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It's unlikely that custom features will be added to Windows Explorer, but there are other programs available.

Windows Explorer in Windows 7 is quite good, but there are few features that would make it better. I always sort by date so that the most recently used files are at the top of my file list. Generally, this works best. But what about a way to highlight certain files? Perhaps using Outlook category colors in a folder so that important older files stand out and can be found more easily without a search? Explorer replacement seemed like overkill and appear quite complex.

In this excerpt from Answercast #41, I look at the possibility of getting Microsoft to start working on custom feature requests from users – not likely!

New Explorer features

I'm certain that there's no shortage of ideas for how to improve Windows Explorer. In all honesty, to be brutally honest, I really don't expect the kinds of features that you're talking about to be added to Windows Explorer any time soon. Certainly, I could be wrong, but there's no expectation on my part that the Windows team feels that Explorer needs a bunch of additional features.

Remember, features cost in terms of:

  • Operating system size;

  • The amount of time it takes to actually build the operating system;

  • The amount of resources it takes to test the operating system and so forth.

So, features; adding features that aren't part of Microsoft's own strategic vision for whatever they think Windows is going to be are kind of unlikely to make the cut.

Replacement utilities

Now, what I do recommend you do is what you have kind of written off and that is:

  • There are several Windows Explorer replacement utilities

In fact, I use one. It's called Xplorer2. I like it because it's more of a simple dual-pane, Windows Explorer replacement that essentially does the same thing as Windows Explorer except it's old-style for people who like the old way that files were listed. It uses two panes instead of just one and makes for easier file copying and so forth.

There are several Windows Explorer replacements and I fully expect, in the comments to this article, that people will recommend some of their favorite Windows Explorer replacements. Perhaps one of those will have the features that you're looking for.

Look for a replacement

Ultimately, I honestly believe that's the only practical way to get the features that you're looking for. That is:

  • Not to expect Microsoft to add them to Windows any time soon.

  • But rather go out and look for a Windows Explorer replacement that actually has the features you care about.

Yep, sometimes it might feel like it's a little bit more complex than you need, but it in reality (even in my case, with Xplorer2), I ignore 80-90% of the features of that program. I have it for what I like it for. Yes, it has a lot of other things, but for the most part, I just focus on what I need and that actually keeps it pretty simple.

Article C5663 - August 6, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Mark J
August 6, 2012 11:18 AM

I'm a big fan of Total Commander. It's a dual pane file manager with so many features such as ftp, launching your favorite programs, bulk file renaming, file viewing, file editing and more. Unfortunately for you, it doesn't have a way of color coding files, although it does allow you to easily change the date and time settings, which may be a workaround for your needs. It's a shareware program with no time limit, so you can try it out as long as you need before purchasing.

August 7, 2012 3:14 PM

The King of all Explorer replacement programs is Directory Opus (usually referred to as DOpus).

It is enormously customizable, and, although I have not looked for the features that interest you, I suspect that they are there. Certainly you can sort by date. If you do not find them, you can ask in the on-line forum, and dedicated users will point you in the right direction.

It does cost, though, but I have happily paid for it -- even though I don’t use more than a couple of %s of its features!

August 7, 2012 7:27 PM

If you want something simple to colorize your folders, try Rainbow Folders at It is freeware but the author requests a postcard. Very simple to use and really makes your folders stand out.

Joe F.
August 7, 2012 7:33 PM

XYplorer is a great Explorer replacement (not free). The tabbed folder panes are pretty cool, and if you couple it with TeraCopy (free or pro) it's an awesome combo. TeraCopy by itself is a great Windows copy/paste replacement.

James S
August 8, 2012 2:29 AM

I can thoroughly recommend Leo's choice of Xplorer2. I use only the free version and not all the facilities of that. In detail view one can choose what columns to display, one of which can be Comments. It can also autosize columns and show folder sizes (instead of ).

The documentation's good as well, for a freebie.

Eric Brightwell
August 10, 2012 4:51 AM

One of the problems with Windows Explorer is the maxpath limit, such that files with a pathname longer than the limit (248 chrs ) cannot be renamed or deleted using it.

Do these replacements overcome that limitation or are they have the same problem.

My rather cumbersome solution was to use DOS and the command line, which reveals the windows 8.3 character short name for the file. This can then be used to rename the file to bring it within the maxpath limit or delete it.

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