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Traditional File Managers--Good, Not-So-Good, and Best-of-Breed

  • April 13, 2005
  • By Kurt Pfeifle

Yesterday I updated the SuperDAT file, which the virus scanner needs, on my company notebook running Windows XP. I do this twice a week. The software does a complete HD scan overnight and in the morning I normally only check to see if it found some malware or if I still have a supposedly "clean" system. This time, I ran the scan during the day because I wanted to know the number of files it scanned. The virus scanner's result: 418,769 files on a 40 GByte disk, which is 88% full.

So, how many files do my Linux machines host?

Curious, I ran ls -lR / | wc -l on my main workstation running SUSE 9.1. Result: 1,635,315 files and directories. Those files take up about 50% of the 80 GB available on the hard disk. Admittedly, with KDE 3.4++/HEAD checked out from CVS and compiled from sources, this is not the amount of data a "normal" user may own. But then again, I do not collect MP3s, digital photos, or what-have-you. My old workstation (SUSE-8.0) spawns these results: 1,493,166 files spread across four disks with a combined capacity of 40 GB, all of which are filled up to over 90%.

The sheer number of files to handle poses many problems, slowdowns, and delays for me. I need to search way too often for a particular file or info. I suppose most users have similar experiences.

Compared to Windows Explorer, Konqueror meets my needs as a file manager much better than Explorer. Konqueror really shines when it comes to file management, even if it has four times the number of files to handle than Explorer. Of course, Konqueror has a lot of help for that, thanks to some other KDE goodies. To name just a few:

  • An extremely useful File Open... dialog.
  • A nifty File Preview feature.
  • The ability to Split Windows into 2 or more panes
  • Tabs, just like those seen in most modern web browsers, which compliment the split windows.
  • Network Transparency.
This list could go on.

The "network transparency" function is especially convenient. Others have touted the idea of "the network is the computer" for servers for a long time and KDE has delivered it to the common desktop and all its applications. Where else can you type in a webdavs://, a fish//: or a http:// URI to open or upload a file directly via the "Open File" or "Save As" dialogs?

The point is that Konqueror is very innnovative today, even if some tasks are too difficult to grasp by inexperienced users. It implements many ideas and features seen nowhere else and has expanded the term "file manager" beyond its original meaning. I expect Microsoft to improve their own file manager (Explorer) a lot by the time they release their next incarnation of Windows. I would not be surprised at all if they even copied some of the best stuff from Konqueror and KDE's File Open dialogs.

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