After trying out and getting a lot of use out of QTTabBar in Windows Explorer, I find myself wanting other features to make my work life easier, features that shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to implement.
After a little bit of online research, it’s clear there are a lot of options for extending the standard file explorer in Windows, which brought me to the question, should I even keep using the standard explorer?
Requirements and desirable attributes
The features I am looking for are inspired partially by features I found in QTTabBar and partially from general frustration with navigating folders in explorer.
The only feature that I absolutely require is, predictably, tabs that I can easily create and switch between. If the alternative doesn’t tick this box, I might as well just stick with QTTabBar.
One of the features I discovered to be incredibly useful in QTTabBar was having a tree view of my folder structures, which I hadn’t known about when I installed it. The tree view has turned into one of my favourite little time savers when working with many different files in quick succession, but you have to click an arrow on the folder to open it out and it disappears once you’ve selected the file or folder to open, making its usefulness limited.
The last feature that I would be looking out for is more of a ‘nice-to-have’ than anything else, because the idea I have of it is so vague, it might not even be a realistic request. Basically, the idea I had is that it would be helpful if I could somehow have a label on my files showing all the other files that I had tagged as related to that one, perhaps showing it as a member of different groups. For example, one file might be in my 2017 group, my financial figures group and my monthly reporting group. I should be able to tag a Word file, a PDF, an Excel file and a zip folder all in the same group. Again, I don’t know if this is feasible or even makes sense, my ideal file explorer would implement something like this though.
XYplorer featured at the top of at least three comparison articles I found and a brief skim of their features page showed that it had all of the features I was looking for, including what might be the solution to my related file grouping idea with what they call ‘paper folders’.
There is a free and a paid version, and it looks like the free version has all of the features I currently want, but I will be trialling the paid version and probably go ahead with paid if I choose XYplorer to support the developers, keep up-to-date with newer features and because the free version is no longer being updated.
Directory Opus was featured second in the same comparison articles I found XYplorer mentioned. I also appears to have all the main features I’m looking for, although I couldn’t find any sort of solution for my related files idea, except maybe tagging.
There is a free and paid version of this explorer as well, but in this case it appears that the free version is much more limited compared to the paid version than with XYplorer. It should still meet my basic requirements.
There is also as Free Commander, Total Commander, Explorer++ and many others available, but I’m going to focus on XYplorer and/or Directory Opus for now so that I can just get started!
The Trial Begins
I’ve downloaded XYplorer and started using it on my home computer. I have already hit the first bump which is that the default view is dual panes (which is fine) but horizontal (which I didn’t like). It was very easy, however, to just right-click the dual pane button and switch it to vertical.
The next little niggle was that there are a LOT of buttons on the toolbar, but again, this was very easy to fix and I’m becoming happy with the customisation options in this file explorer.
Paper Folders™ was a little less intuitive to use than I hoped, as I had to find it in the View option on the toolbar, but once I had created my first one, it was very easy to drop a bunch of files, folders and applications into it. After that was done, I could launch any of those files as if they were actually right there in the paper folder.
My only minor gripe with Paper Folders™ is with how they are accessed. This isn’t as simple as choosing them from the normal folder structure unfortunately, you instead have to select them from the paper folders menu. Considering this was a feature I wasn’t even sure existed, I’m not going to worry about it too much during the trial.
I’m going to spend some more time playing with XYplorer on my home computer before I take it for a test drive at work, but my first impressions have been good and I look forward to trying out each feature as I need it. I feel like Paper Folders™ is going to be the main feature I mess around with for a while, so I might do a write up of how that goes before reviewing the other features in more detail.
I’ll also call out any functionality issues, slowdown or other weird behaviours as well as comparing it to the standard explorer with QTTabBar to see if it’s worth the switch.