Scott Hanselman

Replacing Explorer.exe - The Return of Norton Commander with xplorer2 and FAR

April 30, 2006 Comment on this post [19] Posted in Reviews | PowerShell | Tools
Sponsored By

Far1"The Norton Commander is the most useful DOS program ever written" says the Commander Homepage, a site dedicated to Norton Commander. And true it is. NC was flippin' fabulous. I used the crap out of that program. You think I'm fast now, back in day™ I was fast as lightning on a stac'ered 386sx. Those were the days.

Misha Bergal emailed me recently reminding me of FAR, a text-mode Norton Commander clone with Windows long filename support. Wow, takes me back.

Sure, PowerShell is a better shell. The best ever, even, there's no question of that (Seriously, get on board, the PowerShell is poised to take over the planet, but I digress...) but if you really want to stop dragging files around in Explorer and start doing some serious damage, take a look at these potential additions to your tools list.

The first is FAR and the real story is it's plugin support. Some of my favorite features? Start it up and press Ctrl-UpArrow for a while, then Ctrl-DownArrow. Now try Alt-F9. Try Ctrl-W. It'll take a while to get used to, but wow, you can fly once you've taken off.


My other favorite Explorer Replacement is xplorer2 from Zabkat. There's so much goodness in xplorer2 I will have to blog about it separately. It's got the same familiar Norton Command dual-pane view with the quick switching with "Tab" feature. It has integrated file preview and all the things you'd expect, but also throws in a great folder synchronizer, an amazing "mass file rename" token language for those large tricking bulk renames, rule-based file section, a macro language and it starts up faster than a new explorer window.

Both of these great tools are bound to hotkeys on my systems and make my life easier.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Hosting By
Hosted in an Azure App Service
April 30, 2006 10:52
I'm a big fan of Total Commander ( I never use Windows Explorer anymore and do all my "file work" from TC. Being a keyboard junkie makes TC a pleasure to use since all of its functions are available from the keyboard.

When I first tried it out, I didn't "get it" and gave up. It took a seoncd look at it for me to get it. It just takes time to get used to it and then there's no looking back.

BTW I have no connection whatsoever with TC. I'm just a very happy user.
April 30, 2006 11:39
Total Commander totally rocks and has lots of plugins (e.g. Filesystem-Plugins: Provides SFTP, Processes, Open Windows, ADODB-Sources, Registry).

Especially the synchronising-function for detailed comparing of two folders, the multi-rename-tool and the recent support for TABs is great
April 30, 2006 18:02
Naw, I'm still faster Scott. But I'm not the fastest, there's always someone who can read faster than me.
April 30, 2006 18:44
Have you ever tried Directory Opus from GP Software ( as an Explorer replacement? I haven't really tried it for the PC, but back in the day (as you say) it totally ruled the Amiga world. ;-)


PS - I love the hanselminutes podcast - look forward to it every week. :)

April 30, 2006 18:45

You should really take a look at Servant Salamander (yes, I know - very strange name for a file manager). It's a plug-in based file manager that does SOOO much - file comparisions, fast viewing of images and most doc types, zip rar etc support, ftp support, ISO & registry navigation, etc. It's not free, but I've been using this for years now. There are short-cut keys for everything, too. Check it out since they just released v2.5 RC1:

April 30, 2006 19:10
This takes me back to the Old Days. My personal favourite was Xtree Gold (beat PCTools hands down IMHO). There is still an incarnation of it available as ZTreeWin from:

It was last updated on 1/1/2006, so its still active. And a license is affordable @ $29.95. There is a 30-day free trial.

Give it a whirl. I'm sure it will give Norton Commander a run for the money. :-)

May 01, 2006 16:10
I had those "XTree Gold" vs "Norton Commander" arguments for years with a relative. I eventually settled on NC and use it to this day (by way of Total Commander, although I was a Servant Salamander junkie for years, and Far for years before that).
May 01, 2006 16:41
Another vote here for ZTreeWin. Excellent program. It works exactly like XTreeGold, but has proper windows support.

Sorry for the shameless self promotion, but I did write about it on my blog a while back:
May 01, 2006 17:14
To this day, I still don't understand how people can live with Windows Explorer. I have used Total Commander for years (or Windows Commander as it used to be called) and I love it. It does so much and so well.
May 01, 2006 20:11
Add me to the list of Directory Opus fans today, but an old school Norton Commander fan.

Norton Commander 5.0 for DOS has to be just about one of the greatest pieces of software that ever existed. I even used the Norton Commander for Windows versions that Symantec created, but they never felt the same.

I've since switched to Directory Opus and while it doesn't hold the same place in my heart that NC did, it is a great product in its own right.

I enjoy your podcast, too, Scott. I hope you'll do an update to your Ultimate Tools List and talk about it in your podcast someday.
May 01, 2006 20:46
I'll throw my name in for Directory Opus. Unlike other such apps, there's no learning curve from Explorer, which is very important when my comp gets used by my significant other. She still bugs me when I changed the keyboard layout to Dvorak.
May 01, 2006 22:30
I second the notion for Servant Salamander. The fantastic thing about it is that it implements its own copying/moving/deleting commands instead of using the standard dumb Windows ones, resulting in much more useful behaviour in problem cases. I believe this is a feature that's more or less unique in 3rd party file managers, although for me it's the most important reason to use one.
May 02, 2006 0:11
xplorer2 rocks
May 02, 2006 3:16
Herr Ghisler's Total Commander left Norton's in the dust long ago. It is a Windows classic GUI app, robustness over Novell Netware and Windows UNCs is great. I drove FAR for a few minutes - nah, although I hanker for DOS text UI programs once in a while, the resolution you get from a Windows GUI app is way more useful. You can type command lines from Total Commander just like you could in Norton Commander - they work and they work in the context of the folder that you are currently viewing.

For a menu facilitiy, yeah, Start Menu>Programs isn't good when you have so many programs. My current fav is Pegtop PStart - in which I only put the shortcuts that I want to be accessible quickly. For all the rest of the programs which have been installed all over the place and I can't remember where and what they are - ESP -
May 03, 2006 4:59
Interesting, I'll have to check out both.

I've used (for years) the Win32 port of Midnight Commander ( which was ported from Linux and does have limitations (but is open source). I never use explorer.exe and live, die, and eat cheese by the command line (and command line tools). All that crazy double clicking to get into folders when I could just type "cd/win[TAB]/sys[TAB]/driv[TAB]/etc?"

The plugin aspect of Far (and maybe Total Commander) really rock my boat as I can never have enough pet projects to do.
May 03, 2006 14:27
+1 for xplorer2
I tried Total Commander and the one feature that beats of xplorer2 is the Directory Tree with incremental search. Other than that it doesn't seem better than xplorer2.

In xplorer2, after a search, I can Quick Preview with the search terms highlighted in each file while I conveniently scroll through the list. Once you've used it you can't do without it.

May 03, 2006 16:39
Another vote for Servant Salamander from I have been using it for years and do all the hard core file management with it. It is simply fantastic!
May 04, 2006 7:18
Back then I used an Amiga which had its own mainstays... Directory Opus, DirMaster, SID...

So this company Enriva created a product that reminds me of some of those Amiga shells called Magellan Explorer. I've used the demo, but never quite decided to buy it simply because I have so many systems (multiple work, home, etc.) that I've just learned to deal with Explorer's quirks and inefficiencies...

My favorite for a while was SID and I do remember a bit of a flame war over how much Directory Opus looked like SID initially.
May 09, 2006 2:15
Directory Opus is better than all listed above (other than Directory Opus ;) )

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.