Use an alternative to Explorer in Windows with more features

Replace Windows Explorer with a better alternative

Windows Explorer needs and overhaul and it is lacking in features you might expect from a modern file manager. Explorer++ is a free open source alternative to Explorer that has more features.

If you are wondering what is missing from Windows Explorer, how about tabs? There aren’t any and everything must be done in separate windows. It is an often-requested feature and Microsoft may add them in a future Windows update, but right now, they aren’t there.

Searching in Explorer windows can be slow and there is often an irritating green bar that slowly creeps across the top of Explorer windows when it is doing something simple, like opening a folder and listing the files there. Is there an alternative? Yes.

You may find Explorer++ suits you better than the built in Explorer for browsing and organizing files on the disk. It is fast and has a great range of features, most of them familiar, but easier to access, and there are a few extras not found in Microsoft’s app.

Choose a file view

Explorer++ thumbnails file view in Windows
Thumbnails view in Explorer++

There are the usual Windows Explorer views in Explorer++ that you are familiar with in Windows, like List, Details, Tiles, Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large icons. A Thumbnails view shows thumbnails of image files, which is useful for browsing your photo collection. A grid is displayed in Details view so you can see rows and columns more easily and it can be turned on/off in the settings.

Use tabs in Explorer++

Explorer++ running in Windows is an alternative to Explorer
Details view in Explorer++

Tabs make working with files and folders so much easier and Explorer++ enables you to open multiple folders or disks on tabs using a keyboard shortcut or through the menu. This means that it occupies much less desktop space and you could have half a dozen tabs open, whereas in Windows Explorer (actually called File Explorer these days), you would need to have half a dozen separate windows open on the desktop.

Tabs not only save desktop space, they are also useful when moving files around and you can drag one or more files from the current tab and drop them on another tab to move them on the disk. Closed tabs are remembered and can be quickly re-opened from a menu if you need to access a folder again. Tabs can also be rearranged by dragging and dropping the tab headers.

There is a useful option for Explorer++ to start with the last set of tabs, which could contain all your most used folders or disks.

Quick access to functions

Explorer++ does not have a huge number of extra features and mostly it just makes things easier. For example, there is a toolbar with Delete and Permanently Delete buttons, which send a file to the Recycle Bin or skip the bin and really delete it. There is also a Destroy File(s) option which overwrites files either one or three times for security and prevent recovery from a hard disk drive.

There are Refresh, Properties, Command Prompt, view selection (List, Details, Icons) and other buttons in the toolbar too.

Windows Explorer lets you pin folders in the sidebar and Explorer++ lets you bookmark them. Bookmarking is similar to web browsers and there is a Bookmarks menu and a Bookmarks bar, which appears under the toolbar. Folders can be created and bookmarks added to them in a Bookmarks Manager. Clicking a bookmark opens the folder in a new tab and all tabs can be bookmarked in one go.

File attributes are more easily set in Explorer++. A window can be opened with checkboxes to set the Archive, Hidden, Indexed, Read-only, and System attributes. The modification date, creation date and last accessed date can also be changed easily. Files can be split into parts and parts can be merged.

Better searching

Searching the disk using Explorer++ utility for Windows PC
Search the disk with Explorer++

The search function in Explorer++ is an improvement over Windows Explorer. For example, it can be case sensitive or insensitive. Attributes like Archive, Read-only, Hidden and System can be specified in the search. Sub-folders can be included or excluded as preferred and there is an option to use regular expressions, which are special patterns that define search functions.

Wildcard selection

Files can be selected by clicking single items, Ctrl+clicking multiple items, or clicking the first and Shift+clicking the last. That is just like regular Windows Explorer, but there is an extra feature and files can be selected using wildcards. For example, you could select all files with ‘report’ in the filename by searching for *report*.

You can also click one file and then select all files of the same type, such as all .jpg images or all .docx files. It is possible to do this in Windows Explorer, but it is a multi-step process. It is one step in Explorer++.

Summing up

Explorer++ is a great alternative to Explorer in Windows and it does not need installing. Just unzip it and run it. You can add an icon to the taskbar to make it as easy to start as regular Explorer. It has a many features that are quicker and easier to use than Windows Explorer and a few extra features not in Microsoft’s file browser. Explorer++ is recommended.

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