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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Commander One is the best answer for a free dual-pane file manager

I have decided that the only free two pane file manager for OS X that makes the best sense to acquire is Commander One. You can try out the pro features for 15 days, upgrade for $29.99 if you so desire; but in any case you’ll have a useful addition to your utility apps.


I have tried out many dual-pane file managers, paid to begin with and free with paid upgrade, and Commander One works the best of the free with paid upgrade lot. 



What’s in a name?


Commander One, like all file management apps with the word “Commander” in their name, owe a debt to Peter Norton’s classic MS-DOS file program, Norton Commander of the 1980’s and 1990’s. They have borrowed some or all of the function key assignments (Figure 1) with the most commonly used placed right out front to remind you. 


Screen Shot of Commander One


Commander One has a wealth of other keyboard shortcuts. Go to the Preferences under the Commander One menu item to the Hotkeys (Figure 2) to list a thorough list of all of them. The window only shows part of the list at one time. Scroll up and down through it to see all the assignments


Partial list of keyboard shortcuts


You’ll use the Preview function and the Edit function frequently. Under the General section of Preferences, you can change the default editor from Text-Edit to another editor, such as the free Text Wrangler,  in your Applications folder. As for viewing files, you can choose between the internal viewer, OS X’s Quick Look, or go for the full Preview app. (Figure 3)



Assign viewer and editor


Handy Toolbar icons


You will notice several icons in the toolbar above the two panes. You have easy access to several functions through these.


All the upper toolbar icons


At the upper left-hand corner, the right and left arrows let you cycle through the folders you have recently looked at. 


To the right of the arrows, you see three buttons for choosing how your files and folders display. You can choose between the full file name and description with the left-most button, just the file names displayed in up to three columns with the middle button. Finally, the right-most button lets you choose an icon view of your files and folders. 


File presentation style icons


In the upper center of Commander One, you see four buttons. The left-most gives you the option to see your otherwise hidden files by clicking on the button to move the virtual switch to the right. 


Four Middle icons


The next one to the right gives you information on the file. 


The next one to the right gives you a Quick Look preview of your file’s content. It gives you the option to use a more powerful app to edit the file, too.


Finally, the one at the right-hand side gives you the Search box. Not the Spotlight search, but Commander One’s internal search.


Over to the right you see two more icons. The first one, which shows a zippered object, gives you the Archive function. This will let you select how much compression you want to apply to a file or files on the fly. You can also choose to encode it with a password. 



Archive and Network Access icons


The icon of the folder attached to a pipeline gives you access to a variety of remote file access options, such as Microsoft’s OneDrive and Dropbox. Curiously, no mention is made of iCloud, but you have access to that through the Finder. 


What about the Help?


When you access the Help, Commander One uses your default Web browser to take you to Eltima’s Web site for the latest information. This way, you can rest assured you have the latest Help files at your disposal.


Should I get the PRO Pack?


You have to determine your needs in that regard. Commander One gives you 15 days to try out the Pro features for free to see if you need them. They charge $29.99 for the Pro Pack. 


One word of caution: You should get Commander One through Eltima’s Web site rather than the Mac App Store. I say that because apps sold on the Mac App Store must use sandboxing to isolate them. It can prove bothersome to click a few more buttons to switch drives and have to specify which folder you want to use at the start of each session.


What distinguishes Commander One from the other free/fremium offerings?


I tried Nimble Commander, a freemium product available through the Mac App Store and Double Commander, part of an ambitious project to create a cross-platform file manager for OS X, Windows and Linux. When I clicked on an OS X app, it only opened the app as a folder and did not start the application itself. Most annoying. 


In my opinion, these other apps have their uses; but for most users just wanting to copy and move files with an occasional archiving to ZIP format, Commander One works best right out of the proverbial box.




Commander One provides a basic, no nonsense, dual pane file manger with extra features beyond the Finder:


  1. The aforementioned dual pane layout.
  2. Abundant keyboard shortcuts, with the most frequently used listed at the bottom of the app’s window. 
  3. The ability to access otherwise hidden files through an on-screen icon and not have to use the Terminal for this.
  4. Access to Microsoft OneDrive, handy for those of us working cross-platform. 
  5. And access to Dropbox and Google Drive, too. 



Commander One file manager


Free to try, $29.99 for Pro Pack for additional features



Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

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