Some Android smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, ship with a built-in file manager (called My Files). Although it's not very powerful or flexible, it gets the job done. But if you need more in the way of features or control — or you purchased an Android device without a built-in file manager — where do you turn?
To the Google Play Store. There, you will find any number of file managers to choose from. The big challenge is figuring out which ones offer the most power and flexibility. I have narrowed the selection to my five favorite file managers, one of which is sure to have everything you need.
Note: This article is also available as an image gallery.
1: ASTRO File Manager
ASTRO File Manager (Figure A) has been my favorite file manager for quite some time. It has everything you need in a file manager, and then some. There are several versions of this file manager: Cloud, SMB, and Pro. As you might expect, the Cloud version will connect to your cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, etc.) and allows you to work with your cloud storage files as if they were local. Install the Cloud version to get that functionality and then install the other modules to add SMB (Samba) and Bluetooth connectivity. ASTRO File Manager also includes powerful search and filter functions that can help you easily locate your files.
2: ES File Explorer
ES File Explorer (Figure B) has an elegant interface and plenty of options. One of its best features is the ability to view different "windows." Each window is a specific profile: Cloud, LAN, Homepage, sdcard. The Homepage is a dashboard that gives you access to different file types and plenty of other information/features. The sdcard window provides immediate access to the local storage. The LAN window allows you to connect to a server. The Cloud window gains you access to your cloud storage. There is also a Fast Access sidebar that takes you to Favorites, Local, Library, Network, and Tools. The tools that come with ES File Explorer include App Manager, Download Manager, System Manager, and SD Card Analyst.
3: File Manager (Explorer)
File Manager (Explorer), shown in Figure C, isn't pretty, it has ads, and it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of ES File Explorer or ASTRO, but it gets the job done and done well. It features cut, copy, paste; job cancellation; compress/decompress support; list and grid view; search and share files; multi-select; FTP/FTPS/sFTP/WebDAV support; and much more. This app also includes a built-in text editor and image viewer. You can connect to servers easily with either a manual or auto scan. The auto scan feature isn't as reliable as the manual connection setup (this will depend on your network security). But either way, you'll be able to connect your files with a network share easily.
4: X-Plore File Manager
X-Plore File Manager (Figure D) has an interface that could put some users off. There are sidebars, lists, menus, and more. But once you get beyond what might seem like a confusing interface, you'll find a file manager that contains every feature you could need, such as server and cloud connection, dual-pane tree view, SSH file transfer, app manager, Wi-Fi file sharing, built-in viewers, and multi-select.
X-Plore File Manager offers a large number of settings. With a quick tap of the Show button (from the Main Window), you can configure what X-Plore shows (from show hidden, web storage, LAN, Picasa, FTP, App manager, SSH file transfer, and Wi-Fi file sharing). When enabled, X-Plore's Wi-Fi file sharing gives your device an associated IP:Port you can connect to from another device or desktop so long as they're on the same network. To connect to Wi-Fi file sharing, open a web browser to the IP address and port given when you start the Wi-Fi server within X-Plore File Manager.
5: File Explorer
File Explorer (Figure E) is another fine example of how to create a file manager for Android. The FX main module is free and offers plenty of features to handle most of your file management needs. If you purchase the File Explorer Plus Add-on ($2.99), you get bonus modules for media management, network (FTP, SFTP, SMB, WebDAV) and cloud capabilities (Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Box, SugarSync). The File Explorer interface is very well designed and can be easily customized (both features and filesystems). File Explorer also comes with a couple of handy cleaning tools for removing duplicates and viewing large files.
Average users may go their entire life with Android and never need a file manager. But power users often depend on such tools to keep track of crucial data. If you're looking for a powerful and flexible file manager for Android, give one of these a try.
Have you found the perfect file manager for Android? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.