When moving, copying, pasting, browsing, and getting information about your files feels like tedious work—and it can in the feature-sparse Windows Explorer—you need some power add-ons that can help. Instead of completely replacing Windows Explorer with an alternative file manager, you can pick and choose the extra features you want and add them piecemeal. Let's take a look at some free power add-ons for Windows Explorer that make dealing with your growing file collection faster and easier.
Note: Installing every single one of these toolbars and add-ons may slow down Windows Explorer, so pick and choose the ones that give you the features you need.
QTTabBar Adds Tabs to Windows Explorer: Get the tabbed browsing experience in Windows Explorer with the QuickTimeTabBar add-on. Once installed, right-click on the Explorer toolbar and select the QTTabBar toolbars, which adds both tabbing and other features, like access to recent tabs and file previews. QTTabBar works in Vista and XP with .Net Framework 2.0 or later. QTTabBar homepage, original post.
Explorer Breadcrumbs Adds "Breadcrumb" Folder Trail: Move up and down your folder hierarchy with ease by adding a "breadcrumb" folder trail to Windows Explorer. This little ditty is a a bit buggy—it didn't work for Adam in his original tests, but it has worked for me—so proceed with that in mind. Explorer Breadcrumbs is a free download for Windows 2000 and XP, donations requested. Explorer Breadcrumbs homepage, original post.
Xentient Thumbnails Offers Actual File Preview: Replace Windows Explorer's boring default image icon with a preview of the actual image itself as shown above. Xentient Thumbnails is a free download for Windows XP only. Xentient Thumbnails homepage, original post.
FileBox eXtender Keeps Oft-Used Folders Always In Reach: Add favourite folders you're always reaching for to every Explorer window with FileBox eXtender, which adds two small buttons that drop down a file menu, and a quick keyboard shortcut to get to those folders as well. Set up your preferred key combo (Adam suggests Ctrl+Shift+F) and type the first letter of the folder you want to select it. FileBox eXtender works in Open and Save dialogs as well, in Windows XP and Vista. FileBox eXtender homepage, original post.
TeraCopy Speeds Up Big File Copy Jobs: Get greater control of file copy operations—especially ones that involve several gigs—with TeraCopy, a simple utility that offers pause, resume, and error recovery to your file copy jobs, as well as speeds them up overall. TeraCopy homepage, original post.
OpenWide Customises the Open/Save Dialog File View: Set your Open/Save dialog to always list your files in details view, automatically focus your keyboard where you choose, and even place the box's exact location on your screen using OpenWide for Windows XP and 2000. OpenWide homepage, original post.
Folder Size Sorts Folders by the Size of Their Contents: Add a column to Windows Explorer that displays how much space a folder's taking up with Folder Size, a small utility that also lets you sort by folder size as well—making quick cleanup of empty or space-hogging folders a snap. FolderSize is a free download for Windows XP only. Folder Size homepage, original post.
PlacesBar Editor Adds Frequently-Used Locations to the Open/Save Dialog Box: Save and open files straight to your most frequently used files by adding them to Windows' Places bar using the PlacesBar Editor. Unlike PlacesBar Tweaker, PlacesBar Editor works for Microsoft Office dialog boxes, too. PlacesBar Editor is a free download for XP and Vista, donations requested. PlacesBar Editor homepage, original post.
InfoTag Magic Displays File Details on Mouse Hover: Peek inside a file with InfoTag Magic, a small utility that displays a file's metadata (like MP3 tags) in a tooltip when you hover your mouse pointer over the file. Windows XP only. InfoTag Magic homepage, original post.
If this list of add-ons doesn't cover what you want or need in Windows Explorer, check out our recent Five Best Alternative File Managers post, as nominated by Lifehacker readers.
What are your favourite add-ons for Windows Explorer? Let us know in the comments.
Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, likes a more powerful Windows Explorer. Her feature Geek to Live appears every week on Lifehacker.