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5 free Windows Mobile file explorers - Mobile Minute

Total CommanderOne of the first things programs I install on any new Windows Mobile device is a replacement for the built-in file explorer utility. The default utility is difficult to navigate, can't browse ZIP files, and doesn't have split screen support.

There are some great commercial replacements out there like Resco File Explorer and Anton Tomov's Virtual Explorer, but there are also several great free alternatives. Just a quick note, I've tested each of these programs on my Dell Axim X50v, which means they run well on a VGA Pocket PC running Windows Mobile 2003SE. I can't confirm that they all run on Windows Mobile 5 or 6, although I suspect most will work well on older devices running WM2003, or Pocket PC 2002 or 2003.

Total Commander

Christian Ghisler's Total Commander (shown above) is probably one of the best known file explorers for Windows Mobile devices. You can choose to view your files in a variety of formats, including split screen, virtual split screen (where you can tap an arrow to shift back and forth between a "left" and "right" screen), or single screen mode. There's also a tree view mode.

Total commander also gives you access to detailed file information, lets you view or create ZIP files, and lets you choose to view or hide files in ROM. An FTP client is included, as is a file search utility. When I said the first thing I install on a new PDA is a file explorer, I was talking about Total Commander.

Ghisler also makes a commercial version of Total Commander for Windows, but the mobile software is freeware.

CE FileCommander

CE FileCommanderCE FileCommander is a nifty little file explorer that's somewhat reminiscent of the classic DOS utility Norton Commander. That might just be due tot he split screen display and blue background.

When you first open this program, it'll be hard to see anything at all thanks to the default orientation which has two screens side by side. On a device with a 240x320 orientation, that's really not enough room to show file names and directories. Luckily you can either select a single window view or stack the windows one on top of the other. Of course, when you do that, the menus at the bottom of the screen still say Left and Right, making the act of copying files from one window to the other a bit more confusing.

There's a few other extras thrown in here, like an FTP client, a telnet client, a task mannager that lets you kill running processes, and some game that I can't for the life of me figure out how to play. CE FileCommander is technically a shareware program with a limited evaluation version, but that limited version is still leaps and bounds ahead of the default Windows Mobile file explorer.


FileManCE2FileManCE2 is another file explorer with a retro look and some promising features -- if you happen to be using an older device running Windows CE 2.11 or Pocket PC 2000/2002. While the program does run on my Windows Mobile 2003SE device, some of the more advanced features, like the ability to transfer files to and from the PC using a serial connection just lock up my PDA.

The program has some nice options, including a window list, process list, a customizable toolbar, and split screen display. There's also a nifty feature that lets you view and edit file associations.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to turn off that split screen display if you want more screen real estate for detailed file information. Overall, I really wouldn't recommend FileManCE2 unless you've got an older device. There's a version for Handheld PC 2000 (devices with built in keyboards like the NEC MobilePro 790 or HP Jornada 720), which I suspect would run like a dream.


GSPlayer+While I'm a huge fan of Total Commander for its ease of use, I doubt you'll find a free (or commercial for that matter) file explorer with more features than GSFinder+.

This little utility includes LHA/ZIP file support, drag and drop file copying, network connections, a file association manager, a powerful search utility, tree view, and favorite documents and folders.

GSFinder+ also has one of the nicest looking interfaces of the bunch. You can choose a simple or detailed view, single or dual windowed views, and small or large icons.


VoyagerVoyager is a fairly straightforward little utility, offering up a single window display with the ability to display large, small, and detailed icons. You can also sort your files in various ways, and do all the basics like copying, pasting, creating shortcuts etc.

Probably the only thing that really stands out about Voyager is that you an use it with another program by the same author, CCrryyppttoo, which lets you encrypt files on your PDA. There's also a desktop version of CCrryyppttoo, but you cannot decrypt files encrypted on the Pocket PC version with the desktop client, nor vice versa.

Bonus program: OpenWith

If you're not interested in adding a whole new file explorer to your system, there are a number of programs that increase the functionality of the default utility. OpenWith adds an option to the context menu you get when you tap and hold an item in file explorer.

The add-in, not surprisingly, lets you select the program you'd like to use to open a file. While you can use some of the other software listed here to change file associations, this lets you use different programs to open the same file depending on which program best suits your needs at the moment.


Most of these programs are small, taking up less than 200KB in your device's main memory. Most can also be installed to a storage card to save you even more space. They each have their charms, but if you've never tried an alternate file browser for your Windows Mobile Device, I'd definitely recommend giving Total Commander or GSFinder+ a spin first.

Tags: cefilecommander, file explorer, FileExplorer, filemance2, freeware, gsfinder, mobileminute, openwith, pocket pc, PocketPc, total commander, TotalCommander, voyager