Free Software for DOS
File Managers – 1

21 Aug 2006

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FILE MANAGERS:  DOS 8+3 filenames only

Other page:
FILE MANAGERS:  Long File Name support




 Also see: Connect and Mi-Shell, both with file management and more.


Most file managers listed here are design variations on the Norton Commander for DOS, a successful commercial file manager / shell with dual directory panels and text mode display. Some deviate from this standard and display one directory panel and a status panel with disk and file, or system information, or all three (Directory FreedomPC Valet ShellPath Miser ShellTree86 LiteTutordo).

DOS Navigator (DN), its derivatives (NDNDN OSP implement a form of virtual directories – they can display files from multiple directories in a single panel (sensu XTREE). File Wizard and DOS Navigator can group found files in the same panel. Archive Lister is the only FM which has implemented ftp (remote) panels – this feature works under Win9x only.

DOS Navigator and Archive Lister can open multiple dual-panel windows. The VGA mode GVFM can also display multiple dir. tree / file list windows (resembles Win3.1 FM).

Archive handling: DOS NavigatorArchive ListerHFMFile WizardUFOPinco's CommanderGenesis Commander read and display popular archives as virtual directories. HFM and File Wizard permit many operations in an archive panel (e.g., copy/drag files between archive panels, etc.). DOS Navigator,  DF,  File Wizard,  UFO , PC Valet Shell,  Tutordo  and Genesis have explicit archive creation commands for packing selected files; many have an archive unpack command (all require external archivers).

DOS Navigator — File Wizard — UFO — HFM implement file "drag and drop" for copy, move, and/or delete actions.

Fast XMS COPY: Some (DOS Navigator — PC — File Wizard) can use XMS memory during copy operations – a potential time saver especially when transferring large files to/from floppies.

PC-to-remote-PC file transfer: File Maven has the ability to transfer files between PCs via serial or parallel cables. Also see DOS Navigator's (and DN OSP's) serial "Navigator Link" function.

Useful emergency disk companions: Path Miser Shell, just 36K (or 20K compressed with aPACK), includes a built-in editor, Win9x LFN display. PC Valet Shell, only 26K (or 17K unpacked and recompressed with UPX), about 11K more if you use the hex editor and other add ons.

Win9x LFN compatible (under Win9x only, not plain DOS): NDNDN OSPDN/2File WizardArchive ListerUFOTutordoPath Miser ShellAdrenal Manager.

Personal favorites: File Wizard, Connect, DOS Navigator. For older PCs: Directory Freedom, DC (w/ very honorable mentions to PC Valet Shell, PC).

Screenshots (*.png format) of selected file managers: Archive Lister (ftp panel) — DCDirectory FreedomDN OSPFile MavenFile WizardGVFM (VGA mode) — HFMPath Miser ShellPC Valet Shell 1PC Valet Shell 2Pinco's CommanderTerminate CommanderTree86 LiteUFO.

Limitations: Nearly all of the FMs listed here aren't capable (or currently capable) of reading the huge numbers of files and directories now commonplace on Win9x systems with multi-gigabyte drives. A very few are not cosmetically Y2K compliant (noted in text).

FILE MANAGERS:  DOS 8+3 filenames only

 Also see the real mode version of DN OSP.

DC (DOS Controller) — Fast file manager for DOS, Norton Commander clone.

* * * *

[updated 2006-08-21]

DC is a near-clone of the Norton Commander for DOS with a few features omitted and improvements added. DC is preferred over many of the FMs listed here because of its small size (50K), smart design, speed, and lack of bugs. While not as feature-laden as some of the FMs listed here its simplicity can be a plus for users of older PCs. DC is coded in assembly language – which translates to minimal RAM wastage and quick operation even on underpowered computers. You can use it both as a file manager and as a DOS shell (non memory resident option exists).

While many of the FMs listed here use a command bar, DC also implements pulldown menus for each directory pane – a big plus for mouse users because frequently used commands (e.g., sorting ) can be invoked without wading through a dialog box. The appearance of individual panes is highly customizable (tree view, brief file info, full file info, etc.); you can even hide the panes to get a better look at command-line output. An option also exists to compare directories. DC is mouse compatible, has a very competent built-in editor (loads files as large as available conventional memory), displays a command line, and includes a user configurable program menu and text-mode screen saver. COM size: 50K.

  1. Has no built-in archive management features but you can associate archive extensions with 3rd party archive managers like AVIEW or AinView.
  2. Doesn't list some CD-ROM or RAM disks (XMSDSK).
  3. Can't copy directories.
  4. Documentation (in Danish and English) is sparse but you won't need it. No Win9x features.

Y2K: Displays correct two-digit year, performs sort by date correctly (w/ Y2K compliant hardware / DR DOS 7.02).

Author: Søren Kragh, Denmark (1992).

1992-02-01 release.

Download (39K).

DOS Navigator — Excellent multiple window, dual-panel file manager.

