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Chaos Manor Special Reports

File Managers

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

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The original Windows had quite a good file manager, but it went away, possibly to leave room for some Microsoft associated firm like Symantec, who did well for a while and dropped the ball. In any event Samuel Johnson once said that men seldom need educating but they often need reminding. That certainly proved to be true when I asked readers for suggestions about file managers.

Within hours I had hundreds of letters. I've included some selected mostly by being the earliest.



It began this way in View 268 for July 28, 2003:

I need a file management utility. For years I have used and recommended Canyon Software's Drag 'N File, but it seems not to have kept up with XP and I get some serious glitches using it (files copied to unexpected places, duplicated directories, etc. )

What I need is something like the original File Manager, or Norton Commander for Windows, but it needs this feature: I should be able to specify that I want to copy all and only those files in this directory and these subdirectories that are LATER than the ones being copied to.

It should then do that, without stopping to ask me, without blowing up and stopping entirely when it finds an open file, and preferably it should report on what it has done when it is finished.

There must be such file utilities. I've been spoiled by Drag 'N File and Commander, and I haven't kept up.  Commander alas doesn't work automatically. I sure wish Symantec had kept Commander up to date. AND SEE BELOW.


Dear Jerry,

While it doesn't provide drag and drop capability, good old xcopy in XP can do the other stuff you want it to do:

Xcopy <source> <destination> /S/D/C/Y

/D:m-d-y Copies files changed on or after the specified date. If no date is given, copies only those files whose source time is newer than the destination time. /S Copies directories and subdirectories except empty ones. /C Continues copying even if errors occur. /Y Suppresses prompting to confirm you want to overwrite an existing destination file.

Of course, if you do the same directories over and over you can make a batch file.

Hope this helps!

Mark Stang


Hello Jerry,

>I should be able to specify that I want to copy all and only those files in this directory and these subdirectories that are LATER than the ones being copied to.

Have you looked at xcopy? Just type "xcopy /?" on the command line and you get an excellent manual of about 20 lines.

I find it very useful when set up in a batch file.

Regards, Peter Smith


So, I said:

I am reminded by many readers that xcopy with various command line parameters will do all that. All true, and I suppose I should adopt it. My only problem is that I have some long name directories, and the target directory for most of what I want to do is called "FULL MONTY"; and xcopy will not accept directory names with spaces in them. Canyon Drag 'N Soft used to although I now wonder if some of my problems with that utility might have been caused by that. COMMANDER was "Point and Shoot" and didn't care.

I've solved the problem somewhat by renaming FULL MONTY to FULLMONTY which seems to work, so clearly xcopy hasn't kept the 8 letter Directory name limitation even though it can't accept spaces in Directory Names. Odd how quickly one forgets command line methods, given that I used to be a champion of command lines and insisted (I think with some success; at least one of them blames me anyway) that Microsoft's product managers retain the capabilities...

Anyway it sure works, once I get the limits taken care of. Thanks to about 6 readers who sent nearly identical suggestions...

The FULLMONTY is of course a directory of everything I ever wrote, including the editor programs. It hasn't been kept up to date recently. Now to burn a CD and mail it off to Thompson and another to Niven just in case...

As to long file names and names with spaces:

XCOPY will accept source and target directory names that have spaces. Like all strings in the windows world, if a directory contains spaces, simply place quotation marks around it:

XCOPY "C:\Data\Jerry Pournelle\*.*" "C:\Full Monty" /d /s /c /i /h /r /k /y

I back up my local work directory to the network each day using a similar command. Use a scheduler of some sort and you never have to worry about it again.

Ken McIntire Atlanta, GA



XCOPY should work with long filenames if the full path is enclosed in quotes. Amazing how XP brings back the old command line skills.... I've even found XP's 'search' utility to be so useless that I often fall back on the old 'attrib <filename> /s' trick.

You might also find ROBOCOPY useful. It's a command line utility from the NT Resource Kit and a Google search should turn up a few places to download it from if you don't have a Reskit CD laying about. There are a great many options for including or excluding files and subdirectories, when to overwrite or not overwrite, etc, and the command line switches take a bit of looking at to get what you want set up, but once it's done it doesn't often have to be touched again.

I use ROBOCOPY for a quick and dirty backup scheme. I've created a batch file that copies my important data files off to another machine across the network and used the Windows Scheduler to run that batch file every four hours. The screen output is piped to a file so if necessary I can see later what files were copied, without having to watch the job execute. Not the most elegant system anyone ever came up with, but it gets the job done....

