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Better Windows Explorer

I spend a significant amount of time each day using Windows Explorer to manage my work files (copying, moving, renaming, finding, etc).  I'd say, like it or not, Windows Explorer is actually one of the most used applications on my PC (we are a standard business environment running Windows PCs and MS products, rather than UNIX).

I suspect the same is true of many everyday business users, even technical professionals.  Therefore, if Microsoft were to improve just one aspect of the O/S, I would hope it would be this application.  Here's a list of improvements that would significantly improve my day-to-day efficiency and satisfaction with this app. 

Can you add to this list? Is there a better way altogether of dealing with file management? I'm all ears...

1) Add 'Move To' and 'Copy To' functions - the Move/Copy folder locations would be based on the most recently visited directories
2) Highlight an entire row when a single item is selected in the Details View
3) Allow View settings to be applied to all sub-folders of a particular folder (currently you can only set ALL folders to look like the one you are currently viewing, rather than specifying a particular sub-set)
4) Cause changes made in a particular View to persist when you switch views (currently, if I arrange icons in the Tiles View and then switch to another View and back again, the original icon arrangement is lost)
5) Always show the size of folders, even if this takes a few moments to calculate
6) Visually show the contents of a folder on rollover (in a semi-transparent pane)
7)Allow you to open a new Explorer Window set to the folder location of the original Explorer Window
8)Only show the Links and Favourites that relate to folders and networks, NOT Links and Favourites that are internet sites.  Muddling the two together is very annoying.
9) Allow you to 'lock' two Explorer Windows side by side, so each Window takes up half the horizontal space.  This is good for when you want to move lots of files around and want a clearer view of each folder than is provided by the side 'Folder Pane'
10)Add a 'comments' column to the Details View, which allows a free text entry comment for any file
11) Allow you to colour any folder
2) Add a 'Shortcuts Pane' (like the History Pane or the Search Pane), where I can put favourite folder/network locations (I know I can do this by showing the Favourites pane, but as mentioned previously this also shows Internet favourites)
13) In 'My Network Places' be smart enough not to automatically create a new shortcut to a folder location if there is already one there (even if I have renamed it the 'puter should still be able to check')
14) Fix the dumb bug where in XP if you show your files in Groups, you can no longer click on the columns to sort things ascending or descending
15) Don't bring up a pop-up alert if you click on the a: drive and there is no floppy disk inserted.  The message that no floppy is available can be displayed quite happily in the main Window thank you
16) Provide better batch processing - e.g. change the icon of a whole load of folders at once

Another minor Explorer improvement. At the moment, Explorer allows you to undo your actions. Very good. So it should. However, sometimes you want to undo an action sometime after the event. Here lies the problem. If you go to the Edit menu, you'll get an option like this 'Undo Move'...now the question is, what did I move (or copy, or delete, etc). If you try to undo something a while after the event, you probably won't be able to remember.

It would be great if the menu item actually had something like 'Undo Move from [location] to [location]' (this would be rendered as a tooltip due to
space considerations).

Alternatively, it would be good if when you chose to Undo, it actually brought up a Window showing the item in its orginal location or state (i.e. undeleted or un-renamed or whatever). Then you could undo your undo if you didn't like what you'd just done!!

mindful_learner
http://duskanddawn.blogspot.com

mindful_learner
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Whew!. Arent you a patient guy. Typing out all of that . Maybe Philo can take it and send it as a mail to someone in the explorer team.

Karthik 
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I don't understand how anyone can work with Windows Explorer. Try a decent file manager like Total Commander instead. It's not as good as Directory Opus on the Amiga, but lightyears ahead of Windows Explorer.

sid6581
Thursday, July 15, 2004

It irritates me that in XP they decided to hide the status bar by default.  And it doesn't remember that you've already told it 20 times to show you the status bar...am I missing a setting somewhere or what?

Joe
Thursday, July 15, 2004

This is one of my pet peeves too. Here is just the main One:

A file filter where I can enter e.g. *.cpp and restrict the file display to files matching a full regular expression.

Xtree had this in about 1989....

sgf
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Better responsiveness, especially in slow networking (e.g. VPN-over-POTS modem) environments.

Derek
Thursday, July 15, 2004

sid6581 - the status bar bug is supposed to have been fixed in XP SP2.

jos.z.rich@xoxy.net
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I think I've found the fix to the status bar.