* * * * *

[added 1999-04-24, updated 2004-06-13]

A great (maybe the best) DOS-only file manager that integrates a v. good editor, spreadsheet, *.dbf viewer, phone book / dialer, terminal, cd player. DOS Navigator does *not* support Win9x long file names (LFNs); if you need LFN display see DN's progeny: NDN, DN OSP and the full 32-bit DN/2.

Author: RITLabs, Russia (1999).

1999-04-19: v1.51. Last version from RITLabs. This program is now open source freeware.

Download (768K).

Get older versions, source and docs in several languages at the DOS Navigator page. Note: Links to the DOS Navigator Open Source Project and to Necromancer's DOS Navigator are dead. See FILE MANAGERS: Long File Name support for more recent news of those programs and current links.

Directory Freedom — Comprehensive dir. utility / file manager; Small, fast, configurable.

* * * * *

[updated 2004-06-13]

DF is an outstanding shareware file utility that has turned freeware. It has a famous heritage dating back to the PC Mag utilities DR and CO, and their descendant, Directory Control. Because of the number and type of enhancements added to DF, I prefer to classify it with file managers rather than directory utilities. DF displays a vertical directory panel on the left, vertical command panel on the right, and a horizontal status area at the bottom of screen. Suited to mouse or keyboard users. Some file operations (copy, move, rename) require typing destination path.

From the docs:
Directory Freedom...originally grew out of a variety of programs which owe their "look and feel" to Michael Mefford's DR and CO utilities in PC Magazine...DF was most directly adapted from Peter Esherick's DC (Directory Control)...Some of the major features are listed below. These are just a sampling but should help give the user of the earlier programs a flavor for how DF has been extended from its original roots.

Author: Gordon Haff / Bit Masons Consulting (1999).

1999-12-23: v4.61b. Last version, development has ended.


Directory Freedom page.

Sources page.

XDOS — Single-panel file manager includes editor and serial port transfer capability.


[added 2003-11-28, updated 2004-06-13]

This unique single panel file manager utilizes all mouse buttons efficiently. All commands are listed on bottom 3 lines of screen and easily accessed with keyboard or mouse. 54K executable.

Includes: Limitations:

Author: Applied Micros Pty Limited, Australia (1985-2002).

2002: Revision 23.06.

Download xdos.exe, not archived (54K).

HFM — Powerful file manager with many features.

* * * 1/2

HFM is a dual pane, text mode FM with mouse support. While the interface may be too 'busy' for some, it's a good choice for a DOS file manager. Pascal source included. EXE size: 150K. Can be installed to run in German or in English.

Features: Limitations:

Author: Andreas Helke, Germany (1996).

1996-06-05: v4.04 re-released. Formerly shareware, now free under GNU Public License.

Download (492K).

File Maven — File manager with PC-to-PC file transfer capabilities.

* * * 1/2

File Maven is an easy-to-use dual pane file manager with unique features like PC-to-PC file transfers via serial or parallel cable, and Blowfish file encryption. Incorporates pulldown menus, is mouse compatible, and has good archive handling (PKZip, ARJ, LHA). Program size ~350K with support files.

Other distinguishing features: Limitations:

Author: Kent Briggs / Briggs Softworks (1998).

1998-01-09: v3.5a.

Download (161K).

See the File Maven page for additional information.

Terminate Commander — Good file manager tuned for use with comm programs.

* * * *

[updated 2005-03-11]

Quick first impressions...

Terminate Commander is a freeware utility that was originally part of the Terminate communications software package, but it works very well as a standalone file manager. The layout of Terminate Commander is somewhat unique and consists of two or three major vertical panes: one system info / function menu pane and one (or two) directory lists with full (or brief) file information. Keyboard navigation is easy. Includes mouse support too, but you can't scroll directory lists with the mouse. A user-defined menu is displayed on the bottom row of the screen. A popup command line is available which includes a command history buffer. Includes a good built-in file viewer too. EXE size 151K.

Other features: Limitations:

Author: Bo Bendtsen, Denmark (1997). Suggested by Robert Bull.

1997-07-21: v2.11.

Download (87K).

Pinco's Commander — Dual pane file manager with fast XMS copy, RAR archive support.

* * * 1/2

[added 1997, updated 2004-06-27]

Pinco's Commander is a very "fast" and uncomplicated dual pane text-mode file manager which gets a high usability rating along with DC. Distinguished by a colorful interface. Lacks the nice pulldown menus found in DC, but very easy to navigate with a mouse. Setup and configuration are a snap. Although PC may have too much of an "attitude" for some, I use it quite frequently on my 386/20 because of its fast XMS copying feature. PC is one of the few freeware FMs which reads RAR archives as directories. EXE size: 50K plus 70K auxiliary tools. Requires 80286+ and VGA.

