Data Management

Dinosaur Sightings: DOS File Managers

 

The menu system in XTreeGold only appeared on the screen when you clicked on the top line of the screen.

Image created by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic.

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Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

55 comments
GBowes54
GBowes54

Ah, memories. I started using file a manager rather late in my computing life. I think it was in the DOS 3 days. That’s DOS 3, not DOS 3.x. I was actually given a copy of Norton Commander to evaluate for work. Well, let me tell you, it was love after that first day of use.

I continued to use Norton Commander right until the end of DOS. When Windows 95 debuted, I thought that would be the end for our love affair. However, I was able to get a copy of Norton Commander for Windows 95. A beta product, which was never released to the public.

Unfortunately, with the ongoing upgrading of Windows through 98, and ME, my Commander was soon made unworkable. Fortunately, I wasn’t about to let a little thing like product-end-of-life get in my way. I began an exhaustive search for a replacement for my beloved Commander.

In a few short weeks, and a lot of trial, and dead ends, my search was rewarded. I found a new, and in some ways better file manager in the form of EF Commander. A German programmer Emil Fickel, had taken his OS2 Norton Commander clone, and ported to Windows.

So, when Windows XP was ready, so was I. I bought my first copy of EF Commander (the EF is for Emil Fickel), when it was at version 3, and I was using Windows XP. I now use, and service Window 7, 8, & 8.1, and am using version 9.60 x64 of EF Commander.

Some people ask me why I still use, what appears to be a DOS file manager, on these most modern of Windows systems. My answer is always the same. EF Commander is a fantastically powerful program, it’s easy to learn, and makes child’s play out of the most complex file management problems.

I have no qualms about using it on one of my client’s computer systems. I always bring the shareware version on a thumb drive to install. Yes, Emil lets you freely download the shareware version of EF Commander, it’s right on his Web Site - http://www.efsoftware.com/cw/e.htm. More often than not, when I come back, my clients have bought the newest version on their own.

For me, the day of the file manager is not over. EF Commander works as well on the Windows 8.1 desktop, as Norton Commander did on DOS. Actually, it works far better, as Emil is constantly upgrading it, and without charge. It is, everything that Norton Commander should have been. For me, and the work I do, I couldn’t live without it.

jr
jr

Ah 1DirPlus! Clients still wish it was around. We could do so much program automation with 1Dirplus and it still worked better than Windows shortcuts.

tech_ed
tech_ed

Wow! That XTree and XTree Gold brought back some memories!  Anybody remember the Windows alternative called GEM? I ran this on some of my computers back in the day...the good thing is that it could address more than 640K of RAM...the bad thing is that it could only recognize 2 hard drives!

SnappyD3
SnappyD3

Today = Total Commander, the clear winner!  Still solid and effective. Plug ins gallore.  QFiler was my favorite, portable and easy to use.

ParrotheadNY
ParrotheadNY

Sigh! Life was so simple then. Lotus 1-2-3 Rel. 2, anyone?

m.stager
m.stager

Directory Freedom was and still is the best file manager I ever used - and am still using (Version 4.61). It can be configured to use external DOS rograms for graphics, zip files, even macro and word processing, remaining in the background while they are in use. That, along with Worperfect 5.1 and Wordperfect Office have never been surpassed by _ANY_ Windows based applications for speed, efficiency, and reliability, In a word, productivity.

info
info

My favourite was the Norton Commander, which I was using until the company gave it up when Windows 98 was dominating the consumer PC OS market. I am still using the follow- up software, nowadays known as Total Commander, mainly because of the two windows making it very simple to copy, move, look at and administer otherwise files as you like it. It is far more comfortable than the Windows Explorer, which has not really changed since it was launched.

jtmccall
jtmccall

Loved my Norton Commander so much I continued to use it in a dos window under Win '95. I have never really gotten to like the Windows Explorer. Norton's two-pane format and all of the intuitive extras were simply well designed and provided all the functionality I needed. Add Norton Utilities to the mix and you were an IT god back in the day.

firstaborean
firstaborean

I used Norton Commander from my MS-DOS 3.21 days onward, even with Windows 95 and 98. Under Windows 98SE, I once used the NC file viewer and Randy's Icon Editor to change a Windows 3-style icon to one usable under Windows XP, which then was Microsoft's latest and greatest OS. NC opened the icon file, and I saved the screen shot. Then I opened the screen shot under the Icon Editor and re-saved it as an icon file. Over the years, I used NC as an analytic and diagnostic tool, as well as a file manager. The only thing usable under Windows, these days, that's at all comparable is Power Desk.

rgeiken
rgeiken

One of my favorite file managers was XTree Gold. I used that frequently over the years. I also used the Microsoft file managers, but most of the time it was XTree Gold. For me personally, that was really the Gold Standard when I was using DOS up through Windows 3.1

joels
joels

I liked the file manager built into PCTools. You didn't let someone without a thorough understanding of computers use this though.

