Tag Archives: File Manager

Seeing Your Files in Three Dimension

3d1aThis kind of thing has got to be the future of files and folders so long as we have files and folders: the Innolab 3D File Manager from Adam Miezianko, Kristopher Rambish, Karen Fung, Zavnura Pingkan at Boston University. (Thanks, visualcomplexity.com)

This design is like a ferris wheel which organises contents by their relationships rather than their physical position on a hard drive. Each spiderweb thread marks the ties between folders holding contents related to the open file folder (center, in purple).

The file manager runs on Linux. It’s actually old: 2003, so something of a shame this kind of thing hasn’t caught on. The closest, I guess, is 3D Topicscape and perhaps WinFS, the storage system that was dropped from Vista back in 2004.

Getting More Out of My Brain

Regular readers will know I love mind maps, and more or less anything that works harder with my information. I use MyInfo as my outliner, I use MindManager to organize my thoughts, but I’ve only ever dabbled with other programs that I feel could do a lot more for me than they do: 3D Topicscape, Axon, NoteStudio, EverNote, TiddlyWiki and PersonalBrain.

All of these are worth a look, if you like experimenting with storing your information differently. Topicscape lets you fly through your data, and it works remarkably well. Axon is a very freeform but powerful idea organizer, NoteStudio and TiddlyWiki are personal wikis — think web-type links but in the comfort of your own home. EverNote is a huge toilet roll of stuff you can save from anywhere.

The last one, PersonalBrain, has always been very seductive, because it looks so darn good. It just feels like it should be something I use a lot. Plus, people I admire like Jerry Michalski use it, and love it. If someone like him uses it, surely I can get something out of it?

But as people smarter than me have said: PersonalBrain seems to be a tool waiting for a purpose. But what? If one treats the brain as a hierarchy, then quickly one gets frustrated. I know a few people use it as a file manager, and that makes sense — easier to jump to other subfolders that are close by, but not in the same folder — but so far I’ve only found one really good use for it: Contacts.

I don’t know a huge number of people but they’re now spread out all over the world and staying in touch with them has become something of a lottery. Sometimes I get to see them when I’m nearby, but more often than not it’s only when I’ve got back home do I realise that I was near where they were, and we didn’t hook up. PersonalBrain works best when nodes, ideas, or whatever it is you’re storing, have more than one connection, either up (Bloke X lives in NY but also works for company Y) or sideways (he used to live in Singapore, and used to work for company Z).

This lets me see the connections between my friends by which group of people in my world they’re connected to, but also lets me see them organised by company, or whatever. It may sound daft but I’m now doing a better job of staying in touch. And even reestablishing contact with folk I haven’t seen for a decade or so. PersonalBrain has to be thanked for that (tip: you can drag names from Outlook into PersonalBrain which speeds up the process; doubleclick on their names in the Brain and they’ll load in Outlook.)

Now I’m trying to find other ways to use the software. The fact that we haven’t found out what needs these programs fulfil may, I surmise, be because we haven’t been thinking hard enough.

Mapping Your Drive

I’m a big fan of treemaps, and a big fan of anything that keeps your hard drive organised (or any kind of media, really.) So treemap software that create a map of your hard drive are hard to resist, which is why I’ve written about them a fair deal. (For an attempt at an exhaustive list of treemapping software, check out this page.) Here’s a new version of SpaceMonger, one of my favorites, which is now officially out. Just to confuse you, it’s version 2.1, but that’s only because version 2.0 was never released.

Basically, treemaps create a box-like map of whatever it is you’re mapping — in this case, your hard drive. In the illustration above, you can see the bigger rectangles as folders, with the subfolders inside them. What’s the point? You can see at a glance how much space you’ve got left (the grey bit) and which folders, even which files, are taking up space. You can even use it as a file manager, since by clicking on a folder that zooms into the folder in question, and by clicking on a file you can launch it. Right clicking allows you to do things to the file, including delete it. It’s all pretty intuitive stuff.

SpaceMonger isn’t the only one out there doing this, but I like the way it does things.

