Review: Multi Commander is a more powerful alternative to Windows Explorer

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Multi Commander

    PCWorld Rating

    Windows Explorer has not changed very much so functionality is limited. Multi Commander tries to remedy this by offering more options.

We’ve seen many versions of Windows, but one of the things that has barely changed is the Windows Explorer. We still have the same single folder view, and we still have minimal functionality. Multi Commander tries to replace this and add to it by offering features that Microsoft seems either unwilling or unable to give us by default.

There are two versions offered, a regular installable version and a portable version that requires no installation (although it is worth noting that the installable version can make a portable version for you, if you decide you want that later). Whichever one you choose, open it up and you will immediately see the difference between Multi Commander and your standard vanilla Explorer.

Multi Commander tries to distinguish itself from Windows Explorer by offering tabbed browsing, which can be dragged into a new side window for easier viewing.

For a start, tabs are supported, so you can open up multiple folders all at once (File>New>Explorer Panel). Those tabs which appear at the bottom of the window can then be dragged to the right hand window so you can view the folders and files more easily. This right away got me sold on Multi Commander. Why can’t Microsoft give us this at least? In the age of Firefox and Chrome, tabs are not too much to expect. Even Internet Explorer has tabs.

Another area where MC shines is its multi-view. You have two windows, and as you click on one folder, the contents of that folder are immediately viewable in the other window. This makes browsing multiple folders fast and effortless.

Other interesting features worth a mention include more convenient access to FTP servers, accessing and editing the Windows Registry, renaming multiple files simultaneously and toggling between drives using a hotkey (in fact hotkeys can be used for virtually any operation on Multi Commander). It even has its own zipping and unzipping feature if you have a ZIP file or a RAR file that you want opened.

One further interesting function is being able to shortcut file paths. So if you want to record the exact location of a file in your computer (such as C:\Mark\PCWorld\stories\multicommander.docx), you can press the appropriate button, and the file path will be copied to the clipboard for copying and pasting.

Two things which I think let the side down a bit. One is that, if you choose “thumbnail view” for your folders, they become really small. If you go into the settings and try to make them larger, nothing happens until you’ve tried several times. Then when you restart MC, you are back to miniscule little folders. So there’s a bug that needs to be squashed.

Another unique feature is the ability to view and edit the Windows registry from Multi Commander–something the standard Explorer fails to offer.

Secondly, if you decide that you want to use this as your standard Explorer client, there’s no way to force Windows to default to MC instead of the standard Explorer. Alternative apps for the Task Manager (such as Process Explorer) are able to do this, so it is technically possible to override standard Windows settings. It would be really nice just to be able to hit WIN + E and have Multi Commander start up.

Despite these two negatives, Multi Commander is a nice alternative to the standard Explorer, even more so when you can put it on a USB stick and use it on other computers without installing. One day, Microsoft will catch up and give us features like this by default, but until then, Multi Commander fills a need.

Note: The Download button on the Product Information page takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software appropriate to your system.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Windows Explorer has not changed very much so functionality is limited. Multi Commander tries to remedy this by offering more options.

    Pros

    • Ability to FTP & access Windows registry
    • Open tabs to have multiple folders open at the same time
    • Toggle between different drives with a hotkey

    Cons

    • Thumbnail view makes folders look miniscule
    • You have to change the settings several times for changes to take effect
    • Settings are lost when you restart
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