7Files: a file browser with powerful filtering functionality

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Do you ever feel like it is sometimes simply too hard to find the files and folders you want in Windows explorer? If so, 7Files is for you.

7Files is a free file browser for Windows that aims to provide a better user experience for working with files and folder.

It looks very similar to Windows’ Explorer, but integrates powerful filtering and desktop search functionality into the file browsing experience, in order to deliver exactly the files and folders you are seek,via the shortest route possible. And somehow, it does a great job and manages to deliver a great user experience.

Two notable devices that enable it to do what it does are ; (1) intelligent filters in the right sidebar (date/type/extension), which are automatically narrowed down to whatever is appropriate to the actual folder that you are browsing; and (2) buttons and favorite folders in the top toolbar that enable you to switch locales quickly.

More notes on this one:

  • Filtering is folder recursive: which means that you could select ‘my computer’ then filter by a file type/extension/or date and every corresponding file on your system will be shown. You can then add subsequent filters to hone in further.
  • Fast: remarkably fast.
  • Apply multiple filters: once you apply a filter (from the sidebar) you can proceed to add another, or filter further by typing in text in the filter box that appears below.
  • Recently used files: can be accessed by entering text straight into the address bar. A dropdown will appear with recently used files. A really neat effect  is that recently used folders are displayed in a slightly larger font/icon size, making them stand out in the list. Also recently used files and folders will have a green dot next to them on the list, which is useful.
  • Add frequently used folder bookmarks: by simply dragging them to the top toolbar.

Wish list: (or how this program can be even better)

  • An exclusion filter: i.e. to be able to filter by ‘Video’ filetype then exclude .MKV extension for example.
  • A quick way to either replace Windows explorer with 7Files as a default file browser (and back again), and/or a right click context menu entry to quickly open a folder/folders with 7File.
  • Optional dual panes: look, I’m a geek, of course I will wish for this 😉
  • Filtering using strings in the path: it doesn’t do this. For example, I select .JPG and typed in ‘wallpaper’ expecting to get all the jpegs in my various wallpaper folders (wallpaper landscape, wallpaper art, etc.); I got no results.
  • Displaying the path in the list of files. At least as a option.

The verdict: this program is extremely intuitive and easy to use, on the one hand, but takes a little bit of getting used to on the other. Users are more used to Windows Explorer, of course, which gives the latter an advantage, but if you put it the energy into getting accustomed to 7File you will likely be rewarded.

What is not immediately apparent is that this program gets rid of ‘searching’ in favor of filtering; first you apply a filter (e.g. .jpg, video, or today) on a folder, drive, or ‘My Computer’, and only then can you filter further by typing something in a filter box.

7Files seems to be using Windows search to do what it does. Which is fine, except that I had hoped when I was first downloading it that it would use the raw Master File Table of the NTFS drive to create it’s index in the manner of desktop search tools like Everything and Quick Search. I have waiting for a long time for an ‘Everything’ clone with advanced filtering functionality; 7Files is not quite it, and is not an ‘Everything’ killer, but it is a very interesting program all the same, and highly recommended.

[Thanks go to reader Panzer for letting me know about this one]

Version Tested: Alpha

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7. Requires the installation of MS .NET Framework 3.5 (XP and Vista) and Windows Search (XP only).

UPDATE: 7Files has now become FileMind. Download it here, or check out our full review of FileMind.

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx. 9 megs).