In Windows 11, Microsoft improved File Explorer with a simplified toolbar, redesigned icons, and color-coded folders, but you can do better. You can get tags, tabs (which Microsoft says will come to File Explorer in a later update), and other conveniences using a third-party File Explorer replacement.
Windows 11 File Explorer
One important thing to note is that although we call them “File Explorer replacements”, the standard File Explorer remains available after you install one. The new software box be set by default, although this requires registry changes.
Should You Replace Windows 11 File Explorer?
While replacing File Explorer might improve your productivity or just provide a more enjoyable experience, the downside is that you don’t get the standard system that other Windows 11 users have. I personally use File Explorer. stock files for this reason and I’m a fan of its quick access feature. However, most replacements work as wrappers around File Explorer to add functionality and modify the experience. You don’t risk much by trying them, as some File Explorer replacements are free and others are inexpensive.
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All of these File Explorer alternatives add tabs; some also add easier tagging, folder creation, double panes, and encryption. Some give you a column view like this in the macOS Finder. If these improvements interest you, read on to find out what each of the best File Explorer replacements has to offer.
Files (which appears as “Files App” in the App Store) is an excellent, popular, free and open-source replacement for Windows 11 File Explorer. You can get it in three ways: download it directly from the Microsoft Store app where it won a Best App Award(Opens in a new window)download it from the organization’s website or get its source code from GitHub.
The Files app uses the same new icons that arrived with Windows 11 and adds tabs and an experimental markup feature that you can enable for folders and files. Choose a design theme for additional customization. The files allow you to use a Mac Finder-like column layout or a dual-pane view. Like the stock explorer, Files App works with cloud storage services like OneDrive (default) and Google Drive, and it can preview and unzip files. The program is often updated with new features, such as the recent Compact mode.
One Commander was a finalist at the Microsoft Store App Awards. It’s free, with a Pro version available for $24 for professional use. One Commander offers dual-pane navigation, tabs, column navigation, tags (including color tags), editable themes, and built-in preview, among other features. When you first install One Commander, you have the choice of whether to layout and whether or not to calculate the size of the folder contents, which increases CPU usage, but is great for people who are usage conscious disk space.
Each panel can have multiple tabs, and you can stack panels vertically or use a horizontal layout. When exploring a folder structure, the previous folder columns collapse with small labels, such as C:, Users, Documents, etc. You can choose between the new standard Windows 11 colored folder icons and the flat, line-drawn ones. The program has a multitude of settings for detailed configuration. A portable option can be installed from a USB stick to any folder, allowing you to move your settings to another PC.
RX Explorer is one of the most distinctive options for a file explorer substitute, with a photo background and tabs. The paid version ($2.49) gives you a lot more than the free version, including a vertical split view. Along with its nice look, RX Explorer offers a locked secure area with AES encryption, a quick start panel for frequently used apps, and QuickLook file viewer support. If you are a Fluent Design system geek, you can even choose if you want Acrylic or mica material(Opens in a new window) for the background.
Another Microsoft Store award runner-up, Shrestha Files Pro X offers multiple tabs, two panes, editable bookmarks for folders, and custom color themes. During setup, it walks you through a tooltip wizard tutorial showing you how to use it. Dual pane mode can split windows vertically or horizontally, and you can drag tabs in both like in a web browser. However, this option does not provide a macOS-like view with columns. That said, this is one of the simplest and easiest looking File Explorer replacements listed here.