Launch windows explorer.
Turn on the status bar.
Hold down the control key, then click on the "X" in the upper right hand corner to close explorer.

Restart explorer - the status bar should stay on. It works for me, anyway. The control-close is apparently "No, save your current settings, I really mean it this time" signal.

Chris Tavares
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Is this your lucky day or what...

http://www.ghisler.com/

First app I install on any new PC. Couldn't live without it.

Fred
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Here is a tip:  if you're going to sell a GUI application (especially where user interface is a crucial feature), PUT A BIG LINK ON YOUR FRONTPAGE THAT SAYS "SCREENSHOTS".  There may be some hidden somewhere on that Total Commander's website, but after about a minute or two of clicking around I gave up.  What are these people thinking??

sed
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Why I don't install or download Total Commander...

There was discussion a while back about screen shots on websites.  The first thing most people do when checking out applications is go find the screen shots.  If they look good, I typically download.  If no screen shots can be found, I'm much less likely to consider the application.

Anyway, what the hell is with the GUI of Total Commander?  I think I'd loose my launch if I had to stare at that application all day.  Hello... 1993 called and they want their interface back.  Could they more use of bold?  Less use of truetype fonts?  And I suppose it's a feature that they icons look the same IN SAFE MODE.  Sheesh.

Almost Anonymous
Thursday, July 15, 2004

The screenshot is available on the homepage before list of features.  The link is called "Check out how Total Commander looks!".

Almost Anonymous
Thursday, July 15, 2004

TotalCommander looks so Windows 3.1ish...

I will NEVER use it!

JD
http://jdk.phpkid.org

JD
Thursday, July 15, 2004

"Maybe Philo can take it and send it as a mail to someone in the explorer team."

I certainly hope I can - I think they're all excellent suggestions!

Now I just have to figure out *who* to send it to... hmmm...

Philo

Philo
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I second the vote for XTree Gold.  Man, that was a great app.  I was still using it as of a few years ago.  I wonder if I can find my copy and run it on XP?

Jason
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Another one for the pet peeve list -- "Windows is hiding the contents of this folder because we believe you're probably going to do something silly and muck it up.  Are you sure you really want to go poking around in here, you dolt?" =)

Of course this is fine for normal home users, but it seems a little presumptuous that you should be shown this screen when logged in as Administrator (or any login in the Admin group, for that matter).

Joe
Thursday, July 15, 2004

>>TotalCommander looks so Windows 3.1ish...

Do like me, and just hide all the useless stuff, and be productive.

Fred
Thursday, July 15, 2004

>TotalCommander looks so Windows 3.1ish...

That's why it's so effective to work with. As for the screenshots, I switch to non-bold fonts, and turn off almost all the buttons. I just use the keyboard to work in it. It's a tool I couldn't live without. If you don't want to give it a chance, that's your problem. In the mean time, I'll just continue to be more effective than you. :)

sid6581
Thursday, July 15, 2004

The status bar thing *is* a bug... and it's fixed in XP SP2. :)

Greg Hurlman
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Sid,

I think I am doing pretty good with doing everything from Run prompt! :)

JD

JD
Thursday, July 15, 2004


XTree lives on at www.ztree.com  - it is an *almost* perfect Win32 cut of where Xtree should have gone.

(Aussie genius at work).

Xtree's demise is chronicled at www.xtree.com - read and weep, it's awful.

To get the best (and it ain't much) from Explorer, open twice for 2 views.  Bit like vi on uNix, - if you can't get the app you want, use the app you've got.

macEroni
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I downloaded total comander. As mentioned above, you can change the fonts. It's actually an Xp-enabled GUI. (XP style buttons ,etc.)

However, it doesn't show the nice little Icons I get with Tortoise CVS, so that's probably a deal breaker.

Mr. Analogy
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I can't understand how anybody, apart from a sysadmin, is spending a lot of time in Windows Explorer.

And as somebody said, open two copies and then drag and drop between them.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Here's a few more suggestions.

Consistancy:

On the right pane, click a folder, wait, click again to rename
On the left pane that doesn't work.  Why?

Cut, Paste:

When you cut the files should be gone not greyed.  Cut and Paste should work like most standard apps.  One possible implementation would be to rename/move the file to a special system folder when cut and then move or copy from there when pasting.

Speed:

Often opening a folder takes 5 or more seconds.  Fix that.

