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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fast Commander 1.1 for OS X -Rock-Solid program for simple needs

I recently reviewed the 1.0 version of Fast Commander. I didn’t give it a fair review. The developer, Mr. Piotr Zagawa, contacted me and offered me a free license to try out the latest version 1.1.

First, I’d like to show you pictures of Norton Commander 3.0 for MS-DOS, which in its day answered the prayers of many DOS users.

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This is a shot I took of Norton Commander running under the Command Prompt on my Windows XP machine. Note the bottom menu, which shows the key assignments before holding down the Alt (Option) key.


This screenshot shows Norton Commander with the Alt key pressed down. The function keys change their assignments.

For instance, if your DOS machine’s graphics card supported it, you could display 43 lines of text in EGA (Enhanced Graphics Array) mode. You could also edit text files with the Alt-F4 key invoking an internal editor. You could also view Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet files and WordPerfect 5.1 files. In 1990, this was the state of the art.

Norton Commander worked so well that many users wanted to use it with succeeding operating systems. Every dual-pane file manager in use today, whether for Windows, Linux, or OS X, can trace its heritage back to Norton Commander for DOS.

Which brings me to Fast Commander 1.1. I admit I was too harsh on it in its 1.0 incarnation. But I do feel you’ll want to augment it in the future with more Mac features.

Fast Commander is designed for those who prefer to use the keyboard and function keys instead of the mouse & trackpad. I could not copy or move a file from one pane to the other using my mouse. On the other hand, it’s dead simple to select multiple items by pressing the Space Bar to select them and then pressing the F5 key to copy them to the other directory.






Using the Function Keys is a feature copied from Norton Commander. I would like Fast Commander to include each Function Key next to the toolbar icon so that you don’t have to refer back to the File menu. Of course, if you came from Norton Commander, you probably have those Function Key assignments in your muscle memory.

In the meantime, you can use your mouse or trackpad with the clearly marked icons in the top toolbar.


Fast Commander does NOT make use of Quick Look; opting for its own View option. It displays PDF’s and JPEGs and PNGs in native format. You can copy from the Viewer window to another program, but no option to open a file immediately in Preview is available.

Fast Commander only shows locally attached drives and not network drives. If you have a NAS attached to your system as a central repository for music and media, you can’t access it from Fast Commander.

If you need access to the Finder, though, just hold down the Control + F keys to bring up the Mac’s Finder.

No Help is available. You have to either remember Norton Commander commands or learn on your own.


Fast Commander is a faithful homage to Norton Commander. It borrows many of Norton’s best features, such as using the same set of Function Key commands for copying and moving files from one folder to another.

In its file manipulation functions, it is not particularly mouse & trackpad friendly. You can use the mouse & trackpad to select the copy, move, make directory (folder), delete, compress and change permission icons across the top toolbar, though.


It does not make use of OS X’s built-in Spotlight search or QuickLook view, relying instead on its built-in search feature (Control + S) and View feature for PDF, JPEG, and PNG. It displays any text as a raw file and not formatted.

Let me state, though, that this program did not display any instabilities. It DID NOT CRASH at any time, as too many 1.1 versions will do. It displayed rock-solid reliability.

So who can I recommend this program to? If you’ve just come from the Windows world and want familiar looking programs, then I heartily recommend this program. If you have to move or copy a lot of files, this program would suit your purpose.

If you use the plain vanilla Finder and want something fancier, though; this isn’t for you. It lacks tabs across the top of each pane, which 10.9 Mavericks will bring to the Finder this fall. If you like the Finder’s sidebar, you will grow frustrated at Fast Commander’s inability to quickly access another drive or folder with just a mouse click

So I give a conditional Thumbs Up for this app for those of you coming from a Windows XP or MS-DOS background. You’ll find a stepping stone to the Mac here. It’s rock-solid reliable, if lacking the fancy features of other Mac file management programs.


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