After my experience with Mac Finder and Pathfinder, I spent some time today testing Windows file utilities to appraise records.  In general, I did not find them to be quite as useful as Pathfinder, (although I have not used the version of Windows Explorer that is included in Windows 7).  Nevertheless, you may find some of the following tools helpful when attempting to weed or reorganize complex sets of electronic records.  Any of these applications are useful to have around, since they eliminate most of the major problems with windows explorer (such as the infamous failure to complete a copy operation if one file fails due to a too-long path name.)

Explorer Replacements

File Boss

FileBoss is a paid file manager and toolbox ($49.99) that may prove useful in some appraisal tasks.  Its main advantage, based on my use of the program, is the great degree of customization it allows to the interface.  It includes a built in image preview,and allows the user to identify default applications for auto viewing selected file types, without affecting windows file associations (shown here):

File Boss Autoviewer Configuration

Unfortunately, the setting up the associations can be complex, and the  implementation of this feature is a bit buggy.  Moving to a new file causes a slight delay.  A new window is opened for each file that is browsed, but the old window is not closed.  However, File Boss includes some other features that would make it an excellent appraisal tool, if you know clearly what you want to accomplish. For example, filters can be applied to folders, so that only files of a certain type are applied.  A duplicate finder is included, but I could not get it to work in a meaningful fashion, since it automatically hid 613 matched files, but provided no way for me to reveal them. It also includes a bulk renaming option, but I did not use it.  All in all, this program seems very powerful, but I would have to spend a great deal of time learning how to use it since the number of options an configuration settings provided is very large.  Finally, it seemed to slow my system down significantly when it was running–a problem that got marginally better once I closed the application.

  • Installation/supported platforms: 10/20
  • Functionality/Reliability 5/20
  • Usability 5/10
  • Scalability 2/10
  • Documentation: 4/10
  • Interoperability/Metadata support: 3/10  Cannot see reports feature
  • Flexibilty/Customizability: 5/10
  • License/Support/Community 7/10

Overall Ranking: 41


xplorer2 ($29.95) is a potentially very useful application for conducting rapid file appraisal, deletion and renaming.  The user interface is much cleaner than that of File Boss, and it includes a much better native file preview (“QuickView”), which will display text files (with a wide range of extensions), HTML/XML, Microsoft Office documents, PDF files (once an iFilter is installed), images, and even AV files in a draft preview mode, which loads instantaneously.  Files can also be easily and quickly launched to the native application (as defined by the windows file associations).  The automatic preview of video and audio is particularly useful

xplorer Interface w/ Quick View

xplorer has several other very useful features, including tools for folder synchronization and duplicate checking.  While the dup checker can quickly and easily find potential duplicates by comparing file name, size and other options, the checker froze when I tried to compare a large number of files using a checksum value (which can be displayed in a column.)  Furthermore, the duplicate checker does not make it easy to decide which of the located duplicates to discard, since the directory structure is flattened in the result window and the program automatically selects the duplicates that are lower in the directory structure for potential deletion (it would be nice if you could at least toggle an option to delete copies in ancestor or child folders.)  Here is a screenshot of the duplicate checker results:

Duplicate Checker Results in xplorer

Unfortunately, the only way to know for certain that two files are indeed duplicates is to do a very time consuming ‘contents’ descritption–the checksum that xplorer uses is not a foolproof guide that the files are identical, only similar, according to the documentation.  Nevertheless, the duplicate checker is useful–in my OIF test collection, if found 4,903 duplicate files, comprising 3.8 GB.)  xplorer’s folder statistics features is another useful feature, since it provides the essential properties of each folder and subfolder in a compact and clickable interface:

xPlorer Folder Stats

Very usefully, xplorer also includes a simply to use mass renaming feature and a filtering and search feature that allows you to apply a flexible set of filters and search criteria, across a folder and its subfolder.  The ‘hyperfilters’ as they are called, can be used to find and take action on all files of a certain type, such as video files (the list of extensions shown within a document class can be controlled only be editing a registry setting, as explained in the user manual, page 315)

Here is my overall assessment of xplorer2 as an appraisal tool.  Bottom line, the application is well worth paying the fee for the full version (although there is a slightly crippled free version available as well):

  • Installation/supported platforms: 17/20 windows only
  • Functionality/Reliability: 19/20
  • Usability: 9/10
  • Scalability: 8/10
  • Documentation: 6/10 manual is good but a bit hard to use since in pdf  or html format (I can’t recall which and trial period is over.).
  • Interoperability/Metadata support: 6/10
  • Flexibilty/Customizability: 9/10
  • License/Support/Community: 8/10 you pay for full version but free version is pretty good

Overall Ranking: 84

Other options

Other explorer replacements worth considering are UltraExplorer, Total Commander, and Universal Explorer (which appears to be no longer under active development), among others.  If you found any of these useful, please let me know.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at some specialized tools for profiling directories and files within them, such as tree browsers and duplicate finders.

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