NYMgr
NYMgr

We used a couple but I admit I still have a soft spot for StupenDOS by eclipse technologies. They were intertwined with Zip somehow (one of the StupenDOS coders also worked for them If I remember correctly. I actually met one of the main coders at the old PC trade show at the Javitts in NY. They had a booth in the lower level and were selling copies and copies of Zip as well). It was a great little utility and actually ran on some of our PCs up until Win 7, although it had the DOS filename limits. Many of our older users and even some techs would not give it up.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

was the shizznitt! B-) PCShell, the PCTools file manager was a close second.

specstuffer
specstuffer

DOS is not dead! The critiqued managers were good but, there are some newer managers to look at. Necromancer's DOS navigator is modern up to date and blows away all the others. Another really good one is Graphic Vision File Manager. Almost as good as the NDN. DOS Navigator v640 Open Source Project is another good one. All these are available for download. KEEP DOS ALIVE!

dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

I used PC Tools 6.0 for almost everything related to file and disk management including PC Shell. I've used NC, but PC Shell, IIRC, also had a dual pane display, although one had to enable it in the settings, and it did everything I required of a file manager.

techrepublic
techrepublic

I used PC-Boss for a while, and then switched to another one whose name is on the tip of my tongue, can't remember what it was called...

liljim
liljim

I developed some expertise in using NCC, and the Microsoft shells. But I considered myself an expert at using XTree and XTreeGold. I liked them so much, I bought a dozen copies on several occasions when I saw a bargain bin. The XTree family is a major reason I never ran Windows 3.10 or earlier versions.I supported quite a few people who ran Win 3.11, but that was not my preference either. Win95 was the first serious challenge to my use of XTree. I still wonder if I made the right choice back then too! Good Memories, Thanks for the reminder.

Cmd_Line_Dino
Cmd_Line_Dino

File Commander by Brian Havard is a 32-bit clone of Norton Commander h t t p : / / silk.apana.org.au/fc.html It is everything that NC was and so much more. I have used it since Windows NT and now use it on Win 7 64-bit. It's also available for several Unix-like OS-es.

darkmoonman
darkmoonman

I worked directly with DOS until Win95 came on the market.

dayen
dayen

yea Norton Commander 8086 20MB HDD also & norton Utilities

pts
pts

I was a devote QuickFile user for many yrs ... luv'd it!

ICE_BM
ICE_BM

I still use XTree today and every day, I must be a dinosaur...

michel.vallee
michel.vallee

Sometimes I use Windows version of Midnight Commander (mc.exe : a Linux tool) which works fine in all versions of Windows, even Windows 7 64 bits !

curtf
curtf

Very few people ever saw the PCVALET Gem written by John Junod *(genius who was heavily involved with winsock & TCP/IP at West Point ) IMHO was the very best file manager ever. I shared it with every sysadmin, network admin and tech and it never failed to become their favorite.. I still have my "green" licensed floppy too.. what a memory!! It actually worked on many versions of netware and NT also, upto and including NT 4.0 if i remember correctly.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

I used NC and Xtree in the past. I will never forget them. I remember I was very good with this applications!

piekarsol3
piekarsol3

Qfiler was the one I used. Side by side panes so you could copy, move, delete, view and arc or zip your files. It was kinda neat. If memory serves...when Win95 came out Qfiler was a bit slow on the take up so I went searching and found Windows Commander (now Total Commander). It had the same two pane concept which I was familiar with. I use it to this day.

rcaraway
rcaraway

I'm pretty sure I still have a copy or two. This was one of the first applications to be installed on all our machines, immediately after the operating system. In fact we configured our boot disks with enough XTree files to be able to start and run file transfers for loading the hard drives initially. Viewing, copying and editing files was extremely easy. The dual pane windows were great for logging two separate drives, and if memory was low, a drive could be "released" to free resources. We used XTree well into the MS Win98 days, and even prevented the high school keyboarding students from sabotaging files and apps, by using XTree to modify the command.com file so that the dir(ectory) command wouldn't function. We changed it to "dur", and were able hide directories, as well. I think, due in part to such excellent utilities, I felt much more confident in my IT skills during those years (MS-DOS 3.1 through Win95/98) than I ever have. Though I didn't use them often, even the DOS shells were very helpful. I vaguely remember the edlin command, and was thankful for it's replacement/s. Maybe I have ceased to evolve with technology and I suspect age may have some part in it (I, for one, liked my father's Oldsmobile), but I believe having been exposed to that level of management is why I have fallen out so much with later (MS) operating systems (donning fireproof undergarments). Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane! Have a great week!

