Windows Explorer is hardly the perfect tool for advanced file management, and Windows users have a ton of alternatives available. The decision is a difficult one, but if we had to recommend one file browser, we'd pick Xplorer2 for Windows.
- Customisable, tabbed, dual-pane interface (or single if you prefer)
- Tons of hotkeys that let you perform file operations with one keystroke
- Instant file previews
- Ability to replace Windows Explorer as your default file manager
- View extended metadata on many different types of files
- Create bookmarks for specific folders and jump to them with a keyboard shortcut
- A "mini-scrap" pane to which you can drag files from different places for batch operations
- Execute DOS commands and scripts on groups of files right form the Xplorer2 interface
- Advanced file operations, like split, merge, shred, create junctions, and more
- Export folder listings to a document
- Assign specific view modes to certain folders (pro only)
- Compare and synchronise two folders (certain features pro only)
- Advanced search through any type of file and its metadata, even those contained in ZIP folders (pro only)
- Search the content of files, like the text in documents and PDFs (pro only)
Xplorer2 shines in its great interface and high amount of configurability. You can tweak the interface to fit whatever you want, whether that's a vertical or horizontal 3-pane view with a tree, or a simpler view like Windows Explorer. You can customise all of your hotkeys for super fast file browsing, as well as change every corner of the toolbars and interface to fit your needs. Xplorer2 also has better file management and searching capabilities than Windows Explorer, which makes it perfect for sifting through your hard drive. Best of all, you can completely replace Windows Explorer with Xplorer2, so when you head to My Computer or double-click on a folder on your desktop, it opens up Xplorer2 instead of Windows Explorer.
One of Xplorer2's biggest downsides is that it uses Windows Explorer's built-in file operations. This isn't inherently bad, but it is a serious disadvantage when compared to other advanced file browsers, that use their own file operations with things like error-resume. Also, some of its best features are disabled in the free version, which again isn't inherently bad, but if you're looking to get it all for free, you'll have to look elsewhere.
There is a lot of competition in this space. The most obvious competitors are Total Commander and the programs based off it, like Unreal Commander. While these are the most powerful options around, the interface is pretty horrible, and not something you would want to use on a regular basis for regular browsing. It also can't replace Windows Explorer in your system, which is a big downside.
Directory Opus rivals Xplorer2 in features, boasting things like global hotkeys, a standalone viewer, and a wicked FTP system, but it comes at the very high price of $85. This is far more than most home users would like to spend on a file manager, so we couldn't bring ourselves to call it the "best" in this directory, though it is well deserving of your use if you're willing to throw down the cash.
If you're looking for something free, you'll definitely want to check out CubicExplorer, which has a great, simple, configurable interface, Nomad.NET, which stresses powerful file operations, and FreeCommander. None of them are quite as powerful as the paid options, but they're valid competition for the low price of $0.
There are tons of others out there, like XYplorer, NexusFile, Q-Dir, and more, and it'd be impossible to address every one, but the above few stand above the rest in our eyes. Just like the category of best music player, this one is a very close battle and is very dependent on personal preferences. Xplorer2 isn't going to be the best for everybody, and many of you are probably very loyal to a different file browser. However, we think that for someone just delving into the world of advanced file managers, Xplorer2 is the most likely to suit their needs, both in power, ease of use, and price. If you've got your own favourite, share it with us in the comments.
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