xplorer²

Exponential growth to file management productivity


Industrial scale folder management

If your folders contain thousands of files each, or you manage files from multiple folders simultaneously, you need heavy-duty tools for fast and reliable operations. xplorer² helps you move around efficiently within large folders, focus to a subset of your files with filtering, and finally select (mark) items for further processing.

In large folders, most files are hidden from view, especially if you are showing full details (one file per line). A standard horizontal or vertical scroll bar scroller will appear, giving you an idea how many items are hidden and about your current location within the folder. You can operate your scroller with the mouse to see hidden items, but for more precise control use the keyboard to roam the active folder pane:

As you move around, the  focused  item is changed and usually cancels all previous selections too. To move the focus without affecting the existing selection hold down <Ctrl> or turn Mark > Sticky selection on. This will help you to hand-pick items scattered in the folder listing (similar to explorer's checkbox selection mode).

In large folders it may not be clear how many items are selected; you can see a few in front of you, but there could be more hidden (scrolled away) from view. Use the selection pane selstat on the statusbar (pane [4]) to double check how many items are selected (61 in this case) before you issue any file management command. If you don't see any of the selected items, use Mark > Selection > Show menu command to scroll them into view.

Filtering for visibility demo video: wildcards, autofilters and quick filters

In large folders you can focus on a subset of items with filtering. A visual filter is a rule that matches one or more file properties; files that satisfy its conditions remain visible, otherwise they are hidden from view. Such filtered-out items cannot be seen or selected for management — just as if they don't exist any more!

There are several types of visual filters, activated from View > Visual filter submenu:
  • Simple name wildcards like *.TXT that allow only matching filenames.
    Instead of using the menu command you can also type a wildcard straight in the addressbar and press <ENTER> to apply it.
     
  • Rule based (aka hyperfilters) are boolean expressions that combine file property conditions, and optionally contained text stipulations.
     
  • Auto-filter command pops a menu that lets you select one of the file types present in the current folder.
     
  • Hide folders is a simple filter that only lets files to show.
     
  • Selected only is a manual and temporary filter that hides any items that are not selected, in case you want to concentrate on the selection only. When checkboxes are active, this command will show all the ticked files and folders.
     
  • The On/Off command turns the visual filter on and off (toggle). It is a quick way to reinstate the last used proper visual filter
visual filter menu
Except for this visual filter submenu, you can use the quick filter box next to the addressbar to type part of a filename and show only matching items. There are even filters using color tags, a topic discussed in the sequel.

Whenever any filter is hiding items from view, you will see a green funnel funnel icon on the statusbar. Double click on this icon (or use View > Show all menu) to cancel the filtering and see all the items in the folder.

When you turn visual filtering on/off, any prior selection is preserved. Say you had 10 items selected, and then apply some visual filter, any items (of these 10) that remain visible will be selected. Likewise selection is preserved when you switch pane styles or sort order.

Wildcards for text matching

Wildcards are simple string matching templates using the special characters * and ? as such: You can combine letters and these special characters to form a suitable wildcard for the matching task. They are most frequently used to filter filenames, but they are also good for any text property as we shall see later. They are commonly used to match file types (extensions), but you can use them for more specific text matching as these examples: You can filter for multiple wildcards as well, if you separate them with commas. For example *.TXT,*.DOC would match any files with TXT or DOC extensions. A comma-separated wildcard expression is equivalent to boolean OR (any) operator. Use a leading minus sign to exclude a wildcard (boolean NOT operator), e.g. -*.TXT will match any file as long as it is not TXT.

xplorer² can filter on regular expressions too, which are a more complex kind of text wildcard. Regular expressions are supported in rule-based filters.

Automatic type filters

View > Visual filter > Auto-filter menu command is like wildcard filtering for file type (extension), which you don't need to type manually. When you choose this command (or click on its toolbar button) xplorer² examines what kind of files exist in the current folder (active pane) and pops a menu with them — and some more commands as you can see to the right. In this example, the folder contained a few HTML, some XLS and some XML files, which are listed alphabetically. Selecting one of these menu items will show only a particular file type, just as if you typed the equivalent wildcard (e.g. *.HTM) for visual filtering.

