Q-Dir: the portable file management program that could

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Q-Dir is a free file management / explorer replacement program with a light footprint and a nice set of features. It integrates very well with Windows’ desktop environment and employs an innovative interface that makes it very easy to work with multiple file panes. Can be run portably from USB.

I’ve tried a great many freeware dual pane file managers and I will say that this

nifty little program has three main strengths: (a) it manages to deliver a number of essential file management options while managing not to suffer from feature overload, (b) it features an economical-looking interface that is quite intuitive and provides an excellent user experience, and (c) it is very quick and responsive.

Here are my top EIGHT favorite features that Q-Dir provides:

1- Manage your files across multiple panes: all programs of this type offer this, but Q-Dir gets the prize for most intuitive implementation whereby it allows you to select the arrangement of panes that you want by clicking on small icons in the toolbar. The Q Dir people deserve credit for this interface which works extremely well.

QDir toolbar with buttons2

QDir quicklinks 2- Access frequently used folders (quicklinks): you can have instant access to your favorite folders and organize them within a folder structure. Note that this is different from saving ‘favorites’ (see next point).

3- Save “Favorites”: as in, save a view comprising multiple folders across a particular distribution of panes. So let’s say that for a project you like to work with the “deskop” folder in the left hand pane and two panes on the right hand side showing “Folder A” on top and “Folder B” on the bottom; Q Dir allows you to save this entire configuration as a favorite. You can also save this as an object on the desktop, whereby double clicking this file will immediately open all of these folders in the configuration they were saved.

QDir file filtering 4- Filter box: you can access a filter box in the lower right hand corner of each pane in order to hone in on a file or group of files that you want to work with. The version I reviewed recently implemented an “always wildcard” option whereby anything you type is wildcarded (i.e. type in .mp3 and the program assumes *.mp3*) – very cool.

QDir Context menu 5- Installs an “open with QDir” shell extension: optional (see screenshot). From the “Extras” menu go to “System” then check “Add Q-Dir to the shell context menu”.

6- Works very well as a direct replacement to Explorer: I am now using Q-Dir in place of the default Windows Explorer and am extremely happy with it. Like Windows Explorer you can set Q-Dir to open to a single pane by default and to list the folder name in the title bar. One thing to consider, though, is that Q-Dir takes up approx 10-12 megs in memory, and opening multiple windows will launch multiple instances of the program whose overall memory use can add up.

If you want to use Q-Dir as a replacement to Explorer do the following: add Q-Dir to the context menu (see point#5 above) then open any folder normally in Windows Explorer; next go to Tools, Folder Options, ‘File Types’ tab then scroll down to “Folder” in the list. Once highlighted click advanced, select “*Q-Dir” and then click on “Set Default”. Q-Dir will now be the default program used to open any folder. Note: to revert back to Explorer, go through the same process and re-select “open” as default.

7- Uses the default Explorer context menu and column views: I like this as I am pretty invested in what I install in my PCs right click context menu and am sometimes dismayed when a “file manager” type apps takes over with it’s own context menu. I also like that it will use the columns enabled in explorer, which means that it will work with some Explorer extensions such as Folder Size and HobComment that customize column views.

8- Portable: either run the installer then check “portable-install” or simply rename Q-Dir_Installer.exe to Q-Dir.exe if you want a portable version.

Other features:

  • Color filters: you can optionally define a standard font color for each displayed file type or for folders (e.g. list all .zip files in red, .mp3 files in blue, etc.). Q-Dir comes with a pre-defined color scheme that you can change at will, or switch off color coding altogether (which is my preference).
  • Media file previews: Q-Dir supports (optional) previews for media files (including video, audio, and images) and PDF. Two caveats here (1) you will need to have the appropriate codec installed to see video, and (2) you apparently need Adobe Reader installed to preview PDF (I have PDF-Exchange Viewer and PDF previews do not display).
  • Zip files: Q-Dir provides the ability to browse and perform file operations on zip folders seamless just as you would a normal folder.
  • Export: files and directory structure to XLS, CSV, TXT, and HTML.
  • Other features: keyboard shortcuts for most functions, quick online searches for selected files or objects, an on-screen magnifier, and others.

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

  • Calculating folder sizes: for all folders by default or for selected folders (in the absence of this you could use the Folder Size extension in conjunction with Q-Dir to get this.
  • The ability to “swap” visible folders between panes: this is a mainstay of most programs like this one, strangely absent here.

Freewaregenius 5-Star Pick

The verdict: this is definitely one of my favorite file management/explorer replacement programs. I have been using Q-Dir to replace Windows explorer for about a week now and am very happy with the functionality that it provides as well as it’s speed and responsiveness. Previously I had been using the excellent UltraExplorer, and while you cannot compare the two programs directly (UltraExplorer is much more feature rich and a more complex program overall), I found Q-Dir more suitable as a direct replacement for windows explorer because it was in fact much more responsive.

Overall I can say that Q-Dir manages to strike a perfect balance between providing a host of excellent features and functions while maintaining a very good interface design and a good user experience. Highly recommended!

Version Tested: 3.33

Compatibility: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/2003/Vista.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 190K).