The normal way to manage files is with the Windows File Explorer. Microsoft has improved it with each release of Windows. There are alternatives to the File Explorer that can be used in its place, and Directory Opus, by GPSoftware is the best file manager that I have seen on either Windows, Macintosh, or Linux.
Getting & Installing Directory Opus
Click the Directory Opus banner, above, to get a copy of the program. A single copy costs $49.00 for a single-machine license. The price schedule shows prices for more machines. Note that all prices at that page are given in Australian dollars. If you’re not sure about buying the program outright, then you can get a trial version that is fully-functional for sixty days. A trial period of that length is very generous. Most programs that even have a trial period usually last for thirty days. Another program that I’m reviewing has a trial period of just fifteen days. Kudos to GPSoftware for their generosity.
The installation process will ask several questions. Opus has a lot of functionality and takes the place of several utilities. The developers do not believe in the Unix philosophy. Not surprising since it started as a utility for the venerable Amiga. Opus can act as a replacement for the File Explorer, it can open picture and music files, and it can even act as an FTP client. In each case, choose the default option and let Opus show you everything that it can do.
Help & Support
Online help is excellent. Press F1 to bring up the native Help viewer. Directory Opus does not send the user to a site on the Internet, but has included full help files with the installation. Thank you GPSoftware, for not being lazy.
If you need more support, then you’ll have to open an account with their support forum. Be sure to search the FAQ before you post a question. At first, I was annoyed with having to set up yet another account in order to get help with an application, but the kind folks at GPSoftware have changed my mind. I received an answer to my question within half an hour of posting my request for help. Using the help forum was as fast and as good as getting personalized help via e-mail.
I’d like to give special thanks to a support tech named “leo” on the support forums. I ran into a bug that crashed Directory Opus more than twice. I posted my question and leo pointed to the solution in less than an hour. It turned out that the fault lay in a third-party application that had messed up the Explorer context menu. This bug had bedeviled me for a while, making Windows Explorer crash every once a while whenever I right-clicked on the desktop. Thanks, leo.
Using Directory Opus
After several days of using Opus, I have yet to find an appreciable feature of Windows File Explorer which it lacks. I’ve gotten used to the way that Explorer does things, of course, but finding the analogous feature in Opus has always been a matter of just looking for a minute or three. In the process of searching, however, I have found so much that Opus does better than Explorer or that Explorer does not do at all. Not only that (as though that weren’t enough) but Opus has been so well-designed that finding these features is easy and easily rediscoverable.
Each instance of Directory Opus shown on the screen is called a “lister.” Each lister shows the file system in a two-pane view similar to Norton Commander. To the left of those panes is a tree view of the file system. At the bottom of each file view pane is at least one tab followed by a “+” symbol. Clicking on that symbol will create a new tab, duplicating the contents of that tab. Using tabs, you can see keep track of many parts of the file system simultaneously without cluttering up the Windows task bar with windows.
Near the top right corner of the lister is a button (whose function can also be accessed via Ctrl-Shift-A) which will temporarily elevate your permissions when invoked. This way, you can perform multiple protected actions without UAC getting in your way each time. It’s little conveniences like this that make Directory Opus a joy to use and kept making me say, over and over, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Directory Opus is so good that the few annoyances really stand out, yet only serve to show how small they are in comparison to all the other things that Opus can do. The few annoyances I had relate to keyboard shortcuts. Directory Opus’ implementation of CUA keybindings is a bit idiosyncratic.
The F6 key does not cycle through screen elements. Instead, it closes one of the file panes. Very irritating when that pane had several tabs. Of course, that serves to show just how nifty that tabs feature really is.
The Ctrl-D shortcut is supposed to highlight the address bar according to the CUA standard. In Opus, it marks a directory as a favorite.
Instead of closing a window (“lister,” that is), the Ctrl-Q shortcut opens the included FTP program.
Of course, hotkeys can be customized by clicking on the Settings toolbar and then choosing the Keys tab after clicking on the Customize Toolbars item. So these annoyances are not big deals.
As I wrote in the beginning of this review, Directory Opus is the best file manager and file explorer that I have ever used on Windows, the Macintosh, or Unix. Did I mention that it sync pictures with Flickr? Or that it can upload images to ImageShack? The developer has thought of everything. Directory Opus is worth every penny.