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Is it because webbrosers bring money while file managers don't?

Is it because current file managers are just great and do the work?

Why practically none of the alternate file managers for various platforms haven't become mainstream.

Think about IE4 and WindowsExplore back in '95, they were practically the same thing

Now, we have new serious contenders ( such as Firefox and Chrome ) that are pulling IE8 in the shape it has. While the WindowsExplorer is pretty much the same old thing.


Something I really really hate from most file manager is that I have to "click" too much to get into a folder which is too deep in the file system.

Of course I could be more organized, but, why is it faster for me to go to than to c:\Users\oreyes\some\folder\with\some\other\path\superuser.txt?

( in Google Chrome I just type F6 + S + u + Enter )

Something is wrong here. I could create shortcuts, but again, it doesn't scale. I think file managers could do a better job.

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Does 'evolutionated' mean "evolved as far as" here? – Telemachus Jul 17 '09 at 23:30
@Telemachus: Yeap :P I guess it is better now :-S – OscarRyz Jul 17 '09 at 23:35
@Oscar: we're making progress. I think even better might be "Why haven't file managers improved as much as browsers?" or "Why haven't file managers evolved as much as web browsers?" – Telemachus Jul 17 '09 at 23:38
I like the first better. – OscarRyz Jul 17 '09 at 23:42
I would flag this as a CW since it is a subjective topic. – BinaryMisfit Jul 18 '09 at 12:34

10 Answers 10

up vote 4 down vote accepted

File Manager tightly represent the underlying file system model of the operating system. You may remember, Windows Vista in the early Longhorn development period presented another pillar called WinFS, a re-thinking of how file systems should work to make it easier for users to find/locate their files and material without having to worry too much where exactly they are stored. Just query the database for it, was the basic premise.

This drastic re-engineering got so complex that it ultimately got cut-out, to give it time to propely mature and stabilise for a much later version of Windows (certainly not in Windows 2008 or 7). How to abstract all these to make it look like a traditional NTFS system so we don't have to re-engineer all our applications and programs that only "believe" in old-school file systems, that is a monumental problem indeed.

Once this type of file system is in place, you can expect a paradigm shift to take place with the UI design of the "file manager".

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mmmmhh interesting. – OscarRyz Jul 18 '09 at 2:44

File Managers have changed. I have Windows XP, Vista and 7 machines in my house, and use Windows 98 (shudder) quite regularly. There has been a massive improvement in Windows Explorer throughout all of them. XP saw 'Common Tasks' (or whatever it is called) brought to a little sidebar thingy, allowing for quick and easy actions (such as extracting a zip archive, which Explorer has evolved to handle natively, or burn a CD), Vista had the built in (improved) search and a better sidebar thingy for quick shortcuts around the file system. Windows 7 has even more great improvements with better search, a better sidebar, Libraries and all sorts of goodies. I am sure if you looked you would notice a drastic change and improvement has Explorer got older.

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I have to admit the difference between Windows Vista/7 over XP/2000/98/95/3.11!! :) which were pretty much the same. Still why they don't have tabbed windows as it should be!! :) – OscarRyz Jul 18 '09 at 2:46
Once again, Windows 7 has just finished the job and made the 'improvements' from Windows Vista more polished and refined. I find Explorer in Vista unusable, whereas Explorer in 7 is excellent. – Josh Hunt Jul 18 '09 at 3:18

Is it because webbrosers bring money while file managers don't?

File managers don't bring money. What do you think people use in their everyday work to manipulate files ?

Try making a windows installation without internet explorer, and without windows explorer. Then you'll see by the outcry which "makes more money".

Is it because current file managers are just great and do the work? Why practically none of the alternate file managers for various platforms haven't become mainstream.

  • because they're used by a small percentage (0,0xx%) of people, compared to the people using windows explorer.
  • most people (corporate users, most home users) - don't customize their file manager
  • windows explorer does the job nicely

Think about IE4 and WindowsExplore back in '95, they were practically the same thing

  • IE was developed as a completely different product; and in '95 (and even before, while windows explorer was developed) nobody knew Internet would become what it has become

Now, we have new serious contenders ( such as Firefox and Chrome ) that are pulling IE8 in the shape it has. While the WindowsExplorer is pretty much the same old thing.

Well, are you missing something from it ? Apart from a few little details, which I even wouldn't say they're worth complaining for, it does the job quite nicely.