Auto-filter menu also lets you show only Folders and cancel the visual filter (show All files). Saved filters is a submenu that lists all rule-based hyperfilters that you have saved; select one of these saved complex filters to apply it on the current folder (it doesn't have to be wildcard based). Finally you can filter for broad document categories (search for "File types" in Global tab) defined in the registry as comma separated lists of file extensions. The default definition for "web files" for instance would show both HTM and XML files (but not XLS).
autofilter menu

advanced Hidden files and global filters

A special kind of file property is attributes, a set of indicators that advertise the characteristics and status of each file (regardless of type). The default detail view contains a column for file attributes (usually shows ---A---- for the Archive attribute). Files marked as hidden or system are special, usually reserved for the operating system, and are not interesting for most users — who concentrate on their own documents.

When the program option "Show hidden files and folders" is not enabled, then any files or folders that are marked as hidden (have the H file attribute) are not shown at all. This is like an implicit filter on the file attribute property. The little eye eye icon will appear on the statusbar when hidden files are obscured in this way.

Even when show hidden files option is enabled in xplorer², you may not be able to see some system files like THUMBS.DB if the system folder option "Hide protected operating system files" is ticked. To see all these super-hidden files, either untick the latter folder option, or tick "Show all hidden files, including protected" advanced option in xplorer².

One way to block a particular file or folder from showing in xplorer² is to change its attributes to include H (assuming it doesn't already have the attribute). Then it will not be visible if you turn off show hidden files option.

xplorer² supports a global exclusion filter for both folder views and tree, hiding matching files and folders. The advanced setting "Global exclusion filter" is defined as a comma separated list of wildcards to exclude from view (alternatively it can be a saved hyperfilter name defined earlier). For example *.DLL,*.SYS would define a global filter that hides any DLL or SYS files permanently.

When you define a global exclusion filter, the hidden files statusbar icon will show as a reminder. You cannot turn off a global filter, it is always enforced. As it is pervasive, only relatively fast file properties are allowed. If you attempt to use a slow hyperfilter here, it will be ignored.

Files and folders that are blocked by the global filter, or those that are blocked by their Hidden attribute, will not show up anywhere in xplorer², including the folder tree. Hidden folders will not be searched either, unless you enable the hidden files option.

Selection engine build up large selections safely

Before you execute any menu command, you must choose the items you want to operate upon by selecting them. Sometimes this is easy, e.g. selecting everything by pressing <CTRL+A> keys, but in large folders you need the precise selection methods offered by xplorer² selection engine. Let's review the basics first:
Sometimes sorting items beforehand assists their selection. For example if you need to select all recently modified files, arrange by date, then all recent files will be consecutive on top and can be selected with <SHIFT+HOME> keys — starting from the last item.

These simple selection and unselection methods work with one item at a time. You build a large selection adding more items one by one. This manual effort can get tedious and unpractical if you require many items selected — not to mention that one accidental unprotected click can unselect everything you worked so hard to select in the first place! To protect against such mishaps use Mark > Sticky selection menu; when this mode is on, all mouse clicks work as if you had <CTRL> key pressed. To resume normal selection mode, select Sticky selection again to turn it off. Alternatively turn on checkboxes which are even more robust and user friendly.

Some people accidentally turn on sticky selection mode and wonder what kind of bug messed up their mouse. You can add the Sticky button (looks like a sticky flag) on the toolbar through customization. Then you will have a visual indication if sticky mode is on (the button will be depressed). Click on the button to turn it off.

There are several commands in Mark menu that help you select and unselect multiple items in one go. Let's start with the simple additive commands, that select items on top of those already selected: (to start a fresh selection cycle, just hit <Alt+A> to unselect everything beforehand)

The above commands take a number or text input as a parameter. A simple text input dialog is shown for this purpose that hardly requires any explanation. You type your wildcard then click ok button to execute or cancel.

Using these elementary marking and unmarking mechanisms, either individually or combined, you can build collections of items whose complexity is only limited by the user's ingenuity!
simple text dialog
Sometimes it's easier to work in reverse, unselecting items — especially if you want most items marked except for a few excluded. In that case first do a Mark > Select all, then use mark menu commands that unselect items, or even manually <CTRL>+click on the items you want unselected. An equivalent strategy is to select items you want excluded first, then use Mark > Invert selection menu to select all the others!

Now let's discuss the non-additive marking mechanisms. These will destroy any previous selection, so they must be done first:

All these criteria-based selection commands affect all files and will reset any previous selection leaving only items that unambiguously pass the criterion in question. Typically such commands are performed first, possibly followed by elementary (un)marking commands to refine the selection. However when such criteria are used to unselect files (e.g. see Unselect button in figure 16) they only affect matching items.