  1. Can use XMS memory during copy and move operations which really speeds up these operations.
  2. Can manipulate ZIP, ARJ, RAR archives. Displays archives as directories. External archivers required.
  3. Can copy directories.
  4. Floppy disk formatting, disk labeling.
  5. Can swap to XMS/EMS during program execution.
  6. Option to display command line with command history buffer.
  7. File associations, manually added in config. file.
  8. Includes a fast built-in file viewer (text, raw, or hex display); handles large files.
  9. Basic file finding function with text search, customizable popup menu for program launching, customizable colors. Y2K compliant.
  10. Hint: If you have a three button mouse, the middle mouse button emulates double click.

Some may be offended by off-color slang used in some error messages (e.g., drive-not-ready message).

Author: Enrico Ferro, Italy (2000). Cardware.

2000-05-08: v2.2.

Download (137K), in English.

Genesis Commander — Norton Commander clone.

* * * *

[added 2005-02-04]

This is a very fast and flexible two-panel file manager, with the usual directory info at the bottom of each panel, and an F-key reminder bar (F1-F10 only) and DOS command bar at the bottom of the screen. Operation is by keyboard only. Default text and Hex viewers and a text editor are included in the package, but other viewers and text editor can be selected.

A plain text file, GC.INI, stores basic configuration data. Most items can be set from the menus, but some require direct editing to change defaults (e.g., text and Hex editors). Another plain text file, GC.EXT, sets external viewers for other specific file types (archives, graphics, sound...).

Key commands:
User menu of DOS commands (9 maximum), plain
text file GC.MNU must be edited directly
View file (Binaries shown in Hex, Archives shown as dir)
Edit text file
Copy file/directory
Move or rename file/directory
Create directory
Delete file/directory
Show pulldown menus
Change left-panel drive
Change right-panel drive
View text file in Hex – default or user's viewer
Rename file/directory
Drive info
Dir size
Repeat last command
Reread dir
Show last DOS screen
Pulldown Menus:
File sorting parameters

File detail levels

Enable/disable display of disk info

Encrypt / Decrypt

Split / Merge

Change attributes of file or of whole directory tree

Change extension, of one file or of all selected files

Fit files to diskette – 1.44MB / 1.2MB / user size

Compare two directories – same files will be selected

Find file and, if found, change to its directory

Extract readable ASCII code from binary files

Email to ASCII


Windows to ASCII

dBase to ASCII


Compare text files

From a file list, extract all lines containing specified strings

Remove chars or strings from text files

Replace chars or strings in text files

Count chars or strings in text files

Compare two selected file for differences or for similarities – differences (or similarities) are written to a third file

Test Pentium for bug

Turn speaker on/off

Audio CD Player


PC Info

Save dirtree to file

Save filetree to file

Read all filenames in a directory, create subdirectories with their names, move files into the new subdirectories.

Save DOS screen to file

Extract GIF and JPG file info, put info into a file

Switch names of two selected files

Expand filenames

Hide / display clock


Color schemes


RECYCLE.BIN – Enable/disable, set size

Select language – English, German, Hungarian


File sorting parameters

File detail levels

Enable/disable display of disk info

Other: Dates shown as YYYY-(M)M-(D)D — Y2K+ correct, no leading zeros in one-digit M or D. Copyrighted freeware, registration as a "GC-Fan" is requested.

Author: Christian Paukovits, Austria (1996).

1996-09-26: v1.32.

Download (164K).

PC Valet Shell — Small file manager with built-in file viewer, hex editor, and more.

* * * 1/2

PC Valet Shell is a small, fast, single directory pane, file manager / shell that has not seen wide distribution. The interface somewhat resembles the look of the once-popular XTree file manager. I prefer dual panels, but it has several attractive features. The executable and associated files use less than 40K disk space excluding documentation. Features include directory tree display, file extension association, an internal text file viewer, hex viewer, capable hex editor, and a screen saver. Overall, PC Valet Shell is comparable to DC in features and configurability – I prefer the latter simply for its greater ease of navigation and file manipulation. Last released in 1994 – no Win9x features. EXE size: 26K + 15K auxiliary tools. Take a look at Screenshot 1, or at Screenshot 2.

Other features: Limitations:

Author: John Junod (1994).

Download (36K).

Tree86 Lite — Directory tree and file management utility.

* * * 1/2

An older (1990) file manager which remains useful owing to a unique design. Tree86 Lite is a free "Special Edition Trial Version" still distributed by the Aldridge Company, but it is not disabled in any way and contains no nag/ad screens; The lite version does possess fewer features than the commercial Tree86, but it remains a remarkably feature-rich tool.

Tree86 takes a different approach than most typical file managers. It is designed primarily as a directory "tree-walking" tool. On start-up, Tree86 reads all directories on a given drive and displays a tree of directories. Because the focus is directories, Tree86 stands out as a good directory-level manager, i.e., make, rename, copy, delete, "cut and paste" single directory actions are supported. File lists can also be viewed by selecting directories. Common file level actions are included together with an XCOPY command. Includes mouse support with pulldown menus. EXE size: 70K.

Other nice features: Limitations:

Author: David L. Aldridge / The Aldridge Co. (1990). Suggested by Robert Bull.

Download t86lite.exe, ZIP SFX (179K).

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