Explorer++: tabbed file manager and Windows Explorer replacement

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Ever wished you could use tabs in Windows explorer, just as you use tabs in your internet browser? Explorer ++ is a file manager and Windows explorer replacement that just that, plus a host of nifty features to boot.

Explorer++ has newly turned open source, is available in 32 and 64 bit builds, and is truly portable.

Features on offer include tabbed browsing, folder/files/app shortcuts bookmarked on the program toolbar, auto calculate displayed folder sizes, split/merge/wipe files, zip archive handling, file filtering and selection by wildcard, the option to replace Windows explorer as the default file handler, custom coloring by user-defined file or folder criteria.

The main attraction for this program is the ability to browse folders via tabs, but there is more to it than that. Here are two lists of the things I like about it as well as some of the things that can be improved.

The PROS section: 7 things I like about this program

  1. Tabbed browsing: you can right-click “open in new tab” on any folder. You could also restrict the program to a single running instance such that any folder you open will be opened as a tab in a single window.
  2. ExplorerPlusPlus ScreenshotBookmarking: folders, files, and shortcuts can be dragged and dropped to be placed on the program toolbar for quick access.
  3. Portable: offers the option to save settings within an XML file in the program folder.
  4. File filtering: done in two different ways, a “filter” which would apply to your folder view until you removed it (e.g. *.xls* will only display files that contain that string as you browse folders). The second is a search function that applies to a specific folder, but lets you specify parameters such as
  5. Set to replace Windows explorer from the settings: which makes it very easy and simple; however, this is only available for Vista and Windows 7.
  6. Can be restricted to a single running instance: which not just has the effect described in point#1 above but also reins in memory consumption, which is about 20 megs or so on my machine.
  7. Preserves the Windows Explorer context menu:which is an important detail. It does, however, add an “open in a new tab” entry, reminiscent of browsers’ context menus, which is quite useful.

The CONS section: 6 things that, um, can be improved

  1. No panes, just tabs: i.e. no dual pane view. And although the tabbed view is what attracted me to this program in the first place, an optional pane view would have been nice.
  2. File filtering, search, and selection functions buried in the menus: when in my opinion they should have been rolled into a single search box on the top right of the interface.
  3. Does not show file previews (images, videos) in large icon view: it offers it only in thumbnail view (Windows 7 explorer does the former).
  4. Default view options somewhat lacking: I wanted it to always open my folders in large icon view, grouped by type, but for the life of me couldn’t get it to do so.
  5. Zip handling does not satisfy: when double clicking a zipped archive it will open it in Explorer++ as expected, but clicking to open a file inside the archive (e.g. a text file or an image) will fail.
  6. Requires a manual refresh every once in a while: such as after dragging a file out of a folder or creating a new file/folder.

The verdict: I really like this program, despite what may seem like a lot of items in the “cons” section above. The main attraction is the tabbed interface, of course. I probably would not use this as a default replacement to Windows Explorer because I actually like the Windows 7 Explorer quite a bit, but I would if I were still using XP.

If you have to have the file panes you might want to take a look at Q-Dir (a favorite of mine), but if the tab thing seems attractive you will certainly like Explorer++.

Version Tested: 1.1

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7. Both 32 and 64 bit builds available.

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 426K).