Mark menu also contains a number of commands that affect the selection which are explained in other parts of this guide. Broadly speaking they consider all the files with a variety of criteria, and select files that match them. For example in dual pane mode you can mark items that need to be copied to synchronize two folders, or source files that must be built to make a compiled language project.

advanced Selection clipboard

You can save the current selection (filenames) using Mark > Selection > Store submenu. This can be used as a safe repository as you build complex selections step by step, especially with commands that erase the previous selection.

Once you have a selection stored, you can either restore it (Select command) or use the stored filenames to Unselect.

You can reuse a previously saved selection in the active pane as a mask via Combine menu. This advanced mode combines the existing and saved selection so that only items that are in both lists end up selected (boolean AND operation). So an item must be both already selected and part of the list stored with <Ctrl+F11> to remain selected; otherwise it is cleared. This command is handy for refining selection patterns.
selection submenu
You can reuse this special "clipboard" at a later stage to select (or unselect) items with the same names in a different folder or even in a different window managed by the same xplorer² process!

Using checkboxes

For safely building large selections use Mark > Use checkboxes menu command. A checkbox will appear in front of each item which must be ticked if you want to operate on an item with any menu command. Click again in the box to untick the item. Most commands that select in bulk available in Mark menu will also tick the checkboxes automatically (e.g. Sync wizard)

When you issue any command like copy or delete that acts on many items, mere selection won't matter, only items that are ticked will be operated upon. If there's a discrepancy between selection and checkboxes, xplorer² will automatically align the selection with checkboxes just before it executes your command. This can get a little confusing. If there are no items ticked, commands will use the selected items as usual. The selection information pane on the statusbar (and infobars) will report on ticked items instead of those merely selected, e.g. 2:1MB means that there are 2 items ticked totalling 1MB in size.

The nice thing about checkboxes is that you cannot accidentally wipe them out, so you can build large "selections" with peace of mind. Unlike the old sticky selection mode, checkboxes survive filtering: if a visual filter hides a checked item, the checkbox will be remembered when you bring it back into view. xplorer² checkboxes are designed to be robust, so they are not as easily wiped as in windows explorer. To untick all boxes use Mark > Unselect all menu or refresh the pane with <Ctrl+R> keys.

Use <SPACE> bar to flip the check state of selected items on/off with the keyboard. For example if you use lasso mouse selection and want your marked items ticked, press <SPACE> key.

Exceptionally some simple operations as drag-drop and shell context menu will use the (merely) selected items instead of those ticked. Also note that preview pane still uses the single  focused  item to preview, regardless whether it's ticked or not.

Checkboxes are incompatible with sticky selection mode. If you enable them, sticky selection is automatically deactivated and disabled.
To use sticky selection please turn off checkboxes.

To remove checkboxes before items and restore traditional selection mechanisms, turn them off via Mark > Use checkboxes menu (toggle).

Searching for text in files

xplorer² has a very good module to find text inside documents, both plain text files like TXT and C++ source code, and office documents like DOC and PDF — whose content can be read using special text filter plugins. One particular application of this feature is Mark > Containing text menu command, that lets you search for text inside files in the active pane, and select those that contain your search keywords. You specify what to search for and various options in the dialog and xplorer² will mark all the matching files.


Figure 16. Find text in files dialog

The simplest use of this dialog is to type one word or phrase to search for in Find what input box, and click select button to start looking for text inside files that are shown in the active pane. Matching files are selected and any prior selection is cleared. If you hold <SHIFT> as you click on select button, any existing selection is preserved and matching files are added on top. It is also possible to unselect matching files using the respective button.

This command is quite slow, and some options make it even slower. You can help by using a visual filter to reduce the number of files scanned, narrowing the list down to those most likely to contain the desired text. xplorer² will enter an unresponsive state while a text search is ongoing — a progress bar on the statusbar will give you an indication of the time left. Pressing <ESC> key will abort the search.

This command finds text exactly as you type it, and internal spaces are significant (it's not like google search). For example searching for "this that" is different than "that this" (reversed order), and even "this  that" (notice the extra space separating the words). Don't use quotes " unless you want to find a quote character. Think of it that you search for phrases instead of individual keywords. The advantage is that you can search for symbols as well as numbers and letters.

Several checkboxes in the dialog control how text is searched as below:

You can search for special characters like tabs, newlines etc. In fact you can search for any character if you know its numerical equivalent, using the $xx token, where xx is the 2-digit hexadecimal value (e.g. newline=10=$0A). In the unlikely situation where you want to search for e.g. $0A verbatim, you must escape the dollar character and search for $$0A. You will find some of these nonprintable characters in special characters drop down list.

