Are you still searching for the perfect Android file manager? There are so many of them, each offering different feature sets and layouts. ASTRO File Manager has been my go-to tool, mostly because of the ability to install a module that gives it Server Message Block (SMB) support. If you're unsure what SMB is — think shared folders on your desktop.
However, there's another file manager in the Google Play Store that rolls in SMB support by default. Couple that with an easy-to-use interface, steady stream of updates, and Chromecast support, and you have the makings for one of the best file managers available for Android. That file manager is Solid Explorer.
The feature list for Solid Explorer includes:
- Two-panel view
- Drag-and-drop capability
- Quick selection
- Indexed search
- Network support (FTP, SFTP, SMB, WebDAV, and cloud)
- Built-in archive tool
- File detail view
The one caveat for using Solid Explorer is that it's not free. After your 14-day trial version is up, you'll have to drop $1.99 (USD) to continue using the tool. However, there is a free Chromecast plugin (you must have Solid Explorer installed before you install the plugin) that comes in pretty handy.
Is this file manager worth the (decidedly low) price of admission? Let's install it and find out.
Installing Solid Explorer is quite simple. Just follow these steps:
- Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
- Search for Solid Explorer
- Locate and tap the entry by Krzysztof Głodowski
- Tap Install
- Read the permissions listing
- If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept
- Allow the installation to complete
You'll find the launcher for Solid Explorer on your home screen or app drawer (or both). Tap the launcher to open the newly installed file manager.
When you first run Solid Explorer, you'll (depending on your device) be presented with the option to install the Chromecast plugin (Figure A).
Installing the Chromecast plugin on a Verizon-branded Droid Turbo.
If you have a Chromecast device, tap Yes to install the plugin. If you aren't prompted to install the plugin (which you can always install it later from the Google Play Store), you'll be presented with a welcome page that you can swipe through to learn more about Solid Explorer.
When you fire up Solid Explorer, you'll be greeted by the main window (Figure B). If you swipe from the left side of the screen, the Bookmark sidebar will appear.
The Solid Explorer main window.
As you might expect, using Solid Explorer is fairly straight forward... sort of. From the main window, if you tap on the folder icon for a listing, it will do what is called a "quick select." This selects the folder and allows you select multiple folders. If you tap the folder name (to the right of the folder icon), you'll change into that directory. When you select a folder, a new toolbar will pop up (Figure C).
The folder select toolbar.
The icons in the folder select toolbar are as follows (from left to right):
- Select all
- Select all but currently selected folder(s)
You don't have to depend on the folder select toolbar. Even without selecting a single folder, you can also tap the Actions button and the actions toolbar will appear.
Connecting to a network folder
Let's walk through the process of connecting to an SMB folder. First, you must be connected to the same network as is the PC containing the shared folder. Once you've done that, from Solid Explorer, tap the New button, and tap SMB connection. Fill out all the necessary information for the connection (Figure D), and tap OK.
Creating a new SMB connection.
Make sure to fill in the Remote path (which will be the explicit path to the shared folder). You'll also want to pay close attention to the Authentication method (if the folder or user is password protected, you'll need to select Ask for a password each time).
If your share requires a password, after you tap OK, you should be prompted for the password. Type the password, and then tap OK.
Once authenticated, you should see the shared folders. At this point, you can gain quick access to that shared folder by opening the bookmark sidebar — the SMB share should be listed. If you long-press that SMB listing (in the sidebar), a pop-up will appear (Figure E) where you can disconnect, edit, or delete the shortcut.
The bookmark pop-up.
If you tap the Jump button, a menu will appear that allows you to do a Quick config (tap the Quick config entry, shown in Figure F), where you can enable/disable:
- Show hidden files
- List folders first
- Show network thumbnails
- Show status
- Remember last folder
- Keep screen on
Getting to the Quick config menu entry.
The big question is whether or not Solid Explorer is worth $1.99. The answer is simple — yes. It's one of the best file managers I've used on Android, and — with the inclusion of network and Chromecast support — it tops the list of file manager app features.
What do you think? Do you require network support for your mobile file managers? If so, what file manager meets your needs and do you recommend? Let us know in the discussion thread below.
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 jackwallen.com.