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date 12.Aug.2012

■ Customizing the details pane

The latest xplorer² v2.1 includes a pane that shows information relevant to the selected file type (turn it on with View > Details pane menu). It shows both generic information like file name and size, and item specific information. If you select a picture, you will see its dimensions, if you select a document you will see its author, if you select a program you will see its version and company information, and so on.

You can regard the details pane as the extension of the columns you see in detailed view mode. But instead of having the same properties (columns) shown for all files, it only shows the relevant pieces of information. This sounds like a good idea until you realize there is no easy way to change the actual details shown. How can you add the keywords (tags) for example in this pane? The good news is that there is a way to add such extra properties; the bad news is that customization requires some text editing of the HTML layout file.

You can download the default details pane definition file clicking here. You can open it with a plain text editor like notepad or the built-in editor². If you already know HTML (the language that powers the internet) then you should be able to fathom the contents. There are some special <B id=xxx> elements that select the file columns to show and some <DIV> blocks for arranging the items on the page. What if you don't have a clue about HTML? Please follow the instructions below and you should be able to add/remove custom properties too!

  1. Download the HTML file and save it on your desktop. (Right click on the link, pick Save as, then rename it to change the extension from TXT to HTM). Select it in xplorer² and press <F4> key to edit it.
  2. Find the following line in the file:
    <!-- @@@ ADD YOUR EXTRA DETAILS HERE @@@ -->
  3. For each property you want to add, copy/paste this HTML text block:
    <div class="pane" id="test">
    <b id="s_3">Extension</b>: <span>val</span>
  4. Save the changes, and drag-drop this X2DETAILS.HTM file in the installation folder (usually C:\program files\zabkat\xplorer2). When you restart xplorer² you will see the customized details pane.

The crucial bit is the text block in step 3 above. Most of it you don't need to touch at all except the red text after ID=" which controls the column property to show. In the example the number s_3 means the stock extension column that is represented by number 3. Where did this number come from? When you press <Alt+K> to select columns in xplorer² you see a list of all the available columns (see picture). First are [S]tock columns known only by xplorer², then follow the standard windows explorer columns. As you can see the extension column is the 3rd in the list. If you wanted the modified column you'd need number s_6 and so on. Explorer columns are declared as e_xx (instead of s_xx) and start numbering at 0 (not 1), right after the end of the [S] columns.
To get the column numbers right make sure you take into consideration the columns in the Current scheme in the column selection dialog. Ideally you shouldn't have any columns selected at all, e.g. using a blank infobar to select columns. You can download this tool to make your life easier (thanks Kilmatead)
stock and explorer columns

Discovering the number for the column you need is tricky especially if you consider there are hundreds of explorer columns. The order of these columns also depends on the windows version and the shell extensions you may have installed. For example on my system the Owner property would be column e_11 but it could differ on yours. A more robust method is to use the system property identifiers instead of column numbers. For example the owner column corresponding to System.FileOwner property would be declared as e_{9B174B34-40FF-11D2-A27E-00C04FC30871}:4 — but this may tax most peoples' heads :) For stock columns you can use this table.

Once you get the idea it will be easy to add or remove (tip: just delete the whole line) columns to taste. You can use trial and error and experiment. At worst case you will destroy the details pane not your PC — and even then you can just delete the custom x2details.htm file from the installation folder and order will return.

One day there should be a more user-friendly way to do all this using a special tool. But as one cannot flog volunteers to perform on time <g> we don't know when this tool will be available. In the meantime you can use the above advanced customization technique.

ps. Can you find the identifier for the tags/keywords column? It is s_19.

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