The command automatically detects the encoding of plain text files (UTF8, unicode etc), if a Byte-Order-Mark (BOM) is present at the beginning of files. If BOMs are missing or you want to search within OEM files, you can force the encoding using the combo box supplied (see figure 16). To disable content interpretation altogether, including encoding and text filters, pick Raw encoding; this will allow e.g. searching for BOMs or other binary content.

The quick previewer is aware of files that contain the text you just searched for. When a positive match file is  focused , the previewer will load the part of the file that contains the text in question, and will zoom around and highlight the hit, aiding further examination of contents.

Boolean text searches
You can search for multiple text strings and also assign a boolean connotation to each substring. To achieve the former you just separate the expressions you are after with commas, e.g. hello , world will mark as positive hits files that contain either hello or world (or both). You can add a boolean effect using the special characters + for AND and - for NOT, at the beginning of each expression. E.g. searching for help, +me, -god will mark files that must contain "me", maybe contain "help" and not contain "god". (You shouldn't use spaces after the + or - characters, unless you want to match a string that starts with spaces.)
The down-side of this flexibility is that if you want to search e.g. for commas verbatim, you have to either enter them as special codes (conveniently included in the Special characters drop-down box) or check the Verbatim checkbox to disallow multistring use. Also note you cannot combine boolean searches with regular expressions - you'll have to use the constructs in Table 1 for equivalent boolean functionality.


Table 1. Special characters understood within regular expressions
Meta-characterMeaning
.Matches any single character
[ ]Indicates a character class. Matches any character inside the brackets (for example, [abc] matches "a", "b", and "c")
^If this metacharacter occurs at the start of a character class, it negates the character class. A negated character class matches any character except those inside the brackets (for example, [^abc] matches all characters except "a", "b", and "c").
If ^ is at the beginning of the regular expression, it matches the beginning of the input (for example, ^[abc] will only match input that begins with "a", "b", or "c")
-In a character class, indicates a range of characters (for example, [0-9] matches any of the digits "0" through "9")
?Indicates that the preceding expression is optional: it matches once or not at all (for example, [0-9][0-9]? matches "2" and "12")
+Indicates that the preceding expression matches one or more times (for example, [0-9]+ matches "1", "13", "666", and so on)
*Indicates that the preceding expression matches zero or more times
??, +?, *?Non-greedy versions of ?, +, and *. These match as little as possible, unlike the greedy versions which match as much as possible. Example: given the input <abc><def>, <.*?> matches "<abc>" while <.*> matches "<abc><def>"
( )Grouping operator. Example: (\d+,)*\d+ matches a list of numbers separated by commas (such as "1" or "1,23,456")
{ }Indicates a match group
\Escape character: interpret the next character literally (for example, [0-9]+ matches one or more digits, but [0-9]\+ matches a digit followed by a plus character). Also used for abbreviations (such as \a for any alphanumeric character).
If \ is followed by a number n, it matches the nth match group (starting from 0). Example: <{.*?}>.*?</\0> matches "<head>Contents</head>"
$At the end of a regular expression, this character matches the end of the input. Example: [0-9]$ matches a digit at the end of the input
|Alternation operator: separates two expressions, exactly one of which matches (for example, T|the matches "The" or "the")
!Negation operator: the expression following ! does not match the input. Example: a!b matches "a" not followed by "b"

For further information and regexp samples you can see this reference

Defining hyper-filters

xplorer² can pattern-match filenames, search for text contained in files, and retrieve hundreds of file properties. These capabilities are brought together in hyper-filters which match files and folders using a combination of name, contained text and file property rules. A hyperfilter can be as simple as a name wildcard, or as complex as a boolean combination of many file properties and contained text stipulations simultaneously.

These complex filters are pervasive in xplorer² user interface, and a common dialog structure is used to define them, regardless if they are used for visual filtering, rule-based selecting or file search. Once you get the hang of them, you can use them everywhere to match files with precision. Here is an example dialog for visual filtering (View > Visual filter > Rule based menu command); if you compare it with find files dialog, you will see that are very similar.


Figure 17. Rule based filtering dialog

Hyper filter dialogs have 3 sections that define the filter (name [1-3], contained text [4] and additional rules [5]). At least one section needs to be filled in with your file matching parameters. Empty sections appear disabled (ghosted) to minimize visual clutter in this admittedly complicated dialog. If you don't need all these fine tuned parameters, click simple version [9] and you will switch to simple mode. Let's have a quick look at the input fields:

You can define hyper-filters with as few or many criteria as you want. You can go from a nearly empty filter (e.g. all fields clear except for Folders box that will find all folders) all the way to any arbitrarily complex filter with tens of rules combined in boolean contexts. Only items that match all aspects of the filter are considered hits.