ChrisHyche@AlabamaOne.Org
ChrisHyche@AlabamaOne.Org

I used one called Stereo Shell. It has been a while but from what I remember it was triple paned. To file panes and an directory pane in the middle that swapped depending on which side you were on. No mouse support that I can remember but it was fast and handled archive files (zip, arj, etc) well with the help of external programs you setup in the config. A little fuzzy so don't quote me, but I think it could open archives let you run what was inside then clear out the extracted files when done.

jeff
jeff

Great Program but when Win 98 came out I found a great replacement. WinNC by dunesmedia check it out at winnc.com and you'll see what I mean.

luisgallo
luisgallo

XTree gold was the most used file manager, and never forget the SideKick as one excellent auxiliary tool. Norton Utilities to do the hard job of recovering lost informations in the 20Mb Seagate HD. Wow !!! Stone Age !!! 8080, 8086, 80286, 80486 !!!

bikingbill
bikingbill

Norton Commander's default two-pane display was so obvious, so easy to use that I've never come across anything better. I've never understood why neither Microsoft or even Apple didn't adopt this layout.

tomk3212
tomk3212

There is a story from the mid-80's (probably apocryphal) that just about every PC that was smuggled into the old Soviet Union had the Norton Commander installed on it as the file manager for DOS (export restrictions at that time forbade directly selling PCs to the Iron Curtain countries). The folks using these smuggled PCs thought that NC was part of the DOS operating system! Norton's support line in Europe had to field tons of calls from Eastern Bloc countries and explain endlessly that this was a pirated version of their software & if they wanted support thay had to pony up $$ to pay for it. Just goes to show just how darn popular NC was at that time. I used it for years....legally however...lol

t.rohner
t.rohner

NC was the file handling tool of my choice. I always had it on my tools floppy. Midnight C. comes quite close, i use it on Linux boxes.

l_e_cox
l_e_cox

@wmoralesIndeed!

I used several different applications, including PC Tools. 

But my favorite was Stereo Shell.

Today I use Free Commander which maintains the two-pane paradigm that I became so used to.

tech_ed
tech_ed

Uh...then you don't remember needing the KEY disk to be in the "A" drive in order to run Lotus 123! THAT was a PAIN, especially if it started to go bad!

Cmd_Line_Dino
Cmd_Line_Dino

@m.stager You essentially say that Directory Freedom has never been surpassed by _ANY_ Windows based application for speed, efficiency, and reliability. === I did a quick try of Directory Freedom... Directory Freedom is primitive. It's not a Windows program its a DOS program (.COM file) created in 1999. It only handles 8.3 file names. Its appearance on the screen is crude even for a DOS program. And the developer has abandoned it and made it open source. Please try a modern Windows program. There are more than one that use a panel style view and are very fast and capable far beyond Directory Freedom.

Geordie Lad
Geordie Lad

@rgeiken 

I still used XTgold from the command line from Win98 onwards (even to XP) or its Windows equivalent ZTreeWin.  I particularly like the Hex\ASCII file display which eases file editing or similar activities.

Geordie Lad   

Cmd_Line_Dino
Cmd_Line_Dino

File Commander by Brian Havard is a clone of Norton Commander. All the features of Norton Commander and so much more. Started over 15 years ago and still being enhanced. The author responds to bug reports and feature requests. I consider it one of my two indispensable apps. Full disclosure: I am in no way connected to File Commander or the developer. I am just a very happy user (for over 15 years). p.s. Give it a try and leave the primitive world of Windows Explorer

ValIivan
ValIivan

Yeap! Much better than the well-known Norton Commander!

m.stager
m.stager

I said that DF, along with Wordperfect 5.1 and Wordperfect Office have never been surpassed by _ANY_ Windows based applications for speed, efficiency, and reliability, In a word, productivity. I find DOS, for straightforward business applications, is still far superior. (Maybe I should have written, " _ANY_ equivalent Windows based applications".) For music, graphics (Photoshop / Illustratror), Pale Moon for internet, Eudora for Email, Windows is a necessity. I never said I used DF for Windows apps. It was not designed for them and out of the box it's nothing special, but the way the F/Ctl/ALt/ keys can be configured and mapped makes it very fast and useful. For Windoze I use Directory Opus.

Cmd_Line_Dino
Cmd_Line_Dino

File Commander by Brian Havard The same look and feel. All the features and so much more. Mouse and keyboard ... power users can do everything from the keyboard Still being enhanced. I can't say enough about how useful and how much I love it. Full disclosure: I am in no way connected to File Commander or the developer. Just a happy user for over 15 years.