Fun & Useful Alternatives For Windows Explorer

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multiicon   Fun & Useful Alternatives For Windows ExplorerWindows Explorer – now known as File Explorer in Windows 8 – is a mainstay of the Windows desktop. No matter how many alternative programs Windows tweakers use, most people seem to stick with the familiar Windows Explorer. Windows Explorer is a solid application, no doubt – but what if you want a dual-pane interface, tabs, or any number of other features Windows Explorer doesn’t include? We’ll take a look at some of the best alternatives to Windows Explorer you might want to try out.

Most of these alternatives have the ability to replace Windows Explorer as your default file manager, so you’ll see them when you open a folder from anywhere.

Explorer++ – Easy  Tabbed File Management

Explorer++ is a lightweight and free file manager for Windows. While it’s simple, it has one big advantage over Windows Explorer: tabs. Explorer++ even remembers the tabs you have open, so you can open it and immediately have your most-used folders available to you.

Even better, Explorer++ is a portable application, so you can take it with you on a USB stick or sync it to all your PCs via Dropbox.

If you just wish Windows Explorer had tabs, this is the application to use. We’ve covered Explorer++ in more detail in the past.

explorer   Fun & Useful Alternatives For Windows Explorer

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Saladin –  Dual-Pane File Management

Saladin is a free and open-source dual-pane file manager for Windows. Its interface is fairly simple, with a ribbon-style toolbar and a cut-down feature set. It has an integrated file viewer, support for ZIP files, and basic FTP support.

Dual-pane file managers make it easier to move files between multiple locations – you can have multiple folders open in a single window without opening multiple Windows Explorer windows and arranging them next to each other on your screen.

If all you’re looking for is a basic dual-pane file manager, Saladin is a great option.

saladin file manager   Fun & Useful Alternatives For Windows Explorer

Multi Commander – Powerful Dual-Pane File Management

Multi Commander is a more powerful, full-featured dual-pane file manager. It’s packed with features not found in Saladin, including support for additional types of archives, tabs for each pane, the ability to access the Windows registry, and a batch rename tool.

If you’re looking for a more powerful dual-pane file manager packed with features, Multi Commander is right up your alley. Its interface is a bit more busy than Saladin’s, however. We’ve covered Multi Commander in more detail in the past.

multi commander   Fun & Useful Alternatives For Windows Explorer

Xplorer² – A Powerful, Tweakable Interface

Xplorer² is the most full-featured option here. Whether you want tabs, a dual-pane view, or even a three-pane view, Xplorer² has you covered. You can tweak its interface to your heart’s content. It’s also got an extensive list of keyboard shortcuts that will help you perform your file management tasks even faster.

Xplorer² pushes its paid versions, but also offers a free lite version. The “lite” version doesn’t have advanced search features and includes a browser toolbar that you’ll have to uncheck during installation, but it’s otherwise a solid piece of software that you can use for non-profit purposes.

This is the ideal solution for tweakers that want the most configurable interface. We’ve previously looked at Xplorer² in more detail.

xplorer2   Fun & Useful Alternatives For Windows Explorer

More Options

We’ve previously covered quite a few other Windows Explorer replacements, including SE-Explorer. You can even use 7-Zip as a file manager or try Nemo Documents, a file manager that displays your file system in a calendar view that shows when you used each file.

If all you really want is tabs, try skipping the Windows Explorer alternatives and use a tool that adds tabs to Windows Explorer. You can also add more features to Windows Explorer’s context menu with FilerFrog or use TeraCopy to speed up file transfers.

tab windows qttabbar   Fun & Useful Alternatives For Windows Explorer

Which One Should You Choose?

The selection of Windows Explorer alternatives is overwhelming. In addition to free tools, there are a multitude of paid applications. Ultimiately, which one you choose comes down to the specific features you want – often tabs or dual-pane file management to make working with multiple folders easier.

Tweakers may want the ultimate in customizable interfaces, while developers may want features like integrated support for remote servers, file comparison tools, and folder syncing. Determine which features are important to you and you’ll be able to choose the ideal Windows Explorer replacement.

If you’re happy with Windows Explorer, that’s fine, too. Windows Explorer is a solid application and it’s even better on Windows 8, where it includes new file-copy dialogs that can intelligently handle errors.

Do you use an alternative file manager? Let us know which is your favorite and why you prefer it in the comments!

Image Credit: Magnifying Glass via Shutterstock

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28 Comments - Write a Comment



Explorer++ and Saladin are both nice. Explorer++ has the nice feature to replace the Windows Explorer (i.e. in all situations where normally the Windows Explorer would pop up, Explorer++ appears instead), but unfortunately it does not have a dual pane mode. Saladin has that dual pane view, but it does not have the Windows Explorer replacement feature. Too sad I can’t have both features in one file manager.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Try XYPlorer. You have tabs, dual pane, and ability to replace explorer.


Thanks, but I prefer something that is free and open source, so that I can install it everywhere without thinking about licensing.


