xplorer² Quick Start Guide
File exploring reinvented: Feel like home miles away from home

Overview Get familiar with xplorer² GUI

The main window is shown in Figure 1. There are four main areas: The active and inactive folder views, the folder tree and the quick previewer window. A toolbar, menu and status bars complete the picture. If this appearance looks rather complicated, you can turn off all the elements you don't need (from View menu), e.g. the tree, the previewer, even the second folder pane.

Figure 1. The main window

Here is a brief description of the main window elements:

The four major parts are separated with splitter windows, which you can resize to taste. You can also select whether the folder panes are stacked horizontally or vertically using View | Tile horizontally menu. You can move the quick preview panel to the left (under the tree) using the relevant check box in Tools | Options | Advanced. Once you reach a satisfactory arrangement xplorer² will remember it for you and reinstate it every time you start the program - unless you clear the Save program state on exit checkbox in the options dialog.

[PRO] All peripheral panes (tree, quickviewer etc) can be rearranged to taste if you grab them from their titlebar and move them around to another side of the xplorer² window. An outline rectangle indicates the new docking location. If you hold down <CTRL> key while dragging a panel it will stay floating (detached). Once you setup the panes to your liking, use View | Toolbars | Lock dock sites command to fix their position. Use the little pin icon on the titlebar of each docked pane to toggle its autohide mode. When autohidden, a pane is minimized to a tab-like button and you can expand it by hovering the mouse over this button. Click again on the pin icon to permanently dock the pane.

In a sense, xplorer² has a Multiple Document Interface (MDI) where each "document" is a folder. Only one folder is active at each time but many others are easily accessible, from tabs in the active and/or the inactive pane. Tabs are added with File | New tab and removed from the Window menu. You can rearrange tabs with drag-drop. Right click on a tab to see a context menu with various commands including Lock which locks a tab from browsing - folders open in new tabs.

Ribbon toolbar Using the ribbon UI

Instead of a traditional menu bar and toolbars, you can have the newer ribbon user interface, which combines the two, offering a more intuitive organization of commands. If you see the old-style menu you can turn on the ribbon using View | Ribbon command.

Figure 1a. Ribbon toolbar instead of menu

The ribbon is like a big tabbed toolbar. The basic Home tab contains the most frequently used commands, whereas other tabs offer more detailed control for advanced features. The leftmost File tab (dark blue) is a traditional drop-down menu where you can exit the program, get help, and get back the original menu if you don't like the ribbon!

Many ribbon buttons are split into a main command like Paste and a drop-down portion that shows variations of the main command (e.g. Paste link). You can get information on what each button does if you hover the mouse over it. Most xplorer² menu commands are present on the ribbon but for accessing all the commands you need to turn off the ribbon from "File" menu.

The ribbon offers limited customization support. You can right click on a button you use frequently and put it on the Quick Access Toolbar, the little toolbar the ribbon puts on the window titlebar. You can put up there all the commands you need then right click on the ribbon to minimize it, and reclaim the space it uses.

TIP: The ribbon toolbar is optional. If you find it confusing or you need the traditional menu bar to access some of the most advanced xplorer² commands, use the leftmost   FILE   ribbon tab and choose Show normal menu command. Alternatively you can execute any command clicking on the Command finder (question mark) button on the quick access toolbar.

Column mode (Miller) browsing in miller columns

Usually when you browse into a subfolder, the current tab switches entirely to it. Say you were browsing C:\path\DESKRULE and then you entered the subfolder C:\path\DESKRULE\INSTALLER, you'd expect to see the contents of INSTALLER folder replacing the old pane contents. If you turn on Miller browsing (File | Column mode menu) then both the original and the subfolder contents will show side by side. If you enter a new sub-sub folder e.g. C:\path\DESKRULE\INSTALLER\APPX then a third side panel will open, and so on. As you browse deeper, panes to the left shrink in width. If you have too many folders simultaneously open, a scroll bar will appear to help you manage the panes, since only a few of them will show at a time.

Miller browsing will strike Windows users as odd, but it is popular with Mac computers and their Finder file manager. Its advantage is that you can see neighboring folders simultaneously and transfer files from one to the other. Like dual pane browsing, only increased to multiple panes!

You move from one miller pane to the next either with left/right arrow keys, or clicking with the mouse. Only one folder is active in a miller column set, which will show in white background; all the other folders show with a darker background. The active folder is dominant: its path shows as the tab's current path, and all menu commands will operate in files selected in the active pane, just as if it was the only folder showing. After you create miller panels, each one could be set independently (e.g. one in thumbnails, the other in details, and a 3rd in list mode. But usually they all share the same view mode.

Figure 1b. Side by side Miller browsing

Let's go through the elements of a tab showing side-by-side folders, showing this mini-hierarchy:


When you open a new miller pane, the old pane shrinks down in width. By how much? If the pane is in detailed view mode, then it will be shrunk to the width of the NAME column. If it is in list or thumbnail mode, then it will shrink to the size of the currently selected folder item. You can set a maximum width limit to miller columns from program options (Window property page) setting a value for Max list column width. There are more tweaks available using Tools | Advanced options editor, e.g. the maximum number of side panels (default is up to 6 parallel folders).

If you use the folder tree or any other UI element outside the miller container to browse into a folder "far away" (e.g. typing a path in the addressbar), then the current miller pane is reset to the new folder. But miller mode remains active, so if you browse subfolders of this new master folder, sideway panels will pop up. To turn off miller mode completely, use File | Column mode menu or click on the equivalent toolbar/ribbon button. Also note that miller panes will not survive a program restart, only the last active folder will be re-loaded when you start xplorer² next time.

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