One of the downsides of Android compared to desktop operating systems is its apparent lack of options to deep-dive into the OS, and manually manage your files. While an unrooted Android OS doesn’t by default offer many of these options, there are plenty of very good file manager apps that will give you that granular control you want.
Whether you want to explore the root directory of your phone, encrypt apps, or just manually, move, create and delete folders on your device, these file manager apps will see to your needs.
1. Solid Explorer
One of the best things about Solid Explorer is its dual-pane design, which makes it quick and easy to sift through all your Android files. It has a particular focus on security, letting you encrypt any files and folders with a password, which you can subsequently open with a fingerprint sensor.
The two-panel design essentially creates two separate windows in Solid Explorer, letting you drag-and-drop files and folders between them much like you would in a desktop OS. There’s plenty of customization in terms of colours and themes. Even more functionality gets unlocked on a rooted device, where you can use this as a proper root explorer.
The catch is that Solid Explorer is a paid app, but you can try it out for 14 days free of charge before deciding if it’s for you.
One of the best-kept secret file managers for Android, MiXplorer has long been a favourite of the XDA community, letting you not only explore files on your device but also across your entire personal network (including FTP, LAN and cloud-based storage). It packs plenty of customization, allows for robust tabbed browsing, and lets you create chains of commands using the “Tasks” feature.
You can easily view various formats of files thanks to an integrated reader that reads the EPub, MobiPacket and PDF formats, as well as a comprehensive media player, image viewer and text editor.
You don’t need to have a rooted device to use MiXplorer, but if you do, then even more functionality opens up in the form of data backup and extra management options. It’s ad-free, completely free, and supported by people who are really in the know.
3. Asus File Manager
The default and stock file manager for Asus’s range of Zen phones and tablets. Thank the Android gods that they made it available and free for any device that can run it. It comes with a simple and aesthetically pleasing design. Asus File Manager has a beautiful category screen that allows you to organise and label your files. It’s compatible with a host of cloud storage services such as OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox, while being simple enough to link the account and manage it directly. It also allows you to compress and decompress rar and zip files and allows wireless transfer between phone and PC. Asus File Manager is completely ad-free, too.
4. ES File Explorer
ES File Explorer is one of the oldest and most reliable file explorers on this list. It would actually sit at number one if only it were ad-free. It’s understandable, though, as for all the time and effort the developers have put into it, they deserve some financial imbursement for their troubles.
The catch is that ES File Explorer was removed from the Play Store in April 2019, possibly due to the fraudulent activities of one of the company’s subdivisions, DO Global. To use it today, you’ll need to download it from a site like APKPure, where the newest versions are still being released.
ES File Manager still comes with its niche gesture feature where you can record certain gestures that will perform functions within the app. It also allows you to save shortcuts to folders and files on your home screen, making it almost fully desktop-esque. It comes with built-in viewers and players for various file types, so you can watch videos and play music directly from it. There is also a task manager where you can kill tasks and free up some memory on your device.
It supports rar and zip compression/decompression and even comes with its own note editor. Supporting cloud storage, Bluetooth file browsing, remote file access, wireless PC file transfer, an SD card analyst, and a host of other features, it’s a Swiss Army knife of an app. It’s theme-able too. Some may be put off by how bloated it is with its features, the ads and its material design, but if you’re looking for a jack-of-all-trades, this is your best bet.
5. Astro File Manager
The first thing you see when you go on Astro File Manager‘s Google Play page is “No Ads.” This banner runs across its icon like a company motto. So for anyone who wants a great file browser that is ad-free, look no further. In addition to helping you organize your files through its file manager, it comes with a handy memory cleaner. It allows you to compress and decompress files in rar and zip formats. You can also bookmark settings, files and folders. It comes with its own media player that allows you to play videos and music, smoothly peruse through your collection of pictures, and manage your cloud storage.
6. X-Plore File Manager
It’s time to bring the pane, two panes that is. What’s unique about X-Plore is it gives you the option to handle windows at the same time by providing you with a dual-pane explorer so you can copy files across and compare two folders. In addition to all of this, it allows you to see inside APK files and allows you to compress folders into APK packages. It has a disk map that allows you to see which files eat up the most disk space and comes with its very own PDF viewer. You can wirelessly manage your files from a PC’s web-browser. It comes with cloud storage access and a video player that allows subtitles. This is all just the tip of the iceberg.
7. Total Commander
The classic, the original and my personal favourite, Total File Commander comes with a simple but powerful user interface. A few people may consider it anachronistic and a little homely, but it’s as good as its Windows counterpart and gets the job done. It’s completely pluggable, which means that you can add more features to it using plugins. It has a media player that can stream directly from LAN, WebDAV and cloud plugins, and you can bookmark and save folders as shortcuts. For those of who have rooted devices, it has a capable root explorer.
With all these tools now integrated into file managers, it allows a user to have less and less apps taking up unnecessary and vital space. Why would you need the Google Drive app, for instance, if most file managers allow you to manage your cloud storage? Would it be wrong for me to predict that eventually entire ROMs and OS’s will be built from the foundations of some of these file explorers if they haven’t been already?
It brings it all full circle if you’ve been paying attention. In the same way that smartphones aren’t really phones anymore, these Android file explorers aren’t really explorers anymore. I’m waiting for the day they integrate text messages and SnapChat-like stories. As always, if you want to point out any blindsides in the list or want to share which ones are your favourites, leave a comment.