The more rules in a filter, the longer it will take to process it for each file. Some properties (e.g. checksum) and contained text searches are the most time consuming. Still xplorer² checks easier rules first and leaves slow ones for last, optimizing searches as much as possible. Users needn't worry ordering the rules, this is done automatically.

When a filter dialog shows up, its fields are loaded with the filter you used last time. If you want to define a new filter, click clear button to empty all fields. Note the button controls in section [7] depend on the command, it's filter for visual filtering, select when you are going to use the filter for selection and so on — they act like the typical OK button, that closes the dialog and executes the filtering command.

Saving and reusing filters

If there is a complex filter you use frequently, then it makes sense to save it and have it easily available. The individual input boxes remember their past inputs, but there's also a way to save the entire filter definition, including all parameters as a bunch.

To store a filter, type a descriptive name for it in the Predefined [6] combo box and click on the Save button (see figure 17), and the current definition will be added in the drop down list. From then on you only need to select the saved filter from the Predefined list and its rules will be automatically restored for you.

To modify a previously saved filter, make your property rule changes and save it again with the same name — thus overwrite the old definition.

To delete a saved filter that's no longer needed, first select it, press Clear button to delete all its rules and finally click on Save button to confirm the deletion. Arguably this isn't very intuitive; the dialog UI is streamlined for saving and using complex filters, which is what you do most often anyway.

Property rules

xplorer² has full access to hundreds of file properties that can be all used as criteria in hyper-filters. The additional rules box [5] lets you add one or more properties to fine tune your filtering, e.g. you can find files that are smaller than 10MB and modified last year:

additional rules

You can add, edit, reorder and delete rules using the little toolbar on the top right of the Additional rules list box (similar to how we manage bookmark lists). If you right click in the rules box, a context menu pops up with the same commands as on the toolbar. All the usual keyboard and mouse clicks are also recognized within the list, e.g. <DEL> key will delete the selected rule, double-click will edit a property and so on. Each rule has a descriptive text and an icon reflecting its boolean context (+ for AND, - for NOT and | for OR).

Searchable file properties belong to three broad categories: dates, numbers and text. This determines how the properties are interpreted & searched: number and date rules are matched as ranges between a Low and High limit, and text properties are searched for contained text (e.g. we are searching whether the comment property includes a keyword).

Click on Add new toolbar button to add a new rule. A dialog opens to select a property and set the rule parameters as such:


Figure 18. Sample numeric rule definition
First you select the property using combo box . There are hundreds of properties to choose from, but this box helps you by autocompleting the partial name you type against all matching property names. E.g. typing DATE will popup a window with possible completions, then you can select your desired date property (modified, created ...) from this popup, either with the mouse or keyboard — not much typing required to find properties! A short description may show in if available (unfortunately not all properties have them). As you select properties of various types, the  middle part  will change according to the current property.

Figure 18 shows the parameters for a numeric property (File size), which comprise a minimum and maximum limit. A file size x will match the numeric rule if it falls within the limits you supply (min < x < max). Either limit may be missing if you want an open-ended rule; in the above example the minimum size is empty, so that makes the rule Size less than 10MB (x < 10MB for the mathematically inclined). If you are after an exact number, make both minimum and maximum limits identical.

Numeric properties support units of measurement using the Units drop down list. File sizes in bytes will be big numbers, so it is convenient to pick Mega as a unit — that implicitly multiplies your typed limit by a million (10MB ~= 10,000,000 bytes). Properties with small values (e.g. picture width) don't need units, set them to 1.
Minutes unit is for matching audio and video Length (duration) property, measured in minutes
numerical units

Further reading
◪ Demo video about MP3 information units duration unit
Then comes the boolean context . When you define multiple property rules, do you want them all satisfied or any one match would be enough? All And rules must be satisfied, at least one of the Or rules and finally none of the Not rules. If you are not familiar with boolean algebra, just leave the default And radio button checked. If on the other hand you are familiar, you can have field day playing with hyper-filters!

