Tag Archives: Windows Explorer

TaskTracker’s Virtual Folders

Interesting how different people get different things from the same software. I love TaskTracker (and listed it in my top 10 programs) because it remembers what files I’ve been using, even if I don’t. Makes finding something real easy. But one reader gets something quite different from its latest incarnation:

…much more useful on a daily basis is TaskTracker because of its Virtual Folder feature. I work on numerous projects simultaneously, drawing files from my long-standing Windows Explorer hierarchial folder arrangement. TT’s file lists enables me to drag shortcuts to those files into Virtual Folders. The Virtual Folders can be converted to permanent folders thereby maintaining all the project references in one file. If the project is a bust, just delete the Virtual Folder. None of the ‘original’ files are disturbed.

I must confess I don’t use that feature very much, but maybe I should.

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.

TaskTracker Branches Out

Just been chatting with Michael M Ross, the man behind TaskTracker, software I’ve recommended several times here (it’s on the list to the left of this post) and in the column. It’s Real Useful Software in that you save time, you don’t waste time trying to figure it out, and in the end it all seems really, really logical. Oh and it’s free.

Well, not quite free anymore. Michael has just released version 1.1 and is now charging $25 for it after offering it as freeware and then donationware. Which is cheap, and you should buy if you can afford it, but Michael tells me that if you don’t the program won’t actually stop working, it will just nag you a bit more than it would otherwise.

Version 1.1 includes some nifty new features which are worth checking out. One allows you to automatically review images within TaskTracker; another ensures that loading the program doesn’t take too long (by only adding newer files and validating older ones) and, most intriguingly, ‘virtual folders’ which Michael says is in its early stages, but which I think could really go places.

Virtual Folders are collections of files you want to keep in one place. A small window appears — which then allows you to add a folder, and to drag files of any type from the TaskTracker list into it. The files themselves aren’t moved, but as long as those files exist on your computer, the virtual folders will keep them in their list, making it easy to get to stuff, irrespective of what kind of file they are. So if you’re working on a project, for example, you could keep all the bits and pieces in one virtual folder without ever having to root around in subfolders or Windows Explorer. Sort of WinFS without the Long (horn) wait.

The New Windows And Organising Your Stuff

This month’s PCWorld gets hold of an early prototype of the next Windows, which, apart from the usual ‘interface enhancements’ illustrates what I think is going to be the most important change in how we store and retrieve files.

The magazine says that the new ‘Longhorn’ version Windows Explorer — the program which lists what files you have, and which folder there are in — “routinely displayed much more information about files and computer resources than it does in Windows XP”. There’s a panel in the program that “let users and/or applications associate search keywords, comments, and categories with files, data within files, or objects stored on other devices, computers, or networks.”

This basically means that, instead of lumping all your files in a specific directory, or folder, where they languish, you can give your files dynamic order depending on what keywords you assign them. Say you assign the keywords ‘home’ and ‘flubber’ to a file: you can then create ‘virtual folders’ using either, or both, those keywords which will turn up all files of whatever kind which contain those same keywords. This is called WinFS and in theory will allow you to find related resources regardless of their physical location or object type. If you’re interested, there’s more here on the Microsoft website.

I think this is a great innovation and one that is long overdue. The whole folder metaphor is tired and irrelevant to how we use data these days. However I have some worries: Given that most folk today still give their files less than helpful file names, and have yet to discover the joys of creating subfolders to give order to their hard drive, isn’t the ‘dynamic approach’ going to just make things messier? It will largely hinge, as far as I can see, on folk spending an extra few minutes entering keywords into each file’s properties box. Given we’re able to do that now in programs like Microsoft Word, but rarely actually do, what are the chances of that happening? Great in theory, I just worry about the implementation.

In the meantime, I use dtSearch to find stuff, and it works like a charm. It ain’t pretty but it’s sturdy and very configurable. Otherwise, check out X1, which is on the cusp of releasing a new version. Other good search programs: 80-20 Retriever and Enfish Find. Personally I couldn’t live without one of ’em.