Sunday, January 2, 2011

Windows 7: Choosing a Replacement for Windows Explorer

I was installing Windows 7.  I didn't like the look of the new Windows Explorer.  I started looking for an alternative.  I found a set of great comparison tables on Wikipedia.  They didn't have all the information on every program, but they had enough information to allow me to filter out some.

First, to be a contender, the program had to be competitive.  I eliminated a few that I knew, or had been hearing, were not very good or very up-to-date; and I set $40 as a price cutoff, based on my previous positive experience with PowerDesk ($40), which I had used back in the 1990s, and on positive remarks about Total Commander ($40).  Of course, I was going to be especially interested in a free program, as most of these were.  And the program had to run on Windows.  (The Wikipedia page didn't indicate which version.)  Among those that were left, I required a GUI, tabs, and bookmarking.

That left me with nine programs, whose Wikipedia webpages I visited individually:  CubicExplorer, Double Commander, FreeCommander, muCommander, Total Commander, and xplorer2.  (There was no Wikipedia page for Explorer++ or PowerDesk Pro, so I would shortly go directly on to their commercial webpages.)  (The popularity of the "commander" name presumably stemmed from imitation of Norton Commander, a popular program back in the 1990s.)  These Wikipedia pages did not generally have much detail.  I did learn that Total Commander could be used after its initial 30-day trial, with just a reminder.  In other words, it was nagware.  Although I was not presently certain whether I would be using it on a dual-boot machine, the Wikipedia page did inform me that Total Commander was able to see ext2, ext3, and Reiser partitions while running in Windows.   It also sounded like Double Commander was designed to be similar to Total Commander.

So far, I was inclined to just download Total Commander and try it out.  But to round out the review, I went ahead and visited the websites for them all:  CubicExplorer, Double Commander, Explorer++, FreeCommander, muCommander, PowerDesk, and Total Commander.  I had previously tried xplorer2, and had not been happy with it, and at this point I was realizing that it would probably be last on my list in any event, so I did not go on to their webpage.  It didn't look like Explorer++ could do double panes, so I tentatively excluded that program from further consideration.   PCMag named FreeCommander, muCommander, and xplorer2 (lite) among the best freeware of 2010.  Total Commander, Free Commander, Double Commander, Cubic Reality, and muCommander all had forums.  The last question posted in the Questions forum at muCommander was two weeks old at this point.  There were 100 times as many questions on Total Commander's main English-language forum.  This made me think that the possibility of bugs, which I had encountered in some file managers in the past, would be lower with Total Commander.  FreeCommander's forum was more trafficked, as was Cubic Reality's; Double Commander's was less so; but none remotely compared with that of Total Commander.

My conclusion was that I pretty much had to start with Total Commander and see if I liked it.