Rename:

When renaming, the default select of MYfile.txt should be [MYFile].txt  where as it's currently [MYFile.txt].  Of course some people leave their extentions not displayed but for those that do that would be more useful more of the time IMO.

Gregg Tavares
Friday, July 16, 2004

When you cut the files aren't gone. If they were you'd lose all your data when there was a power outage in the middle of cut and paste.
They are only deleted from the original location when paste is completed.
The graying out is entirely consistent with this.

Stephen Jones
Friday, July 16, 2004

Some items in your wishlist are even now possible by customising the "Folder.htt" template.

1) Allow View settings to be applied to all sub-folders of a particular folder (currently you can only set ALL folders to look like the one you are currently viewing, rather than specifying a particular sub-set)

--> Explore how to use "Folder.htt" and copy-paste (script it) into your sub-folders.

5) Always show the size of folders, even if this takes a few moments to calculate

--> As above. Script it into "Folder.htt"

7)Allow you to open a new Explorer Window set to the folder location of the original Explorer Window

9) Allow you to 'lock' two Explorer Windows side by side, so each Window takes up half the horizontal space.  This is good for when you want to move lots of files around and want a clearer view of each folder than is provided by the side 'Folder Pane'

--> Open two Explorer windows. CTRL-CLICK their Taskbar bottons, RIGHT-CLICK-TILE VERTICALLY

10)Add a 'comments' column to the Details View, which allows a free text entry comment for any file

--> Possibe with all files on NTFS, though comments may be entered only via a script or the context menu of the file.

11) Allow you to colour any folder

--> "Folder.htt"

KayJay
Friday, July 16, 2004

A few Filemanagers for Windows to try:

Total Commander: http://www.ghisler.com/
Speed Commander: http://www.speedproject.de/
Directory Opus: http://www.gpsoft.com.au/

Senior Filemanagement
Friday, July 16, 2004

Good ideas. Number 8 and 9 would be something that I need.

However a remark about :

<>1) Add 'Move To' and 'Copy To' functions - the Move/Copy folder locations would be based on the most recently visited directories<>

Right click on the toolbar and choose customize, from there add the buttons move and copy to buttons to the toolbar.

Using this the most recently used directories are rememberd

<>10)Add a 'comments' column to the Details View, which allows a free text entry comment for any file <>

Set your windows explorer window to detailed mode view and you should see the headers on the listview. Right click on the header and choose "comments". However you will need to right click the file edit the comments. Could be worked around if you added the propeties button to the toolbar, you do this by rightclicking on the toolbar.

BTW: You can drag any header to another place.

somedude
Friday, July 16, 2004

Let's not forget FAR: http://www.rarsoft.com/far_manager.htm

The best "commander" to date.

.
Friday, July 16, 2004

Try FAR file manager, its excellent!!!http://farmanager.com/screens.asp

IJ
Friday, July 16, 2004

Hmmm. I'm sure Raymond Chen would have something to say about most of these points. He has a suggestion box on his site now.

1, 7 and 9 are already possible, and there's a workaround for 11.

You can download GXExplorer, a free MDI Explorer replacement from http://sourceforge.net/projects/gxexplorer/ - the source code is also available if you want to finish it.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Friday, July 16, 2004

Someone suggested adding the 'Copy to' and 'Move to' buttons to the toolbar to give me my required functionality for suggestion #1.  Actually, this isn't quite what I wanted.

When you click on these buttons you just get a list of ALL file locations, effectively just mirroring what you'd see in the Folders pane.  You still have to go and navigate to the location you are currently at (and folders around there).  I want these buttons to also show a History list of folders you've recently visited.  Chances are you want to move files and folders around that are in similar locations, just a quick reshuffle.  A recent locations pane would do the job too.  Plus, I was hoping these functions would be available in your right-click menu, in a similar fashion to 'send to'.

mindful_learner
Friday, July 16, 2004


i'd second FAR file manager.
They even have pluggins, so you can write your own extensions (there are quite a lot of add ins).
Well, never might the character ui.

Michael Moser
Friday, July 16, 2004

See File Targets (it's free) http://www.moonsoftware.com/pics/targets/menus.gif

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Friday, July 16, 2004

Another vote for FAR.

It's probably the best clone of Norton Commander ever, and it has lots of cool plugins. For example, the colorer plugin addrs syntax coloring for huge number of file formate. There are plugins for FTP, DB access, etc. Also, the plugin API is public.

