If you’re happy with your default file manager, that’s fine. These alternatives are really only useful if you’re craving a particular feature not found in your current file manager.
WindowsFor as long as Windows Explorer has existed, Windows geeks have yearned for more features. There are many, many Windows Explorer alternatives out there. When installing them, be sure ot watch out for the junkware packed into their installers. The Windows software ecosystem is sick, and — in general — we hate recommending Windows software downloads for just this reason.
FreeCommander is a good option if you’re looking for tabs, a dual-pane interface, and all the other powerful features a Windows Explorer replacement can offer. Unlike many of the other available applications, it’s available entirely for free — although it isn’t open-source. You’re free to use it all you like, even for commercial purposes. No features are restricted to some sort of professional edition you have to pay for. Multi Commander is similar and also free.
Mac OS XThe Finder app included with Mac OS X does the basics, but it can certainly leave you wanting. As usual on Mac OS X, many of the alternative file-manager options available to you are generally paid software. You’ll have to shell out a few bucks to use them. On the bright side, this means that they see more development than many alternative Windows file managers, and their business model is selling software instead of trying to load your computer with crapware in their installers.
Cocoatech’s Path Finder is probably the most popular Finder replacement for Mac OS X, and we covered it as one of the best options if you want to merge folders on your Mac. It also includes a dual-pane interface and other powerful features. Developers in particular can get a lot of use out of its intergrated Git and Subeersion support, as well as easy access to a terminal.
Path Finder costs $40, but you can use the free 30-day trial to determine if you actually need all those fancy features.
LinuxIt’s hard to talk about alternative file managers for Linux, as every desktop environment tends to include its own unique file manager. These file managers also tend to see more development and often include advanced features you’d only find in alternative file managers on other operating systems. But, thanks to the modularity of the Linux desktop, you could actually run a different desktop environment’s file manager on your current desktop.
For example, GNOME and Ubuntu’s Unity desktop include the Nautilus file manager. KDE includes the Dolphin file manager, Xfce includes the Thunar file manager, and LXDE includes PCManFM. Each file manager has its own unique features — for example, Xfce’s Thunar file manager includes an integrated Bulk Rename tool for quickly batch-renaming files.
Perform a search for “file manager” or something similar in your Linux distribution’s package management interface and you’ll find a lot of options.
But lots of geeks do love their alternative file managers, and for good reason. They offer powerful features that can save you a lot of time if you need them.