Jake Thompson

Excellent! Just what I was beginning to need :)


Gary Volk

Tried alot of these and they are good, but for what ever reason I keep going back to Windows Explorer. Still don’t like it, but it works better than the others. I have installed classic shell to get rid of some annoyances. I wish there was a way to open folders like in XP, sometimes I just don’t need the two pane view.

Chris Hoffman

Me too, honestly. I like the idea of tabs, but I don’t really need them.


Dimas Wicaksono

I’m surprised that clover was not on the list. It works for me. The interface also very good compare to Explorer++


Gideon Waxfarb

If you’re looking for the absolute best file manager, check out Directory Opus. Hella expensive, but light years beyond anything else I’ve seen. It’s insulting that it doesn’t get mentioned on these lists, esp for hardcore power users.

Jörg Plate

I agree. Started with DOpus on the Amiga and still using it :)


Another vote for Directory Opus – best investment in software I ever made!

Chris Hoffman

I didn’t want to mention pricey commercial solutions here, really.


Gideon Waxfarb

BTW: If anybody is on the Explorer++ forum (or not too lazy to join like me), please let the developer know that if you double click on a folder on the left side of the ‘Organize Bookmarks’ dialog, it crashes the program, and wipes out any bookmarks you have created on that run.

Almost equally as annoying is the inability to edit/delete bookmark folders. I tried editing a couple of the folder names in the config xml, and well… that ended poorly.

Overall, it’s a light and fast app if you need a free Explorer replacement (like when you can’t use Directory Opus at work), but it seems a bit buggy. MultiLine Command is better, but it’s slower to start up.


Ugochukwu Mmaduekwe

Thanks for this nice Review.
I use Xyplorer and it rocks for me.



The most important question to me is whether or not NDN will still run in Windows 8. (FYI, the feature set and sheer power, compared to Windows Explorer, is like like comparing MS Office to Notepad. 2 panes isn’t enough for you? How about 20? Editor/Viewer/Folder/Command histories? Got you covered.)



These are nice. Will check the first one out. I use Clover, which is pretty cool too. It’s like a Chrome clone; has the same simple interface and you can store bookmarks, just like in Chrome.


Paul Girardin

I’ve tried many alternatives but my preference goes to Q-Dir

It is free and updated often!

It is available in many forms ( Installed & portable/ Unicode & non-Unicode/x86 & x64 ):

The size is minimal ( from 455 K to 849 K )

Q-Dir_Installer_x64 64 bit OS

Q-Dir_Portable_x64 64 bit OS



I would love it if there was a windows manager that offered column view. (Like the Mac ‘Finder’) Its one of the few features I miss since switching. Theres progress on the linux front with apps like Marlin (Files for the elementary fork) but I have not yet found anything for windows. Anyone have any ideas?


Lisa Santika Onggrid

This is the first time I’ve ever heard of Saladin. The rest has been the top players of explorer alternatives for years. My favorite is XYplorer. It’s not free but I got it from GAOTD (rereleased every year, so it’s nice if you don’t mind being one version late). Feature-rich, lightweight, and portable. Unfortunately the developer Donald Lessau had announced that he no longer accept lifetime license customer.


Akhil Kumar

Nobody using NexusFile? It looks better than most of these.



I couldn’t do without Q-dir I have on dual pane but it can handle four panes open. Drag and drop copy/move. Tabbed windows in each pane. Favourites and short cuts. Search, filter and highlight. Network folders and drives. And lots more besides. They say, “Once Q-dir, always Q-dir!” For me that’s certainly true. Plus it’s free!


Aska Nag

I use Total Commander. I think that this is the most convenient file Manager + a huge number of plugins that extend and so huge potential.
Best regards!


ion popa

XYplorer is my choice for almost six years. I made some customizations in order to fit my needs – but there’s a lot of space for more.
From time to time I’ve tried out new comers in this area, but none of them have changed my mind in using XYplorer.



There are also some interesting explorer alternatives in the windows store for windows RT users. Tried some myself but I must say that they are meant for a tablet, not a desktop.


Tom Bogan

I use Multi Commander on both my studio PC and my laptop. I like being able to select the files from the SD card and create a folder to copy the files to, after which I rename them with information with more detail than a DSC number out of the camera. Not having to have 2 explorer screens open, resizing and moving from screen to screen, MC makes it so much easier. The tabs under the screen are fantastic time savers.
I use Adobe Lightroom, and it has the copy/move/folder possibilities, but I like to have the images renamed before I import. That’s just how I like my workflow.



Once I tried FreeCommander but the problem with it was that when you open folders you’re always directed to Windows Explorer. I’m not sure if the programs on your list integrate with folders but i’ll look into it.


mango wodzak

I have just installed saladin, how can I now make it my default file manager?



Try clover 3..
Its is the best explorer out there. u got tab like u got in chrome.
U also got bookmarks and also can change theme.
I had tried all explorer out there but its the app where my search stop.
XYPlorer is good but its too complex.




I search a solution for organize the files list and the directory list how i want. The best would be the possibility to show the directory content for some directories. Do you now this ?

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