Xplorer2 lite

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[Note: this review was written by Jonathan Plutchok; see his blog reviewing free and cheap utilities and web sites, Jonathan’s Tool Bar & Grill” at http://jonathanstoolbar.blogspot.com]

Xplorer2 lite (that’s “explorer squared”) is a full-featured dual-pane file manager that is intended to replace Windows Explorer. It provides far greater functionality than Windows Explorer. Basic functions are intuitive, but more advanced functions come with a learning curve.

Features: Xplorer2 lite’s feature list is far too long to describe thoroughly here. Though I have been using it for a few years, I still have barely scratched the surface of its capabilities. My favorite and most frequently used features of the lite version (most of which are lacking in Windows Explorer) include these:

  • You can see the contents of two folders at once with dual folder panes. You can further subdivide a folder pane with tabs.
  • You can copy or move files between panes with one key press, or drag and drop.
  • Xplorer2 displays the sizes of folder, including subfolders. (This alone is reason enough to switch from Windows Explorer.)
  • You can create a new folder with one key.
  • You can synchronize two folders by date, file name, or contents.
  • You can review two folders’ contents together with mirror scrolling.
  • Select extended file information for display and sorting (for example, the bit rate and duration of music files).
  • The preview pane displays text and graphics, and even plays music and videos.
  • Bookmarks enable you to jump directly to favorite folders or files, and you can assign shortcut keys to bookmarks.
  • A built-in quick mark makes it easy to navigate away from a folder and then jump right back to it.
  • The status bar shows the file size and date, total size and number of selected files, and drive free space.
  • Tool tips can show file metadata (including file names in compressed files).
  • You can add comments and apply categories to files and folders. You can search, sort, and group files by these attributes and other extended file information.
  • You can select and mark files with incredible flexibility through wild cards, filters, and more, and save selections for future use.
  • You can copy a file’s or folder’s name and complete path for pasting or printing.
  • You can rename multiple files at once, according to a template you define.
  • You can split files (for example, to copy to smaller media) or shred (irretrievably erase) them.
  • You can right-click a folder pane title bar to jump directly to any folder previously displayed in that pane.
  • The layout, fonts, colors, and other display elements can be customized.
  • You can save your favorite display layouts for re-use.
  • Xplorer2 is relatively light and fast, compared to Windows Explorer

Xplorer2 lite is free for personal or academic use, and does not nag you constantly to upgrade. It is on PC World’s list of “14 Great Programs You Didn’t Even Know You Needed” and has been recommended by Lifehacker. I have tried a number of other free file managers, but Xplorer2 lite remains my favorite. You can find a broad, (but rather shallow) comparison of file managers in Wikipedia, where Xplorer2 stacks up favorably.

Shortcomings: Xplorer2 lite is not perfect. For one thing, it’s hard to remember how to use the less-common features or some of its complicated hot-key combinations. It has no official technical support, though the developer actively maintains a lively forum where you can get many questions answered. The lite version does lack some desirable features of the full version. And it sometimes fails to display thumbnails of graphic files, though I have not discerned a pattern in this regard.

Differences between paid and free versions: xplorer2 is already on version 1.7.0.5, whereas the lite version is at 1.6.5.3. The full version’s more advanced capabilities include:

  • Quick search, including multiple masks and filters
  • Search within compressed, Microsoft Office, and PDF files
  • “Deep” synchronization (includes subfolders)
  • Scrap containers (virtual folders that hold selected files, which might actually be scattered around)
  • Find and remove duplicate files
  • Formatted preview of Microsoft Office and PDF files
  • Save display settings separately for each folder
  • A detailed feature comparison table is on the program home page.
Version tested: 1.6.5.3

Compatibility: Windows 98/Me/NT4/2000/XP/Vista.

Go to the program home page to get the latest version (approx 1 meg).