The Best Windows Explorer Replacement


I have been using MultiCommander for over six months. It made me lose interest in all previous file managers that I had been using. Today, I use MultiCommander exclusively. It’s the perfect power user file manager for Windows. And best of all, it’s completely free and also portable.

A File Manager for Professionals

The basic look of MultiCommander is that of a standard two-panel file manager.

MultiCommander window

MultiCommander window

But as you start using MultiCommander, you will notice lots of little differences. And it’s these little but enormously useful things that make MultiCommander stand out of the crowd.

You can download MultiCommander here — it comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit. Standalone and portable versions are available, too. When an updated version is pushed out by the author, the MultiUpdate feature will update MultiCommander for you.

I won’t be describing the installation procedure, which is very straightforward anyway, because I prefer to use the portable version of MultiCommander. You just download the portable version’s zip file and unpack it — and you are done.

Basic Usage

Here is a list of basic keyboard shortcuts used in MultiCommander:

  • Tab switches focus between the left and right panel
  • F1 shows the contents of images, text files, binary files
  • F2 lets you rename a file or folder
  • F4 copies the selected item(s) from one panel’s path to the other panel’s path
  • F5 refresh the panels
  • F6 moves the selected item(s) from one panel’s path to the other panel’s path
  • F7 lets you create a new folder in the panel in focus — several levels of new folders can be created simultaneously
  • F8 lets you remove the selected items (files or folders)
  • F9 opens the selected file in the program that is associated with its extension
  • Enter opens folders, opens files in their associated programs, launches executable files, and opens archives the same way as folders

You can work with archives (zip, rar, 7z, tar, gz, bz2) as if they were folders. You can copy out or remove one or more selected items directly using the above mentioned keyboard shortcuts (F4 and F8).

Some Tweaks

Each user has slightly different taste regarding the look and feel of his or her file manager. MultiCommander lets you customize it in many ways.

Layout of Columns

First of all, you will want to customize the layout of the panels’ columns. To do so, right-click on the column header and select Customize columns… from the drop-down menu.


Customize Column Layouts

In the Customize Column Layouts window, you can manually set which columns will be visible and the properties of each column including widths and margins.

When you are done customizing the column layout, click on the Save Changes button.

A simpler way to achieve this is to manually move the widths of the columns with your mouse, then right-click on the column header, and select Save current layout as default from the drop-down menu.

Hide File Information Tooltip

This is a setting that could be bothersome to most users. By default, when you leave your mouse cursor within MultiCommander’s area, MultiCommander will show you information about the item above which the cursor is hovering in a tooltip. However, usually, the tooltip covers the same exact area where you are also trying to work.

File information tooltip on mouse hover

File information tooltip on mouse hover

To disable the tooltip, go to Configuration > Explorer Panel settings… and in the Display tab scroll down to the View Mode Settings section.

Disable the tooltip

Disable the tooltip

In the Detailed View Mode and List View Mode sub-sections select Only when filenames are truncated for the Tooltip. Then click Apply and Save. The tooltip won’t be bothering you again.

Commander Style or Explorer Style

You can quickly select the look and feel of MultiCommander by selecting Configuration > Quick Look’n’Feel Setup….


Quick Look’n’Feel Setup

You can also selectively choose which components should have which look and feel. For example, you can use the Commander style for your keyboard (F5 will copy selected items), but you can use the Windows Explorer style for your mouse.

Show Hidden and System Files and Folders

To make hidden and system files and folder visible, go to View > Explorer Panel… in the menu bar and then select both the Show hidden files and folders and the Show system files and folders items.


Show hidden and system files and folders button

Alternatively, you can right-click on the Show hidden and system files and folders icon and make your selection there.

Selecting View Mode


View mode button

You can set different views for the left and right panels. There is a View mode icon located in the upper right corner of each panel.

When you click on the icon, you can select one of four view modes from the drop-down menu: Details, List, Thumbnail List, Thumbnail Details.

Selecting Your Colors

In MultiCommander, you can set your own colors for various file types to make them easier to distinguish.

To do so, go to Configuration > File Coloring Rules Editor….

File Coloring Rules Editor

File Coloring Rules Editor

In the editor, you can create detailed profiles that can use different background and font colors, fonts and font types for distinguishing various file types. You can even create rules where you can, for example, specify full or partial file names and give those their own colors and fonts. The possibilities are limitless.

Disabling the Sound Effects

I found the sound effects useful. Especially the one letting you know that a file operation that was taking a long time, like copying 50 GB of data between two drives — has finished.

Of course, I lower the volume of my speakers to a minimum, so the sound effect is not alarming.

But if you wish to disable them, you can do so via Configuration > Core Settings….

Core Settings — Play sound

Core Settings — Play sound

In the FileSystem tab scroll down to the Default file operations options section. Find within it the Play sound subsection and untick both checkboxes there.

Final Words

In my next post I will delve into the more advanced and power user capabilities of MultiCommander.

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