Vista
Wow. It only took a couple of minutes of looking around to see some features that I’d never seen before (drop text to file, ctrl+backspace breadcrumb) – and some that I’ve seen before but never this detailed (see the “Rename Special” screenshot below). If you click and hold the left mouse button on an image (in the Preview area) it enlarges until you release the mouse button. Very cool. XYplorer appears to have a slightly larger memory-footprint than Directory Opus (the only other Explorer-style file manager that I gave 4 stars), but it is less expensive.
customize the Toolbar
If you’re looking for even more, I’ve done another 10 Windows Explorer reviews/overviews.
34 thoughts on “15 Windows Explorer alternatives compared and reviewed”
I would not agree with these ratings. Obviously taste and preference of each one is different. I have tried older versions of Powerdesk and thought it is the best. But comparing the others, I feel directory Opus is far better than others. My rating for Directory opus * * * * *
@Patrick Directory Opus has x64 version for Windows 7
Anything for Windows 7, 64 bit
I’m looking for an “explorer” that will search for strings within files on a network drive. I have Word 7 files in a network drive, which Windows 7 won’t index. Any suggestions?
Also–I would like to search for file names within folders on an external hard drive.
Is it just me, or they all look the same? None bring a TRULY innovative (and sexy!) ways of exploring/presenting stuff. all columns, lists, letters, files, rows, sliders, panes… BORING!
Agreed, Powerdesk was the best of all file managers I’ve tried. Wish they’d make it Windows 7 compatible.
You can add Ultra Explorer to your list.
It is free.
Basically, the major con of DOpus is the price. I really loved it during the trial period, but it’s just that it is expensive AND it doesn’t even have a lifetime license then…
For now, I’ll switch between CubicExplorer and xplorer² (made them default for folders for a time)… both are great. The first is easier to use, the second is faster than Total Commander regarding any operation. Worth its price.
Some very handy info. Explorer is so unbelievably slow for me, I’m game to try some alternatives.
XYplorer 8.00, the Dual Pane Edition, will be officially released on Monday, 15-June-2009.
Thanks for the effort you’ve out in making this review, a lot of people like me have to struggle by trial and error, lest somebody tries first ;-)
I use the free edition of Xplorer² for quite a while now.
Tried about 10 different Explorers myself. It has the most convenient way to manage the files. Dual Pane and easy to use. I love it! Never found another one which is that clean and useful! Thinking about getting the pro version… :-)
I’m looking for a program that can recolor file names. I do know that the only way for colored names is to compress files via file clean up or encrypt files. Since I’m not going to do either (and thus make my files unusable), does any of these do this? I didn’t see any features expressed on this page saying so.
A43 doesn’t have a Undo function. And considering that, like Windows Explorer, it allows you to drag & drop without any confirmation, Undo is an absolute necessity unless you want to spend hours trying to figure out what you accidentally dragged somewhere it doesn’t belong. Other than that, I love it.
Here’s my problem. My hard drive has issues. Sometimes when I want to transfer a large folder, I get an error message during the transfer “Cyclic redundancy check”. The problem is that it cancels the whole scan, so I have to start all over again. This is the only thing I really hate about Windows Explorer. Is there a way to stop the transfer from getting canceled each time? I know there is a program that will transfer the files and notify you afterwards if there were any errors. Anyone know the name?
ExplorerXP is freeware???
Anyone know if there is a Windows Explorer type application that will:
When you select files (with similar name), it will create a directory based on the similar names (or you can change it to what you want) and move them files into that newly created directory?
Wow, that is quite the detailled list, you wrote!
Is there not a single utility here to create a “virtual folder” which will span multiple HDDs? For example I have a Movies folder on 3 of my hard drives in the system. I want to keep just one folder which shows and handles the contents of all folders (without using RAID hard drive spanning). Is there not a single replacement here to do that?
Hi, Thanks for all the recommondations.
I have been using Total commander for years, and find it excellent. Before that it was Far Manager, which I was also very impressed with.
But I’ll be checking out some of the other ones mentioned here.
Undo/Redo is #2 on XYplorer’s development roadmap, right after Customizable Keyboard Shortcuts.
I was surprised to see that there is no file browser with undo/redo listed in its features. Accidentally deleting or moving files/folders could cause problems.
Your rating system is all wrong.
Total Commander should get 10 stars in this system :)
Been using it since it was the original Norton Commander. Still use the same colors as back then.
Hi, I enjoyed your review very much, thanks :o) The included screenshots are great to quickly preview the different programs.
After trying most of the _free_ Windows Explorer replacements listed here, 3 standed out for me : ExplorerXP, which has good features but also flaws and seems to be no longer updated ; CubicExplorer, which is pretty good but also unstable ; and Xplorer² Lite, which is nearly perfect (for my tastes) and that I’m now using instead of the Windows Explorer.
XPlorer2 3 starts???????
You should try it again.
DirectoryOpus. Because it lets me work MY way, not authors way, like fe. TotalCommander.
I tried a bunch of the explorers listed here. I ended up purchasing xyplorer because it has a good set of features without being too complicated, and because the developer responded rapidly to my questions. He was even willing to quickly add a feature that I needed (although a second feature I requested was more complicated and so it’s been added to his queue).
Directory Opus, as you might be able to guess by the price, is easily the richest, most feature laden product. There’s a lot to learn and the price is high. On top of that, the license only allows you to install it on a single machine; I’ve got several machines at work and several machines at home (all of which are used only by me), so this would be a very expensive proposition (a more reasonable license in my opinion would be a per-user license, which would allow me to install it on all my machines).
I tried the free programs. I really wanted to like them but they just didn’t provide enough to make it worthwhile to switch from the Windows Explorer. There were different types of issues I ran into (antiquated user interfaces, buggy behavior, no developer support, etc.) across the different products but I won’t go into the details here. All I can say (and it pains me to say this) is that the free programs (in their current state) aren’t worth it.
I’m always surprised at the reviews Xplorer2 receives. Also that the free (Lite) version never gets a mention. For me, the tree plus dual-pane view, coupled with tabbed browsing in each pane, fully navigable folder paths, as well as a per-tab folder history make it incredibly flexible for moving around the folder structure. Add in the choices for mouse- or keyboard-driven navigation, folder synchronisation, filters, bookmarks, text editor, preview pane… and I’ve never found a better freebie. Still, good to have a comparative review on a single page :-)
What a great resource. Thanks!
I have been using Power Desk Pro for several years, but they moved their web site and I thought them defunct. My main reason for buying it is that it has “Outside-In” technology to view almost any type of file, even if the file type (extension) is missing or wrong in many cases.
Now I can upgrade. Yay!
I see Servant Salamander already commented on a few times. I absolutely love it, myself. Haven’t used Windows Explorer for awhile now.
Total Commander is the first thing I install on any fresh Windows installation (even before additional drivers); I’ve been using it for about 2 years now, and I still find new (useful!) features every now and then… Windows Explorer is a joke :§)
Total Commander. 5/5 Stars.
Give that baby time.
I keep trying different file managers, and I keep coming back to Servant Salamander. It starts up very fast and works great.
great roundup, good reviews. well laid out.