--- Robert Brown Mr. Bad Example

And of course that works. I also downloaded ROBOCOPY and I'll have something to say about that another time.

And there were reminders that command line utilities are not dead:

FYI, xcopy can handle long filenames and directory names, you just have to put them in quotes:

e.g. Xcopy "C:\My documents\*.*" "F:\Full Monty\*.*" /S/D/C/Y

On command line utils. They're not dead yet! Microsoft has finally realized that sysadmins don't like GUIs, and have committed to providing command line tools for over 180 admin functions. From MS:

"Approximately 80 command-line tools existed for 100 of the top 180 management tasks

60 new tools added to Microsoft Windows XP and Windows Server 2003

11 tools migrated from the resource kit into the box (System 32 folder)

Over 20 new tools built for Windows XP

Over 30 new tools built for Windows Server 2003 "

the above is from:

Also, the ability of existing batch commands has increased significantly with 2000 and now XP.

You can parse files with the "FOR" command, you can do string replacement with the SET command, you can prompt for user input, also with the SET command, you can check for variables with the IF DEFINED command. You can pull out the drivename,filename, path, extension or any combination of a file, you have %TIME%, %DATE%, and %RANDOM% system variables, there is delayed variable expansion so you can re-evaluate variables in a FOR loop, and the ability to have subroutines (with passed parameters inside a batch file.


There were many other suggestions:

Dr. Pournelle, I saw that you were looking for a file manager and I found one that you might want to check out. It's called ZTreeWin and it's at . I'm not sure how it is, but it looks like a Windows version of XTree.

Have a Good Day. Phil Fox

================  describes how XXCOPY (freeware for personal use, shareware for commercial, no copy protection) would allow you to revert to FULL MONTY as a directory name, and do a newer-than copy without relying on the archive bit.

It's also rather useful in cloning for backups, and only takes 245KB - so it fits on a Win98SE boot disk (for FAT32) with room to spare for a CD-R/RW packet driver.

-- John E. Bartley, III 503-BAR-TLEY (503-227-8539) K7AAY This post quad-ROT13 encrypted; reading it violates the DMCA. We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.



Have you looked at
 She has a replicator that does it all for you

Got luck



You may want to look at

"Automatically backup files, directories, even entire drives! Karen's Replicator copies selected files from one drive/folder to another. Source and Destination folders can reside anywhere on your network. Files larger than 2 GB are supported.

"Options include repeated copies at intervals as short as a few minutes, or as long as several months, copy only files that have changed, and the replication of file deletions.

"New features allow you to specify which files should not be copied, and also which days a file should be skipped!"

Replicator is freeware, but if you like it or any of the other tools Karen provides you can support her by buying a CD with them all on.


-- Harry Payne


All of which gives me plenty to look up. THANKS! And then we got

RE: File Management Utilities I have used PowerDesk for many years now. While it has changed hands several times, it has remained the one program that I HAVE to have installed on any PC I use. You used to recommend it, in fact; back then it was sold by Mijenix, makers of WizTools for Win 3.11. PowerDesk supports the Norton Commander keyboard commands and has some very nice utility programs with it as well: built-in zip/tar/archiving, QuickView, multi-pane file listings, folder synchronizer, etc..

It's currently being sold by v-com (  ) and is a fine product. You were the one who got me to look at it way back when -- I'd be delighted to return the favor. The free download version is not at all bad either.


Mason Shaar

I had completely forgotten about Power Desk, which was in fact an extremely useful utility, and I'll have to look into it again. Thanks.



Try Total Commander, you can get it at

has all you asked for and much more (internal zip/unzip, unrar, plus you can add your favorite programs to the toolbar... and more and more)

Best regards from Chile

Jorge Diaz


Hello Jerry,

You wrote today that you seek a replacement for Nortonís Commander, and I have seen you write about a very good substitute for it once before, Windows Commander, which has since been forced by Microsoft to change its name to Total Commander. I use it all the time. It can be found at . Thanks for all the prose!


Which I also have to look into. I forget what I didn't care for the first time I tried "Total Commander".

Incidentally, the old Windows Commander still works very well, and if they had only fixed the "reminder" thing on copying later files I don't think I would have needed anything else.

And XCOPY pretty well solved my original problem.