Fun & Useful Alternatives For Windows Explorer

Chris Hoffman 22-02-2013

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 Tweak Windows 7 And Learn More About Your Computer With EnhanceMySe7en I’m one of those people who like to have their computers “just so”. Before Windows 7 came along, I was an avid Litestep user for years. Windows 7 offers a beautiful interface that is actually... Read More 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 The Best Portable Apps That Require No Installation Portable apps don't need installation. You can run them from even a flash drive. Here are the best portable apps around. Read More , so you can take it with you on a USB stick 7 Uses for a USB Stick You Didn't Know About You've used USB sticks to transport files between computers and back up files, but there is much more you can do with a USB stick. Read More or sync it to all your PCs via Dropbox Top 10 Uses For Dropbox You May Not Have Thought Of For many advanced computer users, Dropbox is the premiere cloud-based storage and sharing document service. It has replaced the Documents folder on my Mac, and is the primary way I sync files between my devices.... Read More .

If you just wish Windows Explorer had tabs, this is the application to use. We’ve covered Explorer++ in more detail Forget Windows Explorer, Explorer++ Is The Perfect, Powerful Alternative Read More in the past.

alternatives for windows explorer


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.

windows explorer alternative


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 Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Advertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their... Read More , and a batch rename tool The Top 3 Apps to Batch Rename, Convert & Resize Photos (Windows only) Read More .

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 Try Multi Commander As An Advanced File Explorer Alternative In all honesty, Windows 7 came with a pretty decent file explorer. You've got an easy navigation pane on the left, with file and folder listings in the center, and a useful preview pane on... Read More in the past.

windows explorer alternative

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 Replace Windows Explorer With A More Powerful Alternative Read More .

windows explorer alternative

More Options

We’ve previously covered quite a few other Windows Explorer replacements The 5 Good Free Windows File Managers Read More , including SE-Explorer The Best Web Browsers for Windows What is your default web browser? Even though we're spoiled for choice, the majority of us stick to the tried and tested major players. What are better alternatives for resource use, speed, and security? Read More . You can even use 7-Zip as a file manager or try Nemo Documents 2 Alternative File Managers You Should Really Check Out Read More , 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 3 Tools to Add Tabbed Browsing to Windows Explorer Tabbed browsing is a feature that I first encountered 10 years ago in Firefox’s previous incarnation, Firebird. Since then, tabs have popped up in almost every realm related to user interfaces. They make it easy... Read More . You can also add more features to Windows Explorer’s context menu with FilerFrog or use TeraCopy to speed up file transfers Move or Copy PC Files Lightning-Fast with TeraCopy Read More .

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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  1. nicoserup
    May 25, 2016 at 5:21 am

    Once another great article from you.
    Great work, and i think i will try with the multi commander !

  2. Timothée
    July 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm


    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 ?

  3. prashant
    April 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    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.

  4. mango wodzak
    March 6, 2013 at 9:41 pm

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

  5. Benji
    March 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    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.

  6. Tom Bogan
    February 27, 2013 at 8:05 am

    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.

  7. Anonymous
    February 25, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    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.

  8. ion popa
    February 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    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.

  9. Aska Nag
    February 24, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    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!

  10. aeowolf
    February 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    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!

  11. Akhil Kumar
    February 24, 2013 at 7:06 am

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

  12. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    February 23, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    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.

  13. Bob
    February 23, 2013 at 6:56 am

    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?

  14. Paul Girardin
    February 23, 2013 at 6:52 am

    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

  15. Zooey
    February 23, 2013 at 6:29 am

    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.

  16. DeadlyDad
    February 23, 2013 at 4:51 am

    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.)

  17. Ugochukwu Mmaduekwe
    February 23, 2013 at 4:06 am

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

  18. Gideon Waxfarb
    February 23, 2013 at 4:01 am

    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.

  19. Gideon Waxfarb
    February 23, 2013 at 2:08 am

    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
      February 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm

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

    • TheArPee
      February 24, 2013 at 8:10 am

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

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 28, 2013 at 6:17 pm

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

  20. Dimas Wicaksono
    February 23, 2013 at 2:07 am

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

  21. Gary Volk
    February 23, 2013 at 1:34 am

    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
      February 28, 2013 at 6:17 pm

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

  22. Jake Thompson
    February 22, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Excellent! Just what I was beginning to need :)

  23. Christoph
    February 22, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    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
      February 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm

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

      • Christoph
        February 28, 2013 at 11:28 am

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