How-To Geek

What You Said: Favorite Windows Explorer Alternatives


Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite alternatives to Window’s native file explorer. Now we’re back to highlight your suggestions, tips, and tricks.

Reading the comments it becomes readily apparent that if you’ve taken the time to replace Windows Explorer with something else then you’ve really done your homework. Readers were quite passionate about their favorite Explorer alternatives. Shawn Murdock gives us a detailed run down on why he loves XYplorer:

XYplorer – just the best; and I have used pretty much everything listed here by everyone.
XYplorer is constantly being developed – almost daily. It can be configured to look like windows explorer, a dual pane norton commander clone, or a tabbed explorer; or some hybrid.
It also has a build in scripting language that allows you to do anything. You can, for example, write a script, and assign it to a button, that switches between various configs of the toolbar. You can write scripts to manage files, change the explorer itself, pretty much anything.

Its also completely portable. You can also have portable file extensions (totally awesome). Example: define the extension PDF to open PDFXchange viewer off or your usb stick running XYplorer.

The mini tree is really cool. This allows you to have a smaller, cleaner, directory tree made up of only directories you use, or are interested in at that moment; no more giant structures to scroll through looking for things.

The user buttons can run apps, run scripts, open folders, almost anything and are portable aware.
XYplorer has colored files by extension, custom color file tags, colored branches of the directory tree, an excellent search system, custom labels, favorite files / folders. Just so many features that make this the best explorer for anyone. It can be as complicated and techy as you want; or just as simple as you want.

As for the price, just watch Bits Du Jur. It comes up for sale every couple of months. I have seen it twice since I bought it early this year. You can get a lifetime license for 50% off.
I really did not want to spend money and I really liked Qdir and Cubic but I needed more. The scripting system allows me to automate my home config and my usb config and keep them in sync. This has saved me tons of time. I highly recommend!

Shawn had us at the whole portable file associations bit—that sounds like a fantastic feature!

Directory Opus was another popular reader choice. Scott weighs in with his favorite features:

Directory Opus, again and again and again. Its superb. I’m a sys admin and hate the single pane (pain) explorer view, source and destination is what I need, with multiple trees if required, and the ability to macro command anything I need. print the DIR, easy, change all the file names to caps and lower case, format the text remove the _ and . , easy one mouse click, Double click the desktp, a new lister appears, Cmd line from this DIR, easy, I know its expensive for the initial outlay, but I will never dessert it. I’ve tried XYplorer and other alts over the years, I just keep going back to Opus for sheer customization and configuration. Love it to bits.

Although nobody wrote a lengthy review of it, xplorer² received a mountain of recommendations. Mark writes:

xplorer2 since I can’t remember when. I don’t understand why Microsoft has not incorporated a dual pane model into Explorer. When I’m explaining to friends and family how to move files from, say, a digital camera to their computer, it’s much easier with dual panes (triple pane if you count the file tree, I suppose). For me, xplorer2 is essential.

For more reader tips, tricks, and favorite Explorer alternatives, hit up the full comment thread here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/28/11

Comments (18)

  1. rp...

    The top picks are all pretty cool but I would love to see one more thing. When clicking on folder in first pane, the list of files shows up in second pane. But why, when clicking on a folder in pane 2, the files don’t automatically show up in pane 3?
    Perhaps this attribute exists and I just don’t know how to set it up.
    Great stuff guys..

  2. Tom

    Maybe I am wrong, but Total Commander got the most recommendations … and you dont even mention it here? Strange behaviour!

  3. seadoctor

    Nobody suggested 2xexplorer or Qdir? Strange, because those are very easy to use multipane “explorers”.

  4. jojo

    There is only ONE good replacement for Windows Explorer… that is Avanquest PowerDesk 8 Pro. Once you try it you’ll never look for anything else!

  5. Ziggy

    Regardless of choice this a great list of alternatives. It gives one the opportunity to try something different to the Native Windows Explorer. Job well done, folks.

    What would also be good is if the “How-To-Geek” team could compile all the suggested replacements and provide appropriate links as a reference guide for their readers.

    At least people now have a choice. Thank you…

  6. bambang

    FreeCommander brings the power of totalcommander with free! Even with more features.

  7. platsak

    hi guys,

    XYPlorer is not free. only evaluation version available?
    are any of the other decent alternatives free?


  8. Roi

    But, but but……they are all ugly compared to Windows Explorer :(

  9. StevenTorrey

    Let’s see what happens if I press this key…

  10. Steve

    I don’t find Windows Explorer all that bad. If I want 2 panes open I just open 2 instances. I use the WinKey+E and then use the WinKey+left arrow to size the window to half the screen and move it to the left side and the WinKey+right arrow to size the other one to half the screen and move it to the right side. Then you can drag-and-drop all you want.

  11. Ben Naga

    Qdir is fine for me. Tried to post this a way back but the comment didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t connect so I gave up. Try again. :)

  12. Lee Frederickscii

    The default Windows Explorer with QTTabBar,and shortcuts is enough for me.I recently discovered BetterExplorer,thanks to you,which makes me not miss the Windows 8 dev. preview explorer,almost!
    I have tried all those above and none of them catches me that much!

  13. Jack Ragan

    watsa matta with Firefox?

  14. Chris Raisin

    Well, I tried them all, but I must agree that they ARE all ugly compared to the Windows Explorer.

    I reverted back to Windows Explorer with XFilesDialog and xDesk and that is best for me. I do not really want Twin Windows, and like Steve I just open up another instance of Windows Explorer if I need to.

    My system is getting to “stuffed” with hundreds of apps now anyway!

  15. JupiterIsBig

    Where are the geeks – xtree/ztree ?

  16. Marko

    hmm.. windows is useless without Total Commander..

  17. Ron

    My problem with Win 7 explorer is if I expand the columns to view they don’t lock in son that next time a use it the columns are hidden again

  18. Shari

    Count me in among the folks who prefer Windows Explorer (particularly in Win7) with some tweaks.

    There’s a tweak program that allows for hiding/adding things in the win7 tree panel, countless tweaks to edit/hide/add toolbars and menu bars, and as others have said, opening a second instance works great for those times when you need 2 folder views side-by-side, without the added real estate space loss for all those times when that’s not needed (which is, for me, the majority of the time). [Holy run-on sentence, Batman.]

    And as of Win7, well, I’m a sucker for what looks best, too. Clean, slick, simple.

    Would love to see a similar article on Win Explorer tweak utilities…! :)

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