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I have to be completely honest here, I’ve never been completely happy with Windows File Explorer. I think the last time I actually liked the graphical layout of a Windows file system was Windows 3.1. Seriously.
What I liked about it was how accessible everything was on a single screen. Everything was in well-organized squares of data, so productivity was better in my opinion. Sure, these days we have alt-tab or win-tab, but it’s still not as seamless and simple as that good old grid of data.
To find a more productive file manager solution, I’ve explored MakeUseOf and solutions that have been offered in the past like the two alternative file managers Jessica wrote about, or Craig’s approach with integrating Windows Explorer and Chrome. I gave Multi-Commander a try for myself, and liked it – even though it turned out to be a little bit too complex for my taste.
The truth is, all I really want is something like Window’s standard File Explorer, but with more….well, more squares. I want to see more folders and more files in a smaller space. So, I have to say I was pretty excited to stumble across Q-Dir recently.
A More Productive File Explorer
When you first go to download Q-Dir from the developer’s website, don’t be fooled into thinking this is amateur software. The website itself betrays the true value of this application. Most of the apps offered by this developer are simple – tools that keep your PC from sleeping, a PC-stress test tool, and even a simple app that creates animated ants on your desktop.
Yup – the low-key stuff, until you get to Q-dir. There’s nothing low-key about it. It offers exactly the design that I’ve wanted in Windows Explorer. When you first launch the File Explorer alternative, you’ll see four panes that you can use individually to explore to specific folders on your PC.
Here’s the thing – it’s a lot more than a four-pane file explorer application. You can basically choose from a list of layouts that work best for you. Set up two panes on the left and one large one on the right. Place two small on the top and a large one on the bottom. Basically – customize the layout of miniature file explorer windows in a way that works best for how you plan to use them. You can also choose how the panes display folder contents versus the file explorer – basically one file explorer for each window, or one file explorer that controls all of the panes.
The one file explorer is my favorite, because it gives you way more flexibility in a smaller space. All you do is select the pane where you want the folder contents to be displayed, click on the folder in the file explorer pane, and the contents of that folder will be displayed in the smaller pane. For example, below I have the “My Documents” folder displayed in the top left pane, and the Desktop contents displayed in the top right pane.
You may be wondering – what’s the point? Well, if you think about how you work, this actually makes a lot of sense. When I write for a particular client, I store account details for that work in a secure folder on my external hard drive. I store the article templates I use in the My Documents folder on my PC. I may track invoicing data for that client in a special “budget” folder elsewhere on my PC. Well, now whenever I work for this client, I can have a Q-Dir setup saved that opens all of these folders at once – everything I need to work for this client right at my fingertips.
Each individual pane also lets you navigate to any new folder on your PC using a quick dropdown box – so you aren’t tied down to just the folder you click on from the file explorer pane.
From within individual panes, you can also send the contents of the folder in your current pane, to any other pane. All you do is right click the folder and then identify the target pane where you want to send those contents. So, even though you might have a fixed, custom template of folders you start with, the application is flexible enough so that you can change things up however you need to while you’re working.
Each individual pane has its own set of file command icons like cut, copy, and delete right at the bottom bar of each pane. This is great for anyone that prefers using the mouse for these things rather than the keyboard. It’s there if you want it.
My favorite thing about Q-Dir is the fact that once you have a layout that works for a particular task or project, you can save that setup to a .qdr file. The next time you need to work on that project, just open up Q-Dir, open the saved .qdr file, and there you have the exact layout that you know will be the most productive for the work you have to do. Forget about opening up multiple file explorer windows and navigating to the folder locations that you keep forgetting. Nope – open the saved format file and that’s it – it’s all right at your fingertips.
Another cool feature worth mentioning is color-coding. This isn’t enabled by default, but I really like it, so I’ve turned it on. You just go to options, click on the “Colors” tab, and select the “Use Color-Filter” checkbox. This applies a particular color code as defined in this window (which you can change) to individual file types. So pictures will be purple, audio files red, and so on.
This tells you at a quick glance what the file format is of a particular file. It’s a very easy way to visually organize files without having to sort them out in the window.
As you can see, Q-Dir is a lot more functional and useful than you might originally think. It’s easily one of the best file explorer alternatives that I’ve tried in a long time, and one that I continue to use simply because of how much more productive it’s helped me become.
I highly recommend it, and would like to know what you think of this file explorer alternative too. Does it help improve your productivity? Share your feedback and views in the comments section below.
Image credit: Magnifying Glass via Shutterstock