In the world of file management, there are two basic trends of utilities.
The first trend focuses on features. These programs will give you every conceivable file management tool under the sun, a veritable Swiss Army Knife of utilities. A program like FM/2 is a great example of this trend -- it even has add-ons!
The second trend focuses on speed. These applications are generally smaller in scope, having fewer, more basic tools, and concentrating on the basics -- managing your files.
Each trend has its advantages. The feature-laden tools allow you to perform tasks other than simply moving your files around; you can also edit files, run diagnostics on files, even (with some applications) search for duplicates of files. These applications let you do a lot without having to open up other programs, and can be more efficient in some situations.
If you don't have much use for the extras, however, they can get in the way. Some people want a file manager that does just that -- manages files -- and little else. If you're one of those people, you're looking for a simple, fast program that does what it's supposed to and doesn't get in the way.
File Freedom is almost such a program . It's small, it's fast, it's efficient, and for the most part it's very simple. Unfortunately, there are times when it breaks from this simplicity and requires you to go through a few extra steps that don't seem necessary.
Installing File Freedom is simple with the provided installation program, but not required. For those in a hurry, File Freedom can be run just by double clicking its .EXE file.
As promised, File Freedom is small and fast. It showed no bugs during my testing and the performance was quite good. Even those with extremely slow machines will find File Freedom a quick file manager.
File Freedom's basic layout (GIF, 14.2k) is modeled after Windows 3.1's old File Manager -- directory structure on the left-hand side, file information on the right-hand side. The file list in the right hand window can be displayed in either icon (GIF, 15.0k), flowed or list styles.
Unlike the File Manager, however, it has a toolbar at the top of the screen (which can be moved to the right-hand side of the screen) that makes accessing many of its commands a lot simpler. From the toolbar, you can choose to rename a file (GIF, 2.3k), copy a file, move a file, search for files, change file attributes, launch a file editor that you can specify from the settings menu, even print files directly from the file manager window.
File Freedom also makes use of Drag and Drop between its windows, so instead of using the menu items or tool bar buttons, you can simply drag files to new directories (GIF, 7.1k) to move or copy them.
In File Freedom's settings notebook (GIF, 5.8k) there's space to tie in external programs. With it you can associate various file extensions with different programs (GIF, 6.8k), so those programs will launch when a file with the particular extension is double-clicked. For example, you can associate a .bmp file with PMView to view all of your bitmaps in that program. There are 12 default file extensions and it's possible to add more if you wish. You can configure up to four additional programs which can be launched from the Options menu. As far as I can tell, these programs can be anything you wish -- for example, you could configure File Freedom to link to Word Pro when you wanted to edit a word processing document, or to launch Netscape to read an HTML file.
File Freedom also allows you to compress and uncompress files by including the file names of your zip and unzip programs in the "Archiver" tab of the settings notebook (GIF, 6.7k). This is a nice feature, because once this is done you can simply select the files you want to compress, click the appropriate button, then choose a name for the archive (GIF, 3.3k).
Unfortunately, File Freedom has a few limitations. First, it's not integrated with the Workplace Shell. It's not possible to move a file between File Freedom and the "outside world", so you couldn't open up a folder on your Desktop and drag a file from the File Freedom window to the folder -- all activities are confined to within File Freedom. This can be awkward at times, especially when you're moving a file from one hard drive to another. File Freedom will not let you view any more than one hard drive directory at a time (you can't view two file trees side-by-side, for example). Also, File Freedom has no right-click awareness, which is disconcerting given that so many OS/2 programs do. And finally, as mentioned above, drag-and-drop from within the program itself is somewhat limited -- while you can do it, a dialog box always appears to confirm the move, which is an extra step I don't need in every situation.
All things considered, File Freedom is a solid and useful program that doesn't sacrifice speed with extra features -- though it does let you add those features yourself, if you wish. I like a lot of the things it does, but I find it a bit awkward to use in many situations because of the limitations in viewing multiple directories and the awkward way it handles drag-and-drop. However, I suggest you try experimenting with it yourself before you decide how awkward it really is -- these things all depend on the very subjective likes and dislikes of each individual, and not everyone will find them annoying.
File Freedom does what it does very well. I see room for improvement, and hope the author keeps developing it (adding multiple views, WPS integration) even though it is perfectly serviceable right now.
File Freedom v1.9b
Christopher B. Wright is a technical writer in the Richmond, VA area, and has been using OS/2 Warp since January 95. He is also a member of Team OS/2.
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