Let's have an example. Say you want to find a file whose size is either smaller than 1K or above 2K but not inbetween. The simple solution would be to use two Or rules, one searching for files up to 1K and another one above 2K. Or you can use your boolean skills and define a single rule that says: Not "size between 1024 and 2048". Your boolean expertise saved you a couple of seconds there <g>

date rule definition

If you select a date property, the middle part of the rule definition dialog will change as above, to accept your desired date range. Date properties can be defined as periods from the present time (During the previous) or as ranges (Between). Leaving any end of the range empty (untick the checkbox) removes the respective date boundary. For example if the low end of Between range is unticked, the rule will match any files that are up to the date specified in the upper limit box. You don't specify time (hour) limits directly. The low range is assumed from the beginning (00:00 midnight) and the high end includes the entire day (up to 23:59)

With During the previous mode you must select the time unit (years, months, seconds etc) and the quantity (number), so you can create rules like modified during the previous 3 months. This can also be expressed in Between mode with a low date limit 3 months from today, and the upper set to now — but it wouldn't be as clear to grasp.

text rule definition

Finally, if you select a text property (like Comments or Owner) ), the middle part of the rule definition dialog will change as above. You search text properties like you search for text in files: just type part of what you are after in Find box. All searches are case (and word boundary) insensitive for the broadest possible match. In this example if a file's Comment property contains any references of test, it will be a match, else no cigar. Wildcards (* and ?) are also supported, unless you tick the verbatim option. Advanced string matching is possible ticking the Regular expression option.

If you want to find all files that have any comment set, type a single ? (question mark) for the text to find. This wildcard requires one character to be satisfied, so it can detect the presence or not of any text property.
Each text rule can contain many comma-separated substrings combined in boolean expressions as in find text in files command. For example, since the Attribute column is a string that contains letters A, H, S, R etc, searching for +A, -H within file attributes will match files that have the Archive but not the Hidden attribute (note the use of + & - to assign the boolean context for AND and NOT respectively). You can also use the $xx notation to search for non-printable characters using the hexadecimal ascii code xx.

If you want to search for an exact text property, start your text rule with a colon : — it changes the nature of text match from contains to is. For example :for will only match the exact string for and not form or proforma. Leading colon also works with regular expressions.


After this long explanation, you managed to define a single rule; click ok button (see figure 18) to add it to the current hyperfilter — the new rule will show in Additional rules box. In the same fashion you can Edit an existing rule; double-click on it and the rule definition dialog will let you change the match conditions.

Additional rules box lets you select more than one rule at a time using <CTRL>+click. If the selected rules are of the same type (e.g all text properties), you can edit them all in one go and set them to the same value or range. This feature may be used to search for a particular keyword in both (say) Comment and Tags file properties.

The up/down toolbar buttons in additional rules box are meant to reorganize the rules. When xplorer² is testing files against a hyperfilter, it processes the rules in the order they are shown in the rules box, so it makes sense to put fast rules first and slow rules towards the end of the list, to accelerate file matching. However xplorer² does this reordering automatically even if you won't!

Simple mode

Most of the time we need to filter on filename and text contained in files; a fully fledged hyperfilter is extravagant at best and downright confusing at worst. All hyper-filter dialogs can be turned to basic form clicking on simple version [9] link, where you get rid of all rarely used file properties and concentrate on what you search the most, i.e. name and contained text. The simple filter version looks just right and focused for the job.

All the filtering options missing compared to figure 17 assume their most generic values for broader match. For example, the name applies to both files and folders, and the contained text will be searched in all files without case sensitivity. You can search for name or for contents, or both — whatever you don't need leave its search box empty. Multiple comma separated strings are supported for both name and text, e.g. *.DOC,*.PDF

At any time you need more precise search parameters, click more properties link and you will see the full hyperfilter version of the dialog.
Simple name/content filtering

Easy filter and selection Filter, select and search easily

Most of the work you do in xplorer² involves finding, filtering and selecting items, before doing something with them. The edit box next to the addressbar is a convenient way to do all these things from a single tool. Arguably it is one of the best productivity features in xplorer²!

By default the quick filter box is set to (visual) filtering mode. Instead of fumbling with wildcards and complex rules and dialog boxes to pass parameters, start typing what you want to find in the active pane and after the 4th letter the quick filter will automatically activate and show only files with matching names — you don't even have to press <ENTER> to start filtering, it is done live and as you type. If you type enough letters, the active pane list will shrink to a couple of items only, hopefully including the one you are after. To reveal all hidden files, click on x to the right of the box to clear the filter — View > Show all menu command does the same.

