Reviewed by: Howard Carson, May 2004
Published by: SendPhotos, Inc.
Requires: Microsoft Windows 98 through Vista and 2003 Server; Microsoft Internet Explorer version 6 or higher, 40MB hard disk space
MSRP: $39.95

ExplorerPlus is a comprehensive suite of integrated Windows desktop, file access and file management tools which provides a large number of features and functions to help organize and manage folders, document files, digital photos, music files, web pages and just about everything else stored on your computer. The "suite" isn't composed of a bunch of separate modules - or at least it certainly doesn't look or feel like that. In fact, as you move from function to function ExplorerPlus is as seamless as Windows Explorer, just vastly more powerful.

"Yippee," you say in tones dripping with sarcasm, "another file management utility. Just what I need." Think again folks, because the file management utilities you've ignored (or occasionally glanced at) in the past are the file management utilities that could have saved you a lot of time and effort then and now. If you haven't looked seriously at any of the others, do yourself the favor of looking at ExplorerPlus. If this one doesn't please you, nothing will. To get yourself started after installing the demo version, all you have to do is start using the right-click context menu pop-up, one of the most robust and versatile implementations of this Windows operating system feature we've ever see. You can perform almost every primary ExplorerPlus function from the context menu. Right-click on anything displayed in ExplorerPlus and a context menu will pop up filled with a large range of selections which vary depending on what you've clicked. A lot of work went into this functionality and it's a genuine efficiency that saves time and effort.

Next best on the feature and function list has to be the built-in Dialog Tracker. While the most configurable implementation of this type of file & folder tracking function is the standalone AccessFolders from Shelltoys, Novatix' design is excellent. DialogTracker literally tracks the files and folders you access. No matter what program you're using, the Open, Save, or Save As dialogs will display a small group of three icons next to the Help and Close gadgets in the title bar. Clicking the Dialog Helper icons displays a list of files and folders you recently accessed, and by clicking one of them will take you directly to that file or location. No more clicking endlessly through drives, folders, network drives, network folders, etc., etc., to get at a file you accessed only a few minutes before. Very handy.

Another thing we really like about ExplorerPlus is its configurability. You can tweak almost every aspect of this utility, from its basic functionality and appearance to the many ways in which you can use and work with the program. It's not quite a desktop replacement for Windows, but for anyone who has to get in and out of lots of different files every day, using ExplorerPlus will help say goodbye to My Computer and Windows Explorer.

The rest of the feature and function list in ExplorerPlus is quite extensive. Display two folders or drives at the same time (dual pane view - horizontal or vertical) for really fast, efficient file copying, moving and management. We also liked the built-in file conversion feature, especially handy for image files. The built-in FTP module is simple and functional for quick uploads and downloads and you can set up and save a list of sites you regularly visit. The built-in MP3 player is the simplest possible thing - useful for quick song previews. The file viewer is one of the best we've seen in this sort of situation and we couldn't stump it even with some older Lotus 123 and WordPro files. Another feature which has appeared on many people's radar lately is the ability to perform multiple file renames, especially useful for all the digital camera owners out there who are struggling to organize and rename long lists of sequentially numbered files.

ExplorerPlus includes a file synchronization feature for all of us poor and downtrodden citizens forced to shuttle work between home and office. In conjunction with file synchronization, you can also use the little encryption function to restrict access to files on your computer or removable drives. And if you're afraid of forgetting what the files were for in the first place, you can always use ExplorerPlus to add notes to files, something which is often much handier than creating a separate ReadMe file to describe the contents of a folder.

ExplorerPlus is developed by SendPhotos, Inc. (formerly Novatix), the same gang who develops the fabulous SendPhotos Gold e-mail software. The company seems to have brought the same thoughtful attention to user friendliness and design to ExplorerPlus. The program competes directly with some heavy-hitters in the Windows file management segment including Christian Ghisler's TotalCommander and V-Com's PowerDesk, Clear & Simple's DiskJockey 2000, PentaWare's PentaSuite 7 and a variety of lesser lights, but ExplorerPlus is clearly just as powerful, has a slightly larger feature set than all of them and a much better looking user interface. Did we mention the right-click context menus?

Cons: Some minor screen redraw problems in the Search dialog - the file extension column was messed up after resizing the column while a search was underway. It appeared to have picked up text from the file name column next to it and didn't redraw properly until the search activity stopped. It's a fairly common problem with many utilities. DialogHelper is not fully configurable - you can't save a set of regularly accessed files and folders - and we're seriously considering howling at Novatix to add this functionality. It would really help to put ExplorerPlus over the top.

Pros: Great looking user interface. Excellent search function with quick searches for files and text within files using FastFind. Search with or without wildcards, across multiple drives and even across networked or shared drives, using a wide range of built-in file filters and attributes. The Tools menu contains one-click links to Windows Add/Remove Programs, disk formatting (floppy and HDD). Powerful file viewer which includes about 200 different document and image formats as well as an Adobe PDF file plug-in. It's possible to create extremely detailed displays: dual pane with folder view in one pane and detailed view in the other plus thumbnails plus full image/document view all at the same time. Speedy file archiver for ZIP, RAR, LHA, CAB, TAR and all other popular file compression formats. Highly configurable functionality and user interface - customizable. DialogHelper keeps a separate list of file and folder accesses for every program, a thoughtful and useful feature. ExplorerPlus is also stable - no crashes, no lockups, no accidents in the weeks we used the software for this review. We're still using it by the way; definitely a keeper. Recommended.




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