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News and Reviews > Best Dialog Extender

Revisiting (XfilesDialog, File-Ex, Direct Folders)

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I have been using these programs for two years now since reading the big review here when I first joined DC.  After the review, I decided that XFilesDialog suited me the best of the "Best in Class" choices.  After a couple of years, I wanted to change because of a couple of annoying things about the program.  Stuff like the annual subscription process when there are barely any updates.  The program doesn't work with all programs, such as AutoCAD.  It has an annoying splash screen that can't be disabled without a hacked workaround I got from here. 
So, I decided to try out File-Ex.  I thought this would be the ONE because it has a trainable wizard where if certain dialogs and programs don't work, they can be trained to work.  WHile it's a fantastic idea, it doesn't work well at all.  At least not for AutoCAD.
THen, I tried Direct FOlders (which I know there are a lot of complaints of here).  I like the interface of Direct Folders out of all three. If they all worked as described, I would choose Direct Folders.  But Direct Folders still doesn't work with AutoCAD.  And Direct Folders seems to crash a lot.

So, what's the point here?  In my opinion, none of these programs are best in class.  They're all pretty good, but have some pretty major flaws.  And it's not just because it doesn't work with AutoCAD.  I bet the same is true for other programs that use a slightly modified version of the regular open/save dialogs.

Here's my summary:
XfilesDialog is good for it's stability and tweakability.
Direct FOlders has a great interface with the floating bar and genius double-click on an open space feature.
File-Ex had a great idea in the training wizard for unsupported apps (if it worked).

I've gone through a couple of these utilities, and finally landed on FlashFolder ( It's freeware (I believe open source). Here's the cited feature list:
FlashFolder enhances the file dialogs by providing the following functionality:

    * menu of recently used folders
    * editable menu of favorite folders
    * enlarges the common file dialogs to a configurable size (even non-resizable file dialogs of many programs)
    * automatically positions the dialogs at the center of the main program window or at the center of the screen
    * enlarges the directory- and file type drop-down fields so less scrolling is needed for them
    * persistent view mode for open/save dialog - e. g. if you select details view, it will be activated again the next time you open an open/save dialog
    * show the full path of the folder who’s content is currently displayed
    * quickly view “all files” (set *.* filter)
    * Total Commander® directory menu can be displayed instead of FlashFolders own favorites
    * editable Hotkeys for FlashFolder’s main functions

The following dialogs are currently supported (tested by myself or reported as working):

    * common open/save dialog (Windows 2000 / XP)
    * MS Office 2002/2003/2008 open/save dialog (Windows XP only)
    * Visual Studio 2003/2005 open/save dialog (Windows XP only)
    * common “browse for folder” dialog (Windows 2000 / XP)
    * “Open With” dialog (Windows 2000)

--- End quote ---
One thing it doesn't mention is the "folders of currently open files" feature, which is quite convenient and unique in my experience. Also, FlashFolder is very stable.

Edited: I should also warn you that Vista isn't yet supported.

I will check it out right now, thanks!!
I am currently using FileBox Extender (free!) for the first time.  It's pretty good.  I don't like the interface as much as the other ones I've tried, but it works better than them.  Even Autocad works, no problem.  So, FlashFOlder is next!

Well, FLashFolder is great, I love the interface.  It doesn't work with AutoCAD (only filebox extender does right now), but its interface is better.  I hate when this happens.  DOn't you hate it when one program is better than another in 90% of the criteria, except that little 10% that another program does better is very critical to you.  Ugh!

If you're interested in spending $40, you could try Stardock's Enhanced File Dialog... of course you need to buy a one year subscription to Object Desktop to get it, but it's an impressive application. I got rid of it while troubleshooting a problem I was having with a 16bit program and have never bothered reinstalling it, but I do miss it occasionally... I'm using File-Ex at the moment and am reasonably happy. Have used (and have licences for) both the other apps you mention. Left XFilesDialog for the same reasons you list.

I'm going to take a look at FlashFolder now...

FWIW Enhanced File Dialog is ONLY available as part of Object Desktop. It is rarely updated so if it works, consider the first years's subscription price the cost of the application (assuming it works with AutoCad? I've no idea and suspect that you won't be able to test it before paying for it, though I *believe* they have a 30 day refund policy).


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