Zabkat xplorer2 review

£20
Price when reviewed

The market for Windows Explorer replacements is getting decidedly crowded. Hot on the heels of Directory Opus 8 comes xplorer2. But where Opus replaces Explorer and pops up when you open My Computer, you have to do some manual Registry edits to achieve the same in xplorer2.

Zabkat xplorer2 review

Sadly, it doesn’t share all of Opus’ features either. Word files don’t preview as you’d expect; it’s happy enough to reveal the contents of a common RTF, but DOC files are rendered as hex unless you tell Word to save previews along with the words themselves, bulking up the size of each file. Nor do PDFs preview, and we found no way to predict which Photoshop files would show as an image and which as the underlying code.

It’s not entirely accurate when reporting the size of a network drive either. Our personal share on a 200GB server somehow had 300.2GB free in the eyes of xplorer2, and connecting to a dead link in My Network Places was enough to freeze it entirely. Opus, on the other hand, always gave us a handy button to abort.

But there’s an even easier way to lock yourself out. Every time we copied a well-stuffed folder, our attempts to open other directories were ignored until it had finished writing the files. With folders full of photos, this was sometimes several minutes later.

However, there are good points, such as the option to open multiple folders on separate tabs, much like the browser tabs in Firefox. Also handy are the so-called ‘scrap containers’ that act as temporary repositories for search results, random file collections and complex directory structures you want to flatten for simple navigation. They’re a kind of digital jotter xplorer2 uses for file-based notes that you then screw up and throw out.

Perhaps smartest of all, though, is the ability to search using metadata. So if you’ve extended Windows Explorer to interrogate the ID3 tags on your MP3s, you can tell xplorer2 to hunt out music from a specific year or tracks with a certain bit rate.

There are some nifty features in xplorer2. You learn to like it more the longer you live with it. However, with Opus racing so far ahead, the only way we can recommend it is if Opus’ £35 ticket is beyond your budget. In which case, xplorer2’s £14 tag will do much to overcome its quirks.

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