[xplorer²] — Top of the FM pops
home » blog » 20 May 2007

"There's lies, damn lies, and statistics"

The file manager category must be the most competitive in the whole shareware industry. That's because windows explorer is totally lame, and programming a file manager is relatively straightforward in the scheme of things. Sometimes when I consider the competition I get depressed, I mean look at this list of file managers: 2xExplorer, A43, ABCommander, AcBrowser, AccelMan, Advanced file manager, CubicExplorer, Directory opus, EFCommander, ExplorerPlus, ExplorerXP, FAR, FileAnt, FileBoss, FileMatrix, FileQuest XP Gold, FreeCommander, Frigate, Gyula's navigator, Magellan explorer, MeeSoft commander, muCommander, Nico's commander, Powerdesk, Servant salamander, SpeedCommander, Sprintbit file manager, TotalCommander, UltraExplorer, Universal explorer, Windows file explorer, WinNavigator, WinNC.net, XFile, xplorer², XYplorer, ZTreeWin... phew!

That was 37 programs right there, and I'm not including tons of other semi-abandoned or open source stuff in sourceforge. This lot can be roughly split in two categories, "orthodox" file managers that ape the classic Norton Commander, and a sundry of explorer replacements. I suppose xplorer² is somewhere in the middle, keeping the industrial strength of NC whilst combining it with the ease of use of windows explorer.

If you are a user trying to make up your mind on which program is best for you, you've got your work cut out. It will take ages to test all the alternatives. There are a few comparison articles and reviews you can check to ease this task but it still isn't trivial. In fact I bet that most people will just forget about exhaustive feature enumeration and will grab the "most popular" file manager that their friends also use. So much for rational consumer decisions :)

So which is the most popular file manager? How do you even start to approximate this measure? I could have used google's PageRank but it isn't very illuminating since all websites seem to have pagerank 5. So I'll take the easy way out and use Alexa's rankings. Their data are based on the browsing habits of an unknown population of users that have installed alexa's toolbar. How statistically significant is this? probably not much — e.g. I don't have this toolbar installed. So we proceed with the understanding that this is isn't exact science but it's better than nothing!

1.Total commander25,468
2.Servant salamander   47,014
4.Directory opus75,866
6.Universal explorer104,787
7.FAR manager121,799
9.AB commander165,469
10.2xExplorer (!)189,282

These entries are ranked according to alexa's global website rank, averaged for the last 3 months. All the usual holy beasts of the market are in here, and I'm glad to see xplorer² in there among the big guns (in fact the last week xplorer² was ranked 54,007 as a result of the lifehacker article, which would make it third most popular tool!).

This table includes some surprise entries which demonstrate the weaknesses of alexa's ranking mechanism. Why is servant salamander so high? Because it looks like every person in Czech republic has alexa's toolbar and in that country the lizard is in the top 1000. And since alexa doesn't break visitors down in subdomains, websites with more than one product get unfairly boosted in terms of file manager comparison. Other tools (vis. Universal explorer) get a large chunk of their visitors through paid advertisements. And so on.

At any rate, it gives me great pleasure to see xplorer² having raised itself to such heights after such a short career (relative to all the rest — e.g. Total commander has been around since windows 3.1). If I emigrate to Slovakia where a pint of beer is £0.40 I may even be able to retire a wealthy man as it is :)

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