Thanks for the Double Commander info.
Here are some solid and close to "absolutely free" (even for business or corporate users or your own dozen puters). Although they may like a donation, they are not crippled or nagware and are mostly dual-pane or more file managers - most under current support/development/forum/discussion.
For this usage you do not need the extra beauty and complexity of Total Commander or Dopus anyway (although you may have those in your arsenal as well) virtually everybody struggles with Explorer and needs an upgrade.
And thus the portable aspect is less important, something good should be on every puter
. There are tons of features not discussed here, just an overview list of the almost absolutely freebies.
They are listed in a cursory top-down interest fashion, with the top three (one open source) worthy of extra-special interest, and the next six all have interesting aspects, three are open source.
Note: I am not checking each of these programs extensively, so please do not consider all as fully reliable without additional checking.
THREE HUM-DINGERS (or potentially)
Free Commander - Marek Jasinski (Tabs, Configurable)http://www.freecommander.com/
"free of charge for private and professional purposes"
"suitable as a direct replacement for windows explorer "
Double Commander - Open Source - Windows and Linuxhttp://doublecmd.sourceforge.net/
"inspired by Total Commander and features some new ideas."
Likely the most developed of the multi-platforms
Roadmap shows pluses, including TC plugins, and needs.http://doublecmd.sou...ite/eng/roadmap.html
muCommander - Windows/Mac/Linuxhttp://www.mucommander.com/
Free Software (GPL) - (Java- Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, BSD, Solaris...)
Java application may be sub-optimal speedwise for a file manager.
Nomad.net - Open Sourcehttp://www.nomad-net.info/about
FileForum reviews are helpfulhttp://fileforum.bet...omadNET/1205541909/1
.net views differ widely, a review here would be welcome !
SurF File Manager - Open Sourcehttp://surf.svprogramming.net/
Not dual-pane, active development, may have some good features.
SE-Explorer - Free portable file manager for Windows (Russia per Snapfiles)http://www.se-soft.com/Explorer.aspx
.Net 2.0 needed -- Version: 0.0.27.531 Release Date: 16 March 2009
Helpful FileForum commentshttp://fileforum.bet...xplorer/1215802773/1
Lack of developer info is a negative, three softwares listed, all the last few months.
Commander - Michael Vinther (March, 2008)http://meesoft.logicnet.dk/Commander/
"If you like this software then please support my work and the future development of the program"
So those in the office who absolutely must have an Windows Explorer lookalike, with more functionality, are not left out.
Forum (very light)http://www.tabbyware.com/forum/2
Popular in portable apps
This next group is more or less dormant, Gyula's and UE and AC Browser may do more development.
UltraExplorer (12/2007 - other software there more recent)http://www.mustangpe...t/ultraexplorer.html
"UltraExplorer is the testbed for Mustangpeak Delphi and CBuilder Components.It is designed to be the ultimate File Manager for Microsoft Windows."
Receives some nice positive DC references.
Clif Notes Newsletterhttps://freewarewiki...otesNewsletter080601
AC Browser Plus (May, 2007) - Konrad Papala (Poland)http://www.konradp.c...bplus/free_index.htm
Discussions on p. 13 & 14 of thread
"The only difference is that the free version can't have more than 3 browse windows opened at a time."
Accelman - Flexigensoft (Version: 3.5 - 2007-04-21) http://www.flexigensoft.com/accelman
GiveawayoftheDay (2007) - with their edgy comments back-and-forthhttp://www.giveawayo...m/accelman/#comments
Gyula's Navigator (commercial use: $20 for 5 licenses, close enuf to free)http://www.wanari.co...ynav/Index.jsp?isNS=
Email Forum http://tech.groups.y...oo.com/group/winnav/
User's tend to like. - Tekzel comment on DC.http://www.donationc...?topic=5372.msg39845
"absolutely free software"
Pablo Commander (2004 last updates, active with others softwares and forum)http://www.pablosoft...pablo_commander.html
File Matrix (3/2008)http://www.gardenero...filematrix/index.htm
"The development of this program has been frozen"
Forum (last activity 2007)http://www.explorerxp.com/phpBB2/
Turbo Navigator - "Last Freeware Version"http://www.321downlo...tFreeware/page6.html
Current Status uncertain
File Commander 5 (2007)http://www.godlikeso...oducts&product=2
Last freeware versions of active (or semi-active - PowerDesk).
Although a couple of reviewers consider the earlier Servant Sal as greater-ware. Note the difference where, e.g. xplorer2 and servant sal encourages their download, XYplorer considers it as ancient history.
Servant Salamander 1.52 (Czech) (may go back to 1998)http://www.altap.cz/...lam_en/freeware.html
Last Freeware Programhttp://www.321downlo...Freeware/page29.html
A well-liked program, chart shows how features surpassed by current commercial program.
"Version 1.52 of Servant Salamander, which wins the doctor's "Worst Name for a Good Product" Award, is completely free. ) Version 2.0 is not free, and it's also not as good as version 1.52. (Yes, the doctor agrees that it's a crazy world.) ... Servant Sal is a great file manager whether you make use of the CD-copying feature or not. The doc uses Sal all the time he is at his Windows PC, and even has a few interesting tricks he does with Sal.
xplorer² — free versionhttp://zabkat.com/x2lite.htm
Feature comparison table. Not for commercial use. Unsupported but with active forum.http://netez.com/bbs...540a2fc45c0ce2fe90f4
XYplorer 5.50.0001 - Last Freeware Version (2006)http://www.321downlo...Freeware/page22.html
"XYplorer Freeware Edition (aka XYplorerFree) has been discontinued "http://www.xyplorer.com/free.php
The commerical XYplorer has a lot of fans, earlier freeware product is now discouraged.
Multi-tab, not dual pane.
PowerDesk Free (2006) http://www.snapfiles...rdesk/powerdesk.html
Good explanation of history in Karma-D Snapfile comment.
A couple of these now get a bit spacey and unusual, more for techie and fun play. Development status varies.
Unreal Commander v0.95 - 01/2009 - Russiahttp://x-diesel.com/
(recommended as best keyboard-user freeware below by Fenix)
"With TC's plugins support"
Has good page showing translators around the world and has dumbo "awards" page.
Zirpher (formerly File Surfer)http://www.zirpher.com/
Without trials and more comments it is hard to say if these will also double in a simpler ultra-practical mode.
My sense is that if you wanted to replace Explorer on a bunch of puters, and keep it fairly simple for other people yet give them real dual-pane capability with much stronger functionality, the main competitors would be FreeCommander, Q-Dir, UltraExplorer. Q-Dir may have to be tamed from its 4-pane mode (although Freeware Genius puts it as a fine direct Explorer replacement). I don't think it was mentioned in this thread, it is the one that I plan to give a spin shortly (I use Free Commander normally, and Total Commander.) Double Commander is the likely next trial after Q-Dir.
(And the next post, quite informed, bumps Unreal Commander into this prime-time mix.)
Oh, one last point. The main commercial alternative for many budget-conscious small businesses will be Total Commander - a 10-user license (10 users at any one time is the concept, install can be on more puters) runs a smidgen over $200. Clearly it is easier to get a $0 purchase through the bureaucracy than $200, however for many multiuser uses Total Commander must be given a good comparison run. We consider TC robust and strong and flexible and under very active development and support.
Personally, I really think even the everyday non-techie office worker will appreciate any good dual-pane manager (free or commercial) with simple function keys to move and copy. (One reason I did this overview was to really shake out the alternatives.) TCUP - total commander ultra prime as an add-on I think is free for registered TC users, their website has a hold today so more info would be helpful.