Interesting, that 10-15 years ago I preferred XTreeGold to NC, but for Win32 I use FAR and not ZTree.

igrek
Friday, July 16, 2004

> The control-close is apparently "No, save your current settings, I really mean it this time" signal.

Jesus fucking wept.


Friday, July 16, 2004

Oh, another improvement while I think about it.  A while ago, I posted a comment to my blog talking about the virtues of imprecision when talking about files - e.g. instead of displaying 1.41MB, it may be more useful to display (in certain circumstances) 'unable to fit on floppy disc':

http://duskanddawn.blogspot.com/2003/10/when-imprecision-adds-value.html

In XP, there has been a move towards this with the 'groups' functionality in Windows Explorer.  If you display in groups and then sort by date it displays useful things like 'files from yesterday' or if you sort by size it displays 'large files'.  However, why reserve this behaviour for groups?

For any file, I'd like to be able to toggle between display formats: precise (e.g. a date of 16/07/04) and 'friendly' (e.g. yesterday).  Same with file sizes, precise (e.g. 1.42 MB) vs 'friendly' (e.g. 'won't fit on a floppy disk).

Mindful

mindful_learner
Friday, July 16, 2004

Speed Commander is fantastic! Does everything Total Commander does and then some, plus it looks better. They ruthlessly cloned Total (Windows) Commander, but I guess Mr Ghisler can't complain since he mercilessly cloned Norton Commander. :)

TotalCmd used to be my favourite for years but it doesn't seem to get updated anymore, and it does look rather archaic in parts. Though at least it's not a text-mode program like FAR or ZTree...

Chris Nahr
Friday, July 16, 2004

Install cygwin and use Unix commands to manage your files.  For example, renaming stuff is easy:
ls -c1 *.txt | sed 's/\(.*\)\(\..*\)/mv \0 Newname\2/' | bash

Not best for everything, but at times there's nothing that does the job so well.

Another tool for your toolchest...

5v3n
Friday, July 16, 2004

Wow, never even noticed the groups thing mindful. Thanks.

Steve Barbour
Friday, July 16, 2004

@mind_full

Ok I understand you want something like a browsers back and forward buttons but then to copy to or move to.

Off head I don't know what a toolbar button with a popup menu is called.

somedude
Friday, July 16, 2004

Actually, I just put them up on Channel 9 already.

http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=13823

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, July 16, 2004

>> ls -c1 *.txt | sed 's/\(.*\)\(\..*\)/mv \0 Newname\2/' | bash

Any reason to _prefer_ over the "FOR" command?

KayJay
Friday, July 16, 2004

I am surprised no one has mentioned xplorer 2 (squared).  The lite version is free. 

Download:
http://netez.com/xplorer2/x2lite.htm

For more info:
http://netez.com/xplorer2/x2facts.htm

My favorite feature is the dual pane browsing.  It also has lots of great shortcuts for copying and moving between panes.

Enjoy!

Seeker
Friday, July 16, 2004

Generalized file system explorers, browsers, etc. are SO 20th century.

The idea of specialized applications for specific data types is much more sensible, like iPhoto or iTunes.  How you organize and search for pictures and music, and the things you do with them once found, are quite different.  Mail, address book, calendar entries, etc.  Interfaces for organizing, storing, retrieving and modifying these things all need to be specialized to work well.

The single best interface ever created for finding things is Google.  One box.  Type whatever words you think are related to the thing you're looking for.  Get a list of results.  More often than not the thing you were looking for is near the top of the list.

The Spotlight feature for OS X Tiger previewed at Apple's WWDC is a good attempt at this, too (assuming it works as well as it demos).  A system wide metadata system (without requiring changes to the file system) for finding things based on content, modification/creation date, etc., results updated as you type.  Access to this function is always one click away, no matter where you are in the system.

Of course, MS is developing something similar, if you want to wait a couple of years :).

Jim Rankin
Friday, July 16, 2004

Also check out Powerdesk.  It has 2-pane browsing.

anonymous
Friday, July 16, 2004

Why can't we get spring-loaded folders in the Explorer? Microsoft cross-licensed Apple's patent folio in '02 so nothing's stopping them.

Smash-Keyboard!
Friday, July 16, 2004

Explorer already has spring-loaded folders!

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Saturday, July 17, 2004

Spring-loaded folders...?

I'd like to see some changes to the address bar.  The drop-down list you get there shouldn't show the same stuff you see in the Folders pane, it should show the addresses you've typed in recently -- just like, say, IE's address bar.

