What are the good alternatives to the default File Explorer that Windows provides?

The default File Explorer lacks many good features like

  1. Tabbed browsing
  2. Searching of files is horrible
  3. Any extra general purpose utilities
  • 4
    What would be "Any extra general purpose utilities", precisely?
    – Alejandro
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 23:18
  • 2
    Can you upgrade to Linux? Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 18:05
  • None of the current answers to this question seem to meet the answer quality requirements.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 21:01
  • The app Everything is very good for file searching in Windows. I can't do without it. Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 22:34
  • @NotThatGuy In an effort to hopefully lead by example, I have invested some time in writing an answer. I hope it helps. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 10:08

6 Answers 6


Total Commander (or any similar, like Double Commander) offer an entirely different paradigm, with a lot more functionality. Best for more advanced users.

  • 2
    Absolutely recommend Total Commander. I cannot work without it anymore.
    – Sebastian
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 18:13
  • 1
    I feel Total Commander and Double Commander are totally (lol) different answers. This answer currently has 13 votes but I don't think it's too late to split one of them out to a separate answer. If you keep double commander in and cut out TC you will do open source software a big favour.
    – pateksan
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 13:35

If you are looking for a good-looking application (All * Commander tools keep an old fashioned look and feel), then you should try Files, from https://files-community.github.io/. It's still in development but I have discovered it recently and it does simple thing beautiful.


The best solution for me is Explorer++

- Portable
- Tabbed browsing
- Previews of files as they are selected
- Advanced rename
- keyboard shortcuts
- Customizable user interface
- Drag-and-drop support with other applications, including Windows Explorer
- Advanced file operations such as merging and splitting supported
- Change file dates and attributes
- Save a directory listing
- Bookmark tabs
- Search for files using their name and attributes
- Switch between icon, list, detail, thumbnail and tile view with hotkeys
- Filter files

Here you can download it.

The last release is: dev

enter image description here

  • I can no longer recommend Explorer++ after 5 months without updates...
    – Josem
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 12:32

I would recommend GP Softwares' 'Directory Opus', very customisable, not free, but worth the money.

  • 1
    Can you list what features does it have and how does it address the question requirements?
    – Alejandro
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 12:15

UPDATE: After losing important data due to FreeCommander bugs, I can no longer recommend this application. The developer simply does not perform adequate testing before releases, and does not have any dedicated QA testers. This application has great potential, but overall the project needs a much higher level of QC to recommend it universally.

I can recommend FreeCommander XE.

You wanted:

  1. Tabbed Browsing
    FreeCommander features tabbed browsing. You can display 1 or 2 panes, each with its own tabs that you can define. The panes can be arranged horizontally or vertically, as you see fit.

  2. Better Searching
    FreeCommander has an incredibly powerful search tool integrated into it. You can search by static strings, wildcards, and regex. You can filter by location, timestamp, file attributes, size, and more. You can even search for duplicate files. All this functionality is integrated into the product.

  3. "Extra General Purpose Utilities"
    FreeCommander features a hash/checksum generator and validator. It also has a very extensive multi-file renaming tool that is better than many of the single-purpose professional tools on the market. FreeCommander also features a "Quick Starter" GUI that allows you to quickly launch pre-defined applications or open any folder defined in lists you create. Futhermore, it has an integrated file viewer that can view many types of files, including images of various formats.

I find that FreeCommander is a bit of a "hidden gem" in the world of Windows software. Although it has a substantial user-base, I don't think it's as large as I would expect for such a powerful tool.

It is available as a portable application or with a setup tool, whichever you prefer.

Does it have any downsides? Yes:

  1. It is closed-source written by 1 developer. This is very unfortunate, as the project would really benefit if it was an open-source project.
  2. The developer is not the best communicator on his own forums, so answers to technical questions are not very thorough and responses to bug reports are often lacking.
  3. The current application is technically "FreeCommander XE", which is the next generation of FreeCommander that has been around for over a decade (now called "FreeCommander 2009"). FreeCommander XE became the de facto release as it became more flushed out with features. That said, there are still a few tiny features that have not yet been implemented. Most people who use it probably have no idea, as all the primary functions are done.
  4. Support for OS dark themes still needs quite a bit of work, but it has come a long way.
  5. Limited to 2 panes (each with virtually unlimited tabs). It does not have any way to show 3 or more panes.
  6. The UI is extremely flexible and customizable. That said, the developer does not have the greatest sense of aesthetics, and so some UI elements could really use visual refinement.

Overall, I think FreeCommander suits your requirement wonderfully. It meets your 3 requirements, and provides an excellent array of powerful functionality.

The 32-bit portable and installer releases of FreeCommander are available without charge from: https://freecommander.com/en/downloads-portable/

The free version gets updated about once per year, which in my opinion, really is not frequent enough if you use it regularly.

If you make a donation, you will have access to more frequent releases as well as the 64-bit version. The requested donations range from €5 for a 1-time download to €32 for lifetime downloads. The option of €11 for 1 year of downloads is also available.

Overall, I give FreeCommander XE a solid 4 lizards out of 5.

Screenshot (source: freecommander.com): Screenshot of FreeCommander XE


I personally use QTTabBar for a lot of years at work. It's not a new explorer, but an extension for the existing windows explorer (so you don't lose anything).

enter image description here

It's core features are:

  • Tabs!!!
  • Search just the current folder (really fast)
  • Totally customizable buttons and folders on an extra toolbar (see the Screenshot), e.g. I made buttons for git and windows cmd that open in the current folder
  • Virtual folders for gathering other folders and files from everywhere on your disk
  • See last opened files and folders

enter image description here

  • A lot of different languages available
  • Shortcuts and events for executing actions or scripts
  • Settings backups and imports (mostly used for sharing between pcs or users)
  • Horizontal and vertical tabbar (both optional; use whatever you need)
  • Drag and drop support for a lot of things
  • An enormous amount of customizations

I found this program to be really easy to use, never found a bug in years, it got a great visual representation, things are easy to find and obvious to use, nearly no additional explanation needed.

I really would recommend this to everyone for just how amazing and totally free it is! And it still gets updates ;-)

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