Every time you transfer a file, browse your drive, or look for something you downloaded, you have to contend with Windows Explorer, the default file manager in Windows. While it is usable most of the time, nothing is more annoying than doing a file transfer in the order of several gigabytes, only to have Windows Explorer stop responding and crash, or struggling to simply drag-and-drop files because it’s just not designed to do it.
At this point you ask yourself, “Is there a better alternative?” Yes, there is. Three of them in fact, and they’re all free!
One of the most fundamental things missing in the native Windows Explorer is a tabbed interface. Without it you need to open new instances of Windows Explorer if you want to do different things in it at the same time or quickly glance between different folders. FreeCommander addresses that by including tabs, making life much easier.
I’m a big fan of the snapping feature in Windows 10, which lets you attach windows neatly to one half (or even a quarter) of the screen, and Free Commander does something similar with its dual-panel interface, which lets you quickly drag and drop things between folders. On top of that, it has its internal tools for splitting files, zipping and unpacking files and batch-renaming.
One caveat is that FreeCommander isn’t much of a looker. If that’s important to you, then the next entry may be more for you.
Besides having one of the coolest interfaces ever, Explorer++ really trumps everything else as a completely portable Explorer alternative. In other words, you can just carry the EXE file in a flash drive and run it from any computer. Explorer++ has a tabbed interface, too. It may not be as feature-rich as other alternatives to Windows Explorer, but it sure beats using clunky old Explorer on every computer you use.
Explorer++ comes with two different versions – 32-bit and 64-bit. Make sure you use the version that matches your computer’s architecture. In the likely event that you’ll be using a computer with a bit width other than what you have at home, put both versions into your flash drive.
Perhaps the most famous and most used Explorer alternative, MultiCommander, is the application that does it all. Like Explorer++, it provides a portable version (created by the installable version). And, like both of the previously mentioned alternatives, MultiCommander gives you a tabbed interface. (Only the tabs appear on the bottom.)
There are many quick-access buttons and gizmos here. The interface isn’t as elegant as the two previous alternatives, but there’s a lot more you can do with this mammoth application such as rename multiple files, access the registry, work with FTP servers, and navigate folders like a boss. It’s much easier to compile a list of what you can’t do with MultiCommander. If you don’t mind the crowded interface and work a lot with Explorer, this program will be the biggest relief for you.
Let’s hear what you have to say about these alternatives to Windows Explorer! If you know of any other utilities that can blow these out of the water, don’t hesitate to comment here, and if you’ve any questions, fire away.