I'd also like to be able to use tab-completion like bash, where tab goes as far as it can unambiguously then lets you disambiguate with the next character(s).  This business of tabbing down a massive list of paths that are identical in the first 40 characters is a real drag.

And I second nixing the popup message telling me to insert a disk in drive A: (or E: for CD-ROMs).  Just because I didn't hit the down-arrow fast enough as I was navigating the folder tree, I have to wait for Windows to fire up the floppy drive to confirm that, yes, I really don't have a floppy and no, I really don't want to use one.  <bzzt bzzt, grrr!>

When I move or delete a whole bunch of files, please tell me up front that you need me to confirm the read-only files, the system files, the executables.  I hate coming back to my box after a game of foosball to find my mass-delete stopped two minutes in.

And now, a step outside Explorer.

For the love of Christ, if I'm moving my window reeeeally reeeeally close to the edge of the screen, or reeeeally reeeeally close to another window, couldja just help me out and snap the damn thing that last few pixels?

I'd go off on being able to reorder taskbar buttons, group the buttons according to my own task space rather than by application, and make windows dock to the edge of the screen, but that's another story.  (Philo: it's a really cool idea!  Docking windows on the desktop, like in Visual Studio!  Overlapping tabbed windows, sliding neatly out of sight!  Whisper that one into the right ear for me, wouldja?)

Eponymous
Saturday, July 17, 2004

Servant salamander forever
http://www.altap.cz

bynarr
Sunday, July 18, 2004

Enhancements to the standard treeview control to allow

a) User specified markers (such as mark as important, flagged, colored etc.. In explorer I will be able to color a group of folders like I want)
b) Multiple selection (select multiple directories in explorer treeview)
c) Just as typing the first character of a filename jumps to that file in the Listview in explorer, if I sort by filetype and have the option to show file extensions typing the first character of the extension should jump to that group of files.
d) Alphabetical or filetype grouping: In the listview in explorer a small space of 1 or 2 lines can be left when user chooses an option to group by say alphabets or filetype, so all .doc files are grouped and clearly visible and different from all .txt files.
e) Sticky select - Pressing say Alt-S toggles sticky select and I dont have to keep Ctrl pressed to select multiple files.
d) Multithreaded file copy / move .. Explorer chokes on more than one copy/move operation going on simultaneously. Ability to initiate and monitor via a progress bar that allows multiple stuff at once, something like this:
Named operation operation description Progress bar
Oper1 Copy    From C:\test1 to E:\test3 2.9 MB 100 files 50%
Oper2 Move    From F:\WLSR to J:\NOC 3.2 GB 245 files 23%
e) If say 50 files are being copied over 45 files I get a prompt Are you sure you want to overwrite x.x? Yes No Yes to all Cancel. Why isnt there a No to All option. If I dont want to overwrite any file, just append the files that dont already exist, if even 20 files are the same name in both sets I have to answer 20 dialog boxes, has some UI person looked at this long standing issue since 98?
f) Ability to label a group of files like gmail. This will allow a group of files in different directories manipulable as a single unit under same label.
g) Stackable file operations, ability to add n number of file operations before actually launching the whole batch.
h) Stacked clipboard or queued clipboard (users choice)
i) Swift file/folder match by typing the first few characters of the file/folder name currently only the first character of the filename works in this way.
j) After a file search is performed the Folders window disappears in Explorer. It is supposed to stay open (windows xp)

FROM
http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=13320#13320

L MOHAN ARUN
Sunday, July 18, 2004

Here http://www.enriva.com/ (Magellan Explorer) is another candidate replacement for Windows Explorer.

With respect to Copy/Paste options, Microsoft offers the SendTo Powertoy
http://www.microsoft.com/ntworkstation/downloads/PowerToys/Networking/NTSendToX.asp
as a free download.  This adds a Send To/Any Folder item to Explorer's context menu.  When selected this item displays a dialog with Copy or Move options and a droplist of recently used folders.

My biggest beef about using Explorer for file management concerns the dialog that appears in case of error during a multifile copy or move operation.  Any reasonable file manager will display a dialog with a [Skip] button.  Pressing that button skips the file causing the error and continues with the remainder of the files.  Windows Explorer's dialog only has an [Ok] button.  When you press that the file operation stops.... somewhere in the middle.

bogon
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

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