One of the most frustrating things about Windows File Explorer is that you can’t have different folders open in separate tabs. It’s a great all-around solution to save time and declutter your desktop, but Windows has historically been against the change.
In 2019, Microsoft added the “Sets” tab management feature to Windows 10, but they soon removed the feature for good. So, what are your options? This article will share eight of the best Windows 10 file management tools that enable tabs in File Explorer.
XYplorer is often cited as one of the best File Explorer alternatives and has been around for over 20 years. One of the benefits of XYplorer is that it’s an entirely portable app requiring no installation. This means you can transport it on a USB drive and quickly access it on any computer.
Besides a tabbed browser, XYplorer offers several functions, including an advanced search, a customizable interface, dual pane view, and support for scripts. XYplorer also has a very clean, modern UI and is easy to use. The latest version (22.50.0100) supports Windows Server 2003 to Windows 11.
XYplorer is available as a 30-day free trial, and the full version has a one-time fee of $39.95.
2. Total Commander
Total Commander is probably the most well-known file manager for Windows and has been around for around the same time as XYplorer. It even has an Android version.
Total Commander offers several features that users find helpful, including a dual-pane view, an enhanced search function, a tabbed interface, and several tools for organizing and synchronizing directories. The downside is that Total Commander has an old-looking UI that’s cluttered and relatively confusing.
Total Commander version 10.00 is downloadable as a 5MB executable file and supports all versions of Windows up to Windows 11 (32-bit and 64-bit). Total Commander offers a functional demo of the program, which lasts for 30 days, then it must be registered. A lifetime registration costs approximately $42.00.
3. Directory Opus
Directory Opus has support from Windows Server 2003 to Windows 11. Its features are similar to Total Commander and XYplorer, including a dual-pane, tabbed interface, multiple customizations, powerful searching, support for various file types and archives, and a portable USB version.
Directory Opus has two versions: Directory Opus Light ($40.00) and Directory Opus Pro ($70.00). The Light version includes all the features a home user needs, while the Pro edition contains highly configurable and much more complex functionalities. For the Pro version, dual and five computer licenses are also available at additional cost. Directory Opus also offers a 60-day free trial.
While the first three apps in this list are standalone file managers, QTTabBar is an addition to File Explorer. Beyond a tabbed interface, it also supports plugins, scripting, and limited customizations.
To activate QTTabBar, download and install the program from their official download page. Next, open File Explorer and select the View tab.
Then, select Options and click QTTabBar.
You will now have access to tabs in the normal Windows File Explorer.
QTTabBar is free donationware available for Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, and 11.
5. Altap Salamander
Atlap Salamander is another free two-panel file manager for Windows. It looks similar to Total Commander, though much more modern, and has all the necessary features a light user would require.
Atlap stands out from its alternatives because it features a handful of networking features, including FTP, FTPS, SCP, and SCFP protocol support. It also integrates with a password manager and provides the option to encrypt files.
Atlap Salamander is a freeware that supports Windows 10, 8.1, and 7 (32-bit and 64-bit).
6. Free Commander
Free Commander is a great free alternative to some of the paid file managers we’ve listed. It has a stack of features, including a tabbed dual-pane interface, an optional tree view, a built-in file viewer, and much more.
Free Commander’s straightforward interface resembles Total Commander or Atlap Salamander but is much cleaner. It takes a simple approach to adding features to Windows File Explorer without confusing elements that most people wouldn’t use.
Free Commander is entirely free, portable, and supports Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10 in 32-bit or 64-bit.
Explorer++ is another free tabbed interface file manager designed to increase your productivity in Windows without using system resources. It’s portable, lightweight, and effortless. It largely resembles File Explorer but has more features.
If you’re looking for a file manager that’s simply a more advanced File Explorer, this is the choice for you. It doesn’t have as many functions and customizations as other options on this list, but it’s a great introduction to file managers.
Since it’s entirely portable, Explorer++ is available for all versions of Windows. It’s also completely free.
8. Double Commander
Last but not least, we have Double Commander. Like Free Commander, Double Commander is a free and entirely open-source mimic of the original Total Commander.
If the UI of the alternatives wasn’t for you, Double Commander might be the right choice. It has all the necessary features, including a two-pane view, built-in file viewer, archive support, an extended search function, and support for commands and plug-ins.
The most recent version is multi-platform and should work on all current versions of Windows, including Windows 10 and Windows 11. Double Commander also offers a portable version.
A New Level of Productivity
To the dismay of many users, File Explorer has remained essentially unchanged throughout the years. So if you’re looking for a file manager that can provide the features neglected by Windows Explorer, hopefully this list will help you decide.
Do you use a different file manager? Let us know in the comments!