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1. Well, we don't buy a computer "for" the file manager do we? I mean, it would be disastrous not having it installed by default, but that doesn't make it good. 2. Yes, "regular" people don't install/update/customize it's software, yet, Firefox has 22% market share. 3. Windows Explorer does the job nicely is like saying we should be still using IE6. I mean, it did the job nicely. Run javascript, display images, supported plugins, but definitely it can be improved it may be we cannot see it ( or nobody cares ) – OscarRyz Jul 17 '09 at 23:51
1. Yes we do. We buy a computer so we can manipulate files on it, as one of the first functions of any OS. 2. Firefox has 22% market share in the number of Internet users - and a lot of computers never go near the internet. However, quite a lot of computers require file manipulation as a function. 3. I didn't understand your meaning in the 3rd point. Displaying images however is not a function of a file manager (some text editors have tetris on it; doesn't mean all should have it) ... same goes for javascript and plugins. For file manipulation I can name only one drawback of – Rook Jul 18 '09 at 0:37
windows explorer ... not being able to change file extensions. – Rook Jul 18 '09 at 0:38
Apart from all already mentioned, windows explorer is also a shell, in the windows operating system. I do not know all the technical details, but not once it was mentioned that replacing it would not be a trivial task. – Rook Jul 18 '09 at 0:39
@Oscar Reyes: I use KDE for the file manager, and indirectly Linux, too. And I do agree with ldigas, Windows Explorer gets the job done...I still think it could do a couple extra things without getting in the way of Joe Websurfer, though. – Nikhil Chelliah Jul 18 '09 at 0:56

What features are you missing from most file managers? File managers are pretty simple and most of them get the job done well enough for 99% of the people.

Web browsers evolve because the web evolves. File systems haven't evolved much for many years, so the file managers don't evolve much either.

I've been perfectly happy with Konqueror for years now.

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For instance Konqueror used in more that the current 0.05% of the computers?? ( granted KDE is used in 50% of Linux installations ) – OscarRyz Jul 17 '09 at 23:33
+1: Konqueror/Dolphin is fantastic. Tree view, double pane, embedded console, (S)FTP...and all with a pretty slick interface. Not much more you could ask for. Now, if the question is why Windows (or even Mac) filesystem browsers haven't been improving...well, that beats me. – Nikhil Chelliah Jul 18 '09 at 0:53

My company provides a Macbook for me to work on. Prior to that, I've used Linux systems (laptops and desktops) for my primary workstation. I manipulate files in a variety of non-GUI ways:

  • Shell and Ruby scripts
  • Git repositories
  • Plain ol' command shell

For my Windows systems of which I have two, most of my file manipulation is through Windows Media Center, iTunes, and through a bash prompt on the Linux file server where most of my data is stored.

I have heard great things about Windows PowerShell, but I haven't sat down to learn it myself. I'm surprised there aren't more questions here about it.

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I endup using the command shell too much because I find it faster at for some operations. On both Windows and OSX. – OscarRyz Jul 18 '09 at 1:29
PowerShell is a programming environment, so you'll find more questions about it at Stack Overflow. That, and the fact that this is only a semi-public beta reduces the number of Powershell questions asked here. – Cristián Romo Jul 18 '09 at 3:08

Most people spend a lot more time in their browser than in their filemanager.

Apart from that google search money paid for Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome.

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Wakoopa says file managers are in the top 10 applications used ( Windows Explorer is the most used applications according to them ) – OscarRyz Aug 25 '09 at 16:44

Windows Explorer is like Notepad. A simple tool that allows to get a simple job done. No need to make it fancier.

For real work I use Total Commander. Two-pane view plus individual tabbing functionality in each doesnt get any better.

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Windows explorer is nowhere near Notepad, in terms of simplicity. It's just you don't see all the background work. – Rook Jul 17 '09 at 23:43
Notepad is fine for simple jobs, but how many jobs are simple? – Umber Ferrule Aug 4 '09 at 18:31
Notepad is fine for complex coding, it's only the UI and featureset that's simple about it. – Phoshi Sep 1 '09 at 9:37

There's a lot that's about to change in that field, I think.

With the rise of Web2.0 and (public) cloud computing, the focus has been moved towards 'personal content' and how you interact with it.

Operating systems have been working with this since ages (remember BeOS? and the file-attributes system?) but all provided ways-of-thinking and methods you would have to find your way in, get around with. Now with Web2.0 websites, the properties and attributes of the content take front stage and are used to create an intuitive and friendly interface, specialized to one or more types of content (flickr, youtube, google docs, facebook, etc.) and take care of storing, naming, indexing, sorting the items for you.

In a way 'file management' is kind of on its way out and 'content management' provides any and all things you did with creating folders and archives before. (Complete with a side-bar of adverts)

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If you are talking about UI improvement, I see no major change in browser design too. Still buttons and textbox (another one for search or one big integrated do-it-all box) since the very first version of Netscape Navigator. Minor things like shortcuts in your example do make our life easier but they are just same old tricks seen in many file managers (not natively built in OS though.)

Tabs are new and implemented in browser first because it's a highly competitive piece of software right now. Surely it will be integrated into a new file manager soon enough, probably in Chrome OS.

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@puri: Probably you're using IE8. :) – OscarRyz Sep 1 '09 at 14:31
I am usually on a mac machine, but, come on, IE8 is good. Browsers are like religions nowadays. – puri Sep 1 '09 at 15:56

I suspect that many people looking for more advanced file managers eventually turn to the command line. Does bash/zsh + coreutils count as an advanced file manager?

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