In a previous post, I looked at replacements for Windows Explorer ("WinEx"), including especially FreeCommander. The runner-up, at that point, was Explorer++. Further experience with FreeCommander prompted me to take a closer look at Explorer++ after all. This post provides further information on these two utilities.
As I used FreeCommander, I was surprised to find that a few right-click (context menu) options were missing. For example, I often used LockHunter to find out why Windows was not letting me move or delete a certain file or folder. But in FreeCommander, I was no longer seeing the context menu question, "What is locking this file?" That option did continue to appear in Explorer++, as it had appeared in WinEx. One possible explanation was that FreeCommander did not offer a 64-bit version, whereas Explorer++ did, and I was using the 64-bit version of LockHunter.
Another problem in both FreeCommander and Explorer++ was that I no longer had the option to create a new text file in a specified folder. That option had been available in WinEx, as I recalled, via File > New > Text File. I was pretty sure there was a way to create a new text file in FreeCommander. It seemed to me that I had done so by accident, once or twice, while trying to do something else with a familiar command from WinEx. But I was not seeing that option on the menu nor in the list of shortcuts, and likewise in Explorer++. Workarounds in either program were to open a command window in the selected folder and type one of these options:
- copy con filename.txt Enter. Then type the text. End with F6 or Ctrl-Z.
- echo [a line of text to put into new text file] > filename.txt
- notepad filename.txt Enter
Unlike FreeCommander, it was not necessary to display a toolbar listing all drives in Explorer++, because the navigation pane already showed all drives, as in WinEx. Also like WinEx, Explorer++ allowed me to customize the toolbar area by right-clicking on it. By contrast, FreeCommander required me to go to Extras > Settings > View > Toolbar; and once there, I had to save changes to each segment of the toolbar separately. Explorer++ offered more toolbar icons that I was likely to find useful, including Back, Forward, and Up buttons.
Explorer++ did not offer the dual panel option. But in recent weeks, I had not found myself using that option very often in FreeCommander. I tended to prefer to keep my windows to half-screen width (using the half-screen snap available in Windows 7 via WinKey - left- (or right-) arrow), and a half-screen was too narrow for many filenames. Moving from one tab to another was an easier way to work among multiple folders. Explorer++ (unlike FreeCommander) further aided that by offering the option of bookmarking folders. A bookmark would not create a new tab; it would change the focused folder in the already focused tab.
Unlike FreeCommander, Explorer++ offered the option of being treated as a replacement for WinEx. This meant that my Start Menu icon (and other menu picks in various programs) that previously would have opened a Windows Explorer session were now opening an Explorer++ session instead. That option was available via Tools > Options > General tab > Default File Manager. I still had the option of opening Windows Explorer by typing "explorer" in a command box; hence, batch commands designed to open WinEx to a particular folder would still do so.
FreeCommander appeared to offer more command-line options. The options in Explorer++ appeared to be limited to (a) the possibility of listing multiple directories to open when Explorer++ started up, each opening in its own tab and (b) the possibility of opening virtual folders by using their names (e.g., explorer++.exe "control panel"). I did not think I would need the latter. The former would be useful only when dealing with relatively short pathnames; Windows might balk at a command listing several long paths. I obtained information about these options by typing "explorer++.exe /?" at the command prompt. That seemed to work only in the folder where explorer++.exe was located.
Other points of comparison: Both Explorer++ and FreeCommander seemed to remember their window positions better than WinEx had done. Even more so than FreeCommander, Explorer++ displayed much more information onscreen than WinEx: 51 rows, in my configuration. Regrettably, unlike FreeCommander, the status bar in Explorer++ did not state both the number of items selected and the total number of items in the folder. Like FreeCommander, Explorer++ did not offer an Undo option, in case I had accidentally moved or deleted the wrong file or folder. Using Explorer++ or FreeCommander did not stop the annoying "This folder is shared with other people" messages.
As these remarks probably suggest, I found myself gravitating toward Explorer++ shortly after I began using FreeCommander in earnest as my WinEx replacement. There would surely be many more contrasts between the two. But I wasn't sure how many of them I would detect, since by this point it seemed that I would mostly just be using Explorer++.