A look at Web Browsers and File Managers

A good Web Browser and File Manager can save you a lot of time. Today, I evaluated new programs for Windows in order to get a little bit more efficient.

Web Browsers

I have dumped Internet Explorer (IE) the moment I installed Windows XP. Its user interface is really out-dated, so no more comments on this. The rendering engine, however, seems really fast, although from the view of a Web developer I nightmare to support.

My all-time favorite is the commercial NetCaptor (v7.5.1). It has the IE engine under the hood but provides very useful features, such as tabbed browsing, bookmark groups (called CaptorGroups), mouse gestures, URL aliases (e.g. “g” for google search; the search terms are inserted into the URL through the “%s” parameter in the alias definition). OK, this is now also all available in some other browsers (Opera, but not Mozilla and Firefox). But still, NetCaptor has it all simply done right – just the way I like it. And it has a lot of small, useful features everywhere you look. For example, you can

  • move tabs to other positions
  • have tabs in multiple lines
  • close them by double clicking
  • have them opened next to the current tab
  • activate/deactive JavaScript and ActiveX with one mouse click etc.

Next comes Mozilla 1.7. I actually used only the mail client for IMAP. (I have dumped my beloved TheBat! a year ago since it didn’t support IMAP nicely then; now it does, but too late for me.) Compared with NetCaptor, Mozilla felt heavy-weight and missed a lot of my beloved features out-of-the-box. Thus in daily use I only start the web browser to verify sites I developed.

Two weeks ago I also dumped the Mozilla mail client and switched to Mozilla Thunderbird. It’s actually nearly the same, but differs in some details. (Tip: You can also copy your Mozilla profile, see the Mozilla FAQ.) But most importantly, it does not have the annoying bug I found in Mozilla mail: nested IMAP folders (2+ levels) are not displayed. Thunderbird loads quickly and is really nice and slick. One feature I miss, though, (and what TheBat! always had) is to minimize it into the desktop tray. Another missing one is support for multiple signatures (e.g. depending on recipient properties), or even better, parameterized mail templates.

Mozilla Firefox 0.9 was released lately, so I gave it a try. Is it better than NetCaptor? Well, feature-wise they both are nearly equal, but I had to install and configure a lot of Extensions:

Additionally, the “Web Developer” extension is a must-have for all, well, Web developers. I also installed a new theme “Noia 2.0 (eXtreme)” and dumped the boring standard theme. But still, Firefox takes a little more time to start, and the Web search is simply not as good, since you have to select the engine manually. Compare this to NetCaptor (and Opera etc): here you simply type e.g. “g mozilla” in the location bar and voila. Another thing I don’t like is the slow speed of mouse wheel motion (press middle button and move up- or downwards). It takes seconds to get to the top or bottom. (I have searched but it seems there is no possibility to jump there by mouse gesture.)

I also installed Opera 7.5.1. It’s really good looking, has a great user interface and is very slick. I think it is actually equal to NetCaptor, out-of-the-box (ignoring additional tools like the download manager). Being equal I think I’ll stick to NetCaptor for a while and gradually move over to Opera. (One sidenote: the IMAP client in Opera is bad and misses a lot of features that Thunderbird/Mozilla etc had for years, so again, I would use only part of the software.)

File Managers

Windows Explorer is what I used before. It’s OK, sometimes I wished for a better navigation, mouse gestures etc. So, yesterday I installed and tried a lot of the alternatives (free and commercial) including all *Commander (* = EF, AB, Speed, Total), ExplorerPlus etc.

The result: I’ll stick to Windows Explorer. The reason? All of the alternatives are either simply bloated, offer a stupid and fixed two-window layout, have no “undo” for file operations (whow, how can this be ignored?), are high-priced or crash here and then. Two explorer alternatives were really nice and I’ll watch their future development:

  • FileAnt is a minimalistic explorer. What is really nice is that you can have two folder views side by side with each side having as many tabs as you like (as in in tabbed browsing, but folders instead of pages). The third column is the desktop hierarchy. FileAnt has a minimal editor and multimedia preview. And also offers fast navigations through several means (right click, click in blank area etc.) But… it’s shareware, has no “undo” for file operations and a very annoying bug: playing a movie with the buildin player can only be stopped by quitting FileAnt!
  • xplorer2 is also very slick, and very powerful w.r.t. to file operations, selections and searching. The downside is the price of $19 for the pro edition. I would buy it if it would offer an “undo” for file operations.

I really don’t understand why “undo” is missing in nearly every explorer product. This is a lot more useful than a preview or a rename tool!!!!!

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