My favorite File Manager for Windows

Working as developer requires me to work with a lot of files. The Windows Explorer is OK, you get almost everything done. When you want to be more productive, I recommend you to use something better than Windows Explorer.
My app of choice is “Total Commander” (from now on TC). In this article I will show you some of the awesome features I often use in Total Commander.

Side by Side view.

In TC you see 2 list views. These can contain contents of different folders or FTP connections. Some of you might know this view already from Midnight Commander (BTW: Midnight Commander or short “mc” is available on Linux but lives in terminal)

Custom File List Views.

Among the available view types (like file list, thumbnail list, etc..) you can create your own list views that contain the information you need. Thanks to the auto view switcher depending on the contents of the files in a folder it can automatically switch to that file view. For example When the folder contains only images, TC will show the thumbnail list. Does it contain mostly PDF files it can show you a list with page count, title, first line in PDF and many more..

Tabs

Just like in a Web Browser, you press CTRL+T to create a new tab. Then you can simply use CTRL TAB or CTRL SHIFT TAB to navigate through the tabs. I use this feature a lot. I have one tab with the source code, another one with libraries, another one with images… No need to click through a crazy directory structure to find your files. I discovered this feature just few days ago and I was amazed how well this works!

FTP

TC is not only a file manager, it is also a FTP client. I also use this a lot. Uploading files to another host is pretty simple. You press CTRL+F to open the connection window and double click on one previously created connection. And thanks to the Side-By-Side I select from one side and drag/drop the files to the FTP side. While the file transfer you wait and drink another cup of coffee or you can move the download to the background process so you can use TC.

Automating and File operations

TC has a lot of features that can be accessed by commands and place holders. You can create own buttons that do exactly what you need when you click on it. I also love the renaming tool which I use a lot for web development: you have a list of files which you can rename automatically based on what you need. You specify the new file name with some magic place holders and if you like a little bit of regex and before you rename your files it will show you how all files will look after the renaming process: left side = current file names, right side= renamed files.

Compressing / Extracting Files

This is also one of my mostly used features. The awesome thing is that all compressed files, eg. a ZIP file works in TC as a folder. You doble click on the compressed file and you can see the contents of the file. Then you simply select the files you need and drag&drop the selection to another side of TC.
Compressing works similar, you can move some files directly into the compressed folder – or you can select the files and press ALT+F5 (or menu: File/Compress) to create a new compressed archive.

Search

There are 2 search features in TC. Search in current folder and the normal search. The search in current folder activates automatically when you start to type something on your keyboard. To show only files that begin with “report” you simply enter “report”. You can also use wildcards! Enter “*.zip” to view all zip files in a folder. Or “*report*” if you want to find all files that contains “report” somewhere in the file name.

Beside this, you also have the mighty search function which will find any file in any path. Beside the names you can also search for files inside compressed files, you can find files modified last week with a size of x bytes. AND you can use installed plugins in your search. For example use the xpdfsearch plugin to find PDF files containing a specific string.

Plugins:

Total Commander on its own is already a mighty tool with tons of useful features. But you can also extend it with cool plugins or write your own. There are templates for plugins available in C++, .NET and maybe other languages.

You can find plugins either on the developer site or here. My favourite Plugins are: xPDFsearch and TCIMG. xPDFsearch shows you additional information in a PDF file, you can view a list of PDF files with a column that shows the first line of each PDF file (or many other PDF stuff). And the TCIMG Plugin shows you additional columns for like the image size, dpi etc… I am using a lot of Plugins, I think this will be another article but for now these 2 are my favourite ones.

Conclusion:

I was working with total commander for almost 20 years now. In the beginning it was named “Windows Commander” but was renamed to Total Commander few years ago. You increase your productivity using total commander but for users who never used that kind of a program they might need some time to adapt. There is nothing difficult, I could use it stright away as I remember but even after years I find more and more interesting features.

Try Total Commander for yourself. I could write a book about Total Commander because it has so many useful features which I can’t put in this small article. Unformtunately it is only a Windows software. It works on Linux using wine though. But no idea if thats useful on Linux, I just installed it my self on my Linux machine at home and will see how it goes (I normally use the command line for file operations in linux) And at work I am forced to use Windows s Total Commander is one of the favourites tools.

 

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