Windows Explorer isn’t a terrible platform for file management, but it’s certainly not one of the best. I mean, it works well enough if you’re just trying to organize a few documents and folders on your hard drive, even if every iteration does have a few faults. Once you start getting into larger quantities of files or content on apps like Dropbox, things start to fall apart fairly quickly.  It’s a problem as old as Windows itself.

It’s thus not terribly surprising, then, that so many third party developers have come forth with alternatives. There exists a huge array of platforms and applications designed to overhaul the rather cumbersome management system with which Windows users are saddled by default.

The primary problem with most of these tools? They require a hard installation to use. For some of you, this might not be much of a problem – after all, you’re trying to do away with Explorer, and it’s up to you what you install on your system, right?

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Sometimes, however, installing an app is neither feasible nor advisable. If you’re using a system that doesn’t actually belong to you (such as at work, in a library, or at an Internet cafe), you’re not likely to be either willing or able to boot up one of the more common file explorers. For all intents and purposes, you’re stuck with what you’ve got, right?

Not necessarily. I’d like to introduce you to Just Manager: a free, lightweight, and portable alternative to Windows Explorer.

Installation

Under the Downloads heading on the Just Manager Website, you’ll see two different versions of the application: standard and portable; each one with a 32 bit and 64 bit installation (note that using the installer will allow you to select between portable and standard, as well). The primary difference between the two is that the ‘portable’ option comes packaged in a .zip file, and doesn’t actually require any installation. Just extract it onto a USB drive, and you’re good to go: you’ve a file management system you can bring with you pretty much anywhere.

That’s one of the ways Just Manager defines itself from all the other third-party file systems: it doesn’t force you to jump through hoops to use it. It’s literally just “plug in and go.”

But how does it stack up in terms of features?

How Does It Work?

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The first thing you’ll probably notice about Just Manager is that it’s really not much to look at. The interface is clean, simple, and perhaps even a little ugly. That’s honestly not much of a problem, truth be told:  the spartan nature of how the application is laid out means it’s incredibly easy to use, with no garish bells and whistles to distract you while you’re looking through your files and folders.

By default, you start with two panes in which you can view files, though you can up this number to as many as 16(in order to do this, simply change the Column or Rows count under Settings->View).  Each of these panes can also support a virtually infinite number of tabs.

At the top of each panel, you’ll see information disc space and size, while at the bottom you’ll see information on the folder you’re currently viewing. Further, each panel can be visually customized in a wide variety of ways, including changing how the files are viewed. The view options in this case are identical to the options you’d find in the standard Windows Explorer: List, Tiles, Icons, Small Icons, or Details. A bar across the bottom of the application provides easy actions to functions like folder creation and deletion, while a whole list of (configurable) keyboard shortcuts can be perused and modified in the “settings” tab.

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It’s here that we come to another one of Just Manager’s useful – and rather impressive- features: file highlighting. The application is set up so that users can select files of a particular type to be displayed with a different font color than other files. By default, the files that are set to be displayed in such a fashion are Executables, Hidden and System Files, Compressed Files and Reparse Point Files. Any other file types that you wish to highlight can be added to the list with ease.

That’s as good a segway to bring up one of Just Manager’s most powerful advantages: the staggering degree to which it can be customized. I’m not going to go fully into detail on just how deep this customization goes, but I feel it’s safe to say that it’s flexible enough that virtually anyone using it will be able to tweak it to their liking.  This also includes visual themes and layouts, as well: if you don’t particularly care for the somewhat ugly, old-school skin of Just Manager, you can change it.

Lastly, Just Manager includes full support for FTP, online documents and network drives.

Closing Thoughts

Just Manager is fully featured, portable, and powerful. It’s both efficient and stable, and incredibly easy to use.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have its weaknesses:  it seems to have a few issues with the recognition of tablets and other, similar devices, and it may not be as versatile as some of the better-known, paid alternatives.

Still, if you’re looking for a free, easy to use, and quick to install file manager to address your Windows Explorer woes, you could do a lot worse than Just Manager.