To jump out of the quick folder box and return to the active folder pane, press <ESC> or <TAB> key.
To jump to the addressbar press <SHIFT+TAB> keys together.

Normally the quick filter tries to match your input with filenames only; your partial filter string can appear even in the middle of filenames and it will be considered a match (e.g. type hel and you will match help.txt, shell.dll and any other file that contains hel. If you want to match text against all details shown in the pane (e.g. size, date modified and anything else that is visible), use the drop-down menu and tick All properties option. This type of filtering is slower therefore in large folders filter-as-you-type won't work — you need to press <ENTER> key to filter out files that don't match. You can even search for text inside documents ticking Text contents menu item, but that will make things even slower.
xplorer² ultimate can search much faster in all properties and text contents if you tick Windows search menu. You can find whole words or stems (beginnings) quite nicely this way, if you browse folders that are in the search index. In professional edition this command is disabled.

Use the drop-down menu to switch to Select mode. The action button will change into select. Instead of filtering now the box is used for selecting matching items. The idea is the same, what you type is matched against the filename or optionally all visible details (or even contained text). Press <ENTER> key to select matching items; those that don't match remain unselected — but visible.

quick filter box
Quick filter and selection mode work with the items in the active pane (it works even in the mini-scrap) — usually that means items in the current folder browsed. If you switch the box to Search mode from the drop-down menu, then it can search the current folder and its subfolders, like a regular find files command.

demo: popup mini search
If you do a simple search for filenames only, matching filenames appear immediately in a popup window, and automatically update as you change the search keyword (live search as-you-type). You can preview and open files directly using the context menu on search results, or browse the containing folder for more file management actions. To jump into the search results pane press <TAB> key. As the popup is space limited, the search stops after 25 results are found; if you cannot see your target file, click the footer for robust search, which will do a regular full scale file search.

The live minisearch feature does not work if you tick any slow match options like All properties. In such a case a regular search is performed, in a separate window.
popup search results

You can adjust the behavior of the quick filter using advanced options — even turn it off altogether. Search for these options by name:

The colorful button to the right of the filter box, is another way to quickly filter files based on their color tag. Please see the following section for more details.

Legacy quick search

Before the introduction of the quick search box in the addressbar, xplorer² offered another type of quick search straight in the addressbar. This mode isn't as convenient because it doesn't update live the pane items as you type, but it is explained here for completeness. It's main objective is selection but it can also filter for matching items.

Despite their expressive power, fumbling with hyperfilters and text rules can be too time consuming. Mark > Quick search menu is a convenient shortcut that selects files that contain a phrase, either in their content or in some text column, including filename. It is a local search mode (scans items already in the pane) equivalent to a hyperfilter with one rule per text column, each matching your phrase in a boolean OR fashion (i.e. any one match will be enough); if no column matches the phrase, the command searches the text within the file. This latter slow stage can be skipped if not required, hitting <Esc>.

Quick search will only scan columns that are visible in the active pane. To make the most of this command you may have to activate a few interesting columns, e.g. Comments, Version information etc, depending on your context.

Quick search uses the addressbar for text input. Instead of using Mark menu you can press <SHIFT+TAB> to jump to the addressbar and type your phrase, beginning with a colon, e.g. :your phrase, then press <Return> key to apply; any matching items in the active pane will be selected. If instead of marking you want to filter the matching items (hide everything that doesn't match), type your text and press <Shift+Return>. Stored hyperfilter names are also understood if enclosed with curly braces, e.g. :{saved_filter_name} is a valid input.

Manage color tags mark files using color tags

Sometimes you need to mark a file for later processing. One way is to place the item in the mini scrap pane. Another possibility is to color tag it, so whenever you browse its container folder it will stand out with a  color border  drawn around its name. Likewise you can color tag a folder in the tree pane, making it easier to locate — then its tab's icon tabcolor will also be painted with the same color.

Color tags are set through the shell context menu (xplorer² adds a couple of its own commands at the top). Alternatively add the Color tag addtag button to the toolbar via customization.
  • To tag a file (or a bunch of files), select them, click with the right mouse button, and from the Color tag submenu choose the color you like.
     
  • To change the color of a previously tagged file, just apply another color using the menu
     
  • To untag a file (cancel the color tag), use Clear tags menu command; the color border will be deleted and the file will show normally.
There are three predefined tag colors to choose from; you can add more colors with some tweaking.
setting tag menu

Adding a color tag won't change the actual files in any way (xplorer² uses a private database for color tagging information). You can use many colors for different kind of markings — the meaning of colors is entirely up to you. The color borders drawn around the names can be combined with rule-based color coding — but color tagging is much simpler and quicker.

