A quick look at console file managers


I still consider XTreeGold some of the best utility software ever written, and it still makes using my vintage PCs a joy. I’ve been looking again if there are modern equivalents, especially for exploring file systems and performing batch tasks.

Here’s what I have so far:

  • Midnight Commander mimics the orginal Norton Commander for DOS, with a text editor and familiar blue interface. I love that this exists, though I’ll admit I keep it around mostly for nostalgia.

  • Ranger arguably spawned the current next-gen console file managers, and its where I’ve stuck around. It uses a column interface like the macOS Finder which makes visualising directory trees easy, and I still think it’s the easiest to configure.

  • nnn is a multi-modal file manager with numbered tabs, file icons, and even a disk usage visualiser. I need to give it more of a look.

  • fff is is the most recent one I’ve looked at. It’s genuinely impressive how much functionality and performance has been wrung out of pure bash scripts.

  • lf feels like a snappier Ranger with a broad subset of its features included in a single binary file. I could see myself installing this on servers, and using Ranger on the desktop.

Let me know if you have other suggestions, I may be slightly obsessed with the concept right now.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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