 

A Directory Of Windows Explorer Replacements

I’m always amazed at the inadequacy of Windows Explorer and how most users just seem to accept its limitations. The good news is that you don’t have to. Here’s a list of programs that seek to replace, one way or another, Windows Explorer (not to be confused with Internet Explorer) used not only to view directories/folders and move files around (otherwise known as file managers), but to view the contents of files without having to open them, manage photos etc. In no particular order (although I must confess I use ExplorerPlus):

  • ExplorerPlus
    The price: $40
    The blurb: This file manager offers built-in file previewing, multi-pane folder views, instant access to often visited folders, and a large collection of file, document, multimedia and picture management tools, making it easy for you to perform any file management task. Screenshot
  • PowerDesk Pro 
    The price: $50
    The blurb:  PowerDesk® Pro 6 is a simple, fast and fun way to organize and manage files, digital photos, MP3 music files and web images on your PC. It’s convenient and it saves time! In just one, two or three clicks, you can customize your PC: move, copy, zip, label, color code, search, view, prioritize, convert, and use your files the way you want to use them. Screenshot
  • Directory Opus 8 
    The price: $65
    The blurb: Powerful File Manager & Explorer Replacement Screenshots
  • A43 File Management from BG’s Home 
    The price: freeware
    The blurb: A43 is a freeware file management utility for Windows 2000/XP. Screenshot
  • ExplorerXP
    The price: freeware
    The blurb: ExplorerXP is a very fast, small, compact and innovative FREEWARE (for non – commercial use) file manager for Windows 2000/XP. Unlike the regular Windows Explorer, it displays the total size of each folder and allows you to browse multiple folders from a tabbed interface. Screenshot
  • xplorer²
    The price: $30 (there’s a free lite version, and a free earlier version, called 2xExplorer)
    The blurb: All the shell goodies from windows explorer — none of the hassle! Plus all the features you would expect from a powerful tabbed dual-pane file manager, including Omni-Finder, a find files module that simply outclasses all known search tools. Don’t take our word for it, seeing is believing! The screenshot
  • JExplorer
    The price: freeware
    The blurb: JExplorer is a dual-panel type file manager and web-browser as well. It is similar to widely used Norton Commander, WinNC, or Windows Commander. It provides many advanced features such as compressor/decompressor, FTP file transfer, POP3 mail/SPAM mail monitor, MAPI mail sender, directory comparator, and Dial-up Networking (DUN) interface. It runs under Windows 95/98/ME and Windows NT4/2K/XP. The screenshot
  • FileAnt
    The price: freeware (welcomes donations)
    The blurb: FileAnt is a Windows File Manager (like explorer) on tabs (like UltraEdit-32), it is also a cool Ftp Client (like leechftp) and has nice features such as folder pie charts, and a viewer for commonly used file formats. It loads quickly from the tray and uses very little memory to achieve what it does. The Ftp Client is multi-download (you can keep browsing while downloading lots of files). The Pie Chart features 2D telescopic browsing. Advanced tools let you modify file dates, sync folders, and change file attributes en masse. There is also a nice little mp3 player in the tray. Screenshot
  • MeeSoft Commander
    The price: freeware (welcomes donations)
    The blurb: File management utility and image viewer. The program has an effective split screen interface with two directory views or a directory view and a file viewer. The image viewer can launch MeeSoft Image Analyzer for editing images. Screenshot
  • Total Commander
    The price: $34
    The blurb: file manager for Windows® 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP, and Windows® 3.1 Screenshot
  • Magellan Explorer
    The price: $40
    The blurb: Magellan Explorer is an advanced, yet easy to use, Windows file manager based on the powerful dual window pane concept. Previous users of the Norton Commander file manager software and similar tools will feel right at home. It can also act as a Windows Explorer replacement with a tree view on the left. Or you can enjoy a combination of both! Screenshots

I’m sure there are more out there. I’ve tried to limit this to file managers which might be suitable for the ordinary user, but I’m very open to including more. Let me know (along with any errors on pricing etc).

Another Explorer Alternative

I’ve written before about programs that replace Windows Explorer, the File Manager of old: There’s ExplorerPlus ($40, in my software hall of fame) and its relative PowerDesk Pro ($50), but there’s also Directory Opus ($65), now into version 8.

Directory Opus is an Australian creation, and offers some impressive features that I intend to explore more fully:

* Powerful File Manager & Explorer Replacement
* User-definable File Display Views
* User-definable Toolbars, Menus, File Types
* Advanced built-in Image and File Viewers
* Built-in ZIP and Advanced FTP
* Visually Synchronize Files & Find Duplicates
* Advanced Search and Rename Functions
* More Configurable than any other program
* Easy Slideshows…and much more..

Definitely worth checking out. And if you haven’t tried one of these three, I would do so. Definitely makes file handling, viewing, backing up and moving stuff around a lot easier.