Color tags are permanent and they are remembered even after you close and restart xplorer². Color information is associated with a full path name. If you move a colored file to a different folder, thus changing its path, its color will be lost. Renaming a file preserves the color.
The color tag database is stored in the file %APPDATA%\zabkat\TAGDB.BIN. A quick way to erase all color tags is to quit xplorer² with <ALT+X> then delete this file — it is important that xplorer² is not running. When you restart xplorer² all color tags will be gone. Stale (gone) items are removed from the database when you search for tags. Color tag borders won't show if you set item icons setting to Plain

Find color tagged files

Tagged items are hard to miss, their color borders are very conspicuous among normal unmarked items (you can make the borders even thicker using advanced option "Color tag border"). There are commands that filter a pane for its colored files; you can also search to find tagged files in subfolders.

You can quickly filter the active pane (except the folder tree) to show only items tagged with particular color, using the color filter button next to the quickfilter box. This color button opens a submenu with all the filtering options. You can show only one particular color or all tagged items regardless of color (Any tag command). You can hide all color tagged items and only show those Untagged. In the end Show everything command will cancel any color filtering (you can also double-click on the statusbar visual filter icon).

This menu includes a Find tagged command that can show you color tagged files in other folders. In the tag search dialog first specify which colors you are after using the checkboxes, then state your search scope: do you want to search only below the current folder or everywhere?

filter on tags


Figure 19. Find color tagged files dialog

Click ok button to start the search. If there are any tagged files with the colors you ticked, they will be presented in a standard search results window. If nothing can be found you'll get an error message instead — consider enlarging the search scope e.g. ticking Search everywhere option in the find tags dialog, or tick more color boxes (there is a tick all command in the right click menu).

The tag search dialog is very fast but will only search for colors. If you want to combine colors with regular file attributes like names etc, use find files dialog and add a rule on the color tag stock property. In this context tags are plain numbers in the order they appear in the color list (1=red, 2=green etc). This kind of combined search will be much slower though.

Color coding filetypes color depending on file type

The various file types are shown with distinct icons so you can tell them apart. Items use normal font and text attributes, according to your desktop preferences (e.g. black text on white background). Windows explorer can show certain kind of files with alternate colors, making them stand out and easy to recognize, as for example encrypted files in blue. xplorer² extends this feature allowing you to customize the text color and weight for filetypes you are interested in. Use Customize > color coding menu to define or amend color coding rules:


Figure 20. Custom color coding and definition dialogs

The custom color coding dialog (left) shows all the color rules you have defined in a list [1]. You can manipulate individual items (add/delete/edit) using the toolbar [2] and the equivalent context menu commands, as we saw earlier. The list shows the exact effect (color and font) that each rule will have on matching items.

"Color coding filetypes" is rather a misnomer for what this system offers. Not only can you change colors, but also fonts (apply bold and italic effects). And we don't just filter on filetypes, you can use any file property using mighty hyper-filters to define a color category. For example the encrypted files category above is defined using the file attribute property (see dialog to the right) — of course you can also use a wildcard like *.cpp to target a file type (extension).

Double click to add or change a color rule. The top section [4] is where you define the text attributes: foreground and background colors, and bold/italic style. The Description field isn't very important in terms of function, only as a reminder for your records — typically a summary of the filter. The biggest portion of the dialog is for defining the  membership  rule (compare with figure 17) — don't be put off by the apparent complexity. For simple wildcard color coding you would only use the Named edit control.

To turn on color highlighting tick Activate color coding [3]; clear the checkbox to return to normal colors. You can also turn individual color rules on/off using the checkboxes in front of each rule, if necessary. Note that coloring is a view-related property, so you can have e.g. the left pane highlighted and the right normal. You must turn color coding on/off for each dual pane (or tab) separately.

By default, color coding is only shown in the active folder pane, to minimize distractions and help you focus. If you nevertheless want to see colors in the inactive pane as well, tick the advanced option "Filename color coding applied to inactive views..."
Color coding is a resource intensive feature, as every folder you browse must be scanned for matching items to be colored (color tagging on the other hand is quick and easy as it applies to individual files). Thus you should avoid color rules that use slow properties — don't even think about searching for text in files, it will grind xplorer² to a halt! Fast rules based on wildcards or simple properties like sizes and dates don't pose a problem. Use the arrow toolbar buttons [2] to push any slow rules to the end of the list.


 


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