Free add-ons teach Windows Explorer new tricks

Scott dunn By Scott Dunn

You can choose from dozens of file managers to replace Windows Explorer — some of them are even free — but only the original is so closely integrated into the OS.

Before you give Explorer the boot, check out some first-rate add-ons that turn Windows’ tired file browser into the information manager of the future.

It’s time to go beyond files and folders

You can find plenty of good replacements for Windows Explorer online. For example, in his Sept. 20, 2007, column, Woody Leonhard recently recommended Xplorer2. But few match the convenience of having a file manager that is built into the operating system.

Rather than trying to find your ideal file manager at the downloads store, I suggest you mend it, not end it. You can give Windows Explorer most of the tools and abilities found in the video preview simply by installing a handful of free or low-cost Explorer extensions.

Give Explorer more file-management muscle

Here are some of my favorite tools for souping up the Explorer you already have.

Give your dialog boxes more reach. The one freeware utility I recommend over all others is FileBox eXtender. Not only does the program enhance Explorer, it also improves common Open and Save As dialog boxes and other interface elements.

FileBox eXtender’s pop-up menu lists the last several folder locations you opened. You can also view a list of your favorite files or folders and resize dialog boxes so they always open at your preferred dimensions.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2008-06-12: