Introduction to Total Commander, an advanced file manager


Using a computer means that at any given moment we must learn how to manage system files. For example, to copy a list of files from one folder to another, to delete a folder with all the files that it contains, to unzip a file, etc.

Windows includes a tool called Windows Explorer that let us to move around directories an files and make some basic operations over files and directories.
While the Windows Explorer is useful and carries out its mission, it is a basic file management tool. If we want to have more speed and agility when it comes to managing files and directories, we must make use of a more advanced software and with a greater number of features.

That's why we're going to start with a series of tutorials dedicated to the great Total Commander (TC), which will allow us to make operations on files quickly and effectively.

The first thing to comment about Total Commander, is that it's a paid software, and you can download the full software and test it without any limitations in functionality. If you do not register the program, a window that displays several numbers will be shown, and we should click on the correct number to be able to to start using the program.

The price of a license is 44$ (35€), and you can buy it from the official software website

Installing the program is simple and it doesn't install any type malware or adware. If this is the first time we use the program, we can leave the default configuration options, and modify them when we have more knowledge about all of the possibilities offered by this software.

We are going to get familiar with the the program's interface, because behind the apparent simplicity of the interface, there are powerful features that, once discovered, will ensure that file management will be a simple and pleasant task.

We have divided Total Commander interface into 7 specific areas. Look at the screenshot below to see each of the areas.

The specific areas can be joined together to form 3 more general divisions (general areas):

  1. Tools. Composed by the specific areas 1 and 2.

  2. Panel exploration. Composed by specific areas: 3, 4, 5 and 6

  3. Utilities. Corresponds to the specific zone number 7.

We will explain briefly the purpose of each specific area:

  1. Main Menu: this bar contains all program's options, and we will be able to access all of the features and settings by navigating through the different drop-down menus. Do not feel overwhelmed by the number of options available, it will not be necessary to know them all to take advantage of the program.

  2. Toolbar: this bar displays tools used commonly. By default there are some tools, such as: connect to FTP, refresh directory, unzip, etc. We can customize the buttons that appear in this bar, and add any of the available options in the Main Menu.

  3. Navigation Bar: this bar displays the drive in which we are located currently, we can change the unit drive using the drop down menu. It also shows the drive unit's label, unit free and total space, and two buttons “\” and “..”.
    With the button “\ we will go to the root of the drive.
    With the button “.. we will descend a directory.

  4. Location Bar: this bar that seems to show only our current location, hides shortcuts to different areas of the PC.
    If we click on the down arrow next to the name of the unit “vC:\ “, we'll see as it unfolds in a panel with access to: desktop, group home, control panel and more.

    If we click on the right side asterisk *, we will be able to add directories to our favorites and access them at any time.
    If we click on the arrow down to the right, it will unfold the latest locations that we have accessed, so that we can access quickly to our exploration history.

  5. Sort Bar: this bar displays different columns, and clicking on them we can sort the files and directories according to the selected column. For example, if we click on “Date” column, files will be sorted from more recent to oldest or vice versa.

  6. Navigation Pane: as we see, there are two navigation panels, one to the left and another to the right. This allows us to copy and move files with ease from one panel to another.
    In these panels we will be able to navigate through directories and folders on the selected drive. We can use the mouse to navigate, by double-clicking on the directories, or we can use the arrow keys and Enter key to move around directories.
    We can also open new tabs in each panel, so that the number of available panels can become almost infinite.

  7. Quick Commands and MS-DOS commands: in this area of the panel we can enter MS-DOS commands as if we were in the terminal console.
    It also show quick access keys that we can use to: edit a file, open a file, copy a file, create a directory, etc.

As we can see, the interface of the program is very complete and allows us to to perform a large number of actions which at first sight may pass unnoticed.

Total Commander exists since the year 1993, and was released with the name of Windows Commander. Along all these years has been able to adapt and add new features to meet the demand of the users. Without a doubt, an indispensable tool in every Windows operating system of those user who wants to move fast and agile through the systems directory structure.

We're going to see some of the things we can do with this file manager.

Preview a text document included in a compressed file.

This task is something usual when we download a compressed file. Many times, compressed files includes a text file (.txt), and if we want to read it, we must: unzip the file, go to the location of .txt file and open it with the text editor.

Thanks to Total Commander it will not be necessary to unzip the file to be able to read the text document. So we just need to follow the next steps.

Go to the folder where is located the compressed file. In our case we are going to go to the folder where is the file, which contains the game “The Lost Vikings”, that we take this opportunity to recommend so earnestly if you like puzzles and you have a good sense of humor.

Once we've located the folder, double click on file. As we see, it will show the content of the file without the need to decompress it. Now we can browse the contents of the file as if it was unzipped.

Double click in The Lost Vikings directory, and we'll see that it shows a list with the files contained in that directory.

We click on The Lost Vikings Manual.txt file, and press press F3. We'll see how The Lost Vikings Manual.txt file is opened and we can read its content.

In this way we have managed to read the information in the file .txt, in just a couple of clicks and pressing F3. It's very comfortable and fast.

Note: F3 is used to preview the content of any file, regardless of the extension of the file. So that, we will be able to read the contents of .nfo, .ini, .cfg, or withoutany extension files. We may even be able to view .exe or .zip file content (or any other extension), although obviously the only thing we'll see is a series of characters with no meaning. Look at the following image to see an example.

File Selection

Another essential function for handling files, is the possibility of select multiple files or directories at once.

Total Commander allows us to select the files/directories in the usual way, that is to say, using the key Shift, and selecting a group of files/directories with the mouse. This way of selecting multiple files has the inconvenience of having to use the mouse and the keyboard at the same time. In addition, if we want to select files that are not adjacent in the list, you must use Control key.

To prevent this, TC allows us to select files/directories using the right mouse button. So we just have to click with the right mouse button on the initial file and, without releasing the right mouse button, move the mouse down or up across the list of files. The selected files are marked in red color. To stop select files, we only need to release the right button of the mouse.
In this way we can select non-contiguous files in a simple and fast way.

In this tutorial, we have revised the program's main interface and shown some of the basic functionalities that this software offer us.

In the following tutorials we will see other of the multiple features offered by this software.

Do you knew Total Commander? do you use another file explorer? Do you prefer Windows Explorer?

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