Ghisler Total Commander 2.0

When you get a new PC, what is one of the first things you want to do?
You want to explore! Obviously to do this you need a file manager, especially if you are a user who likes to tinker with your system. What if for some reason, you have never been pleased with Windows Explorer on your PC. May be because it doesn't use a two-window view by default?
If the built-in Explorer just isn't able to satisfy your needs or you're like me and feel completely lost without having a decent file manager at your disposal, then Total Commander for the PC could well be the first program you install on any machine -
For Handheld PC users there is equally good news! You can use Total Commander on your beloved H/PC as well! Promising to look and feel just like it does on the PC, Total Commander CE is an application designed for those who prefer consistent, cost effective solutions - it's totally free of charge.

Figure 1: Main Interface

Let's explore the features of Total Commander CE, as you will see there are quite a number of them.

Starting with the usual File menu, you'll see the most basic options: Rename, Copy/Move, MkDir (Make Directory), Delete, Properties (of a file or folder) and Reload dir (Refresh). Unlike with Windows Explorer users should beware that the Delete option as it exists in Total Commander fully erases your file or folder, with no recycle bin integration or therefore recovery. Depending on how you work, you could, like me view this as a comfortable arrangement.
The Find option is a basic, but a crucially missing feature from Explorer. Find in Total Commander for CE (TCCE) works relatively fast, at least I was pleasantly surprised with it when I first tried it, expecting much longer search times. In fact the whole application operates faster than Explorer at virtually any comparable task. You can search for text both within documents and file / directory names, as well as there being options to filter by date and size of the file. This applies to any file type (including case sensitive and Unicode characters).

Figure 2: Zip Compression / Verification

Another nice feature is the integrated zip and unzip. With TCCE you will never need another separate application for such a trivial task as zip compression! You can set the ratio of the compression process, and importantly, the zipping process will always finish with a verification scan - something that I've always considered an absolutely necessity with compression, something unfortunately buried as an option within other file managers.

The concept behind View and Edit is an excellent idea: any kind of file should become viewable and/or modifiable using these functions - however it only works in theory (unlike with the desktop version). TCCE will either attempt to use Pocket Internet Explorer for viewing files or, if you select Edit, its own built-in notepad-like application. This itself is quite limited - especially as it allows for viewing only files smaller than 64 Kbytes in size. An option is at hand to make up for the above in that you can change the default viewer and also the default editor to your own custom program selections.

Figure 3: Edit

It goes without saying that you can use hotkeys for all of the above functions, which are very similar to the desktop version, except that as most H/PC users do not have access to Function keys, they are replaced by combinations of the Ctrl key and corresponding numbers, for instance the View function is accessible by Ctrl+3 instead of F3.

Figure 4: File Menu

You'll notice there are additional possibilities in the File menu if you click on the line below Properties: Create Shortcut (in any folder), Send by Infrared or Receive by Infrared here. The latter two are really useful, if in need of the Ir-OBEX file transfer protocol. TCCE enables easy file exchange with any other device that is able to handle this common protocol (including your Windows PC) - not just another H/PC!

The second and last menu in the application is 'Show'. Total Commander CE will display all hidden and system files by default, though when navigating into the Windows system folder (or another folder with many files), it can slow down things. This is one of the reasons why the 'Hide files in ROM' option is to be found here. Even if you have an ultra fast device and there's no real slowing down, there may come a time when you're frantically trying to find something in the Windows folder that was not originally in ROM, it'll help greatly to filter out the ROM contents.
Apart from choosing which icon view suits you best (usual brief, full and large icon view mode), you can select between the default two-window mode or the single window mode, or, a so-called 'virtual two window mode' where you can have just one window displayed on the whole screen and the other outside it.

Other noticeable features present in this menu are as follows.

  • Directory Hotlist is an alternative for the established Windows Explorer 'Favourites'.
  • Tree view, which if you're missing the familiar tree view of files and directories present in Windows Explorer on the PC, you're going to like it.
  • Select/Unselect files is a nice addition for instance when you would like to select only files with a certain extension.

The Total Commander CE show still doesn't end with other options hidden in About/Settings menu. The customizations found in this area relate specifically to the interface. Things like changing the default font, using the so-called single click file navigation and last but not least, language selection.

For International users, just like in the PC version many languages are already supported through add-in packs, including - I'm pleased to say my native language, Hungarian.

Figure 5: International UI

After a few simple clicks the language pack is applied to the Total Commander CE interface

Inspecting the interface further, the buttons found on the menu bar are shortcuts for some of the basic functions and are customizable by adding any kind of file or folder there.
Directory navigation is achieved by using the two buttons in the top right corner allowing you to go back to the root (\) or up the parent directory. Additionally, to see the folders and paths last visited, a dropdown box provides access to history functions.

For existing Total Commander users, version 2.0 boasts a large number of worthy additions. These include a very fast and efficient FTP client, a LAN client and the unfortunately not so efficient registry editor.
These new features are essentially add-ons that are sadly rather difficult to find, unless you know where to look. To share the secret with you… you just need to navigate into the odd-looking \\\ folder in the root (somewhere above My Documents). Here you will find the modules list, which allow you to access the new features.

Figure 6: The \\\ plug-ins folder

The FTP client as with any good FTP program allows you to set log-in details to access secure sites, and while not as robust as some stand-alone clients, the main point about it is its speed. I've tested the download speed over my WLAN network and I must say it worked very well - on par with the commercial vxFTP and certainly much better than the free ceFTP, about a hundred light years faster in fact!

The LAN client provides a 'Quick open' option that is useful if you don't want to store the details of your network connection, however, to gain the full functionality of the LAN browser module I recommend using the 'New server' option. Which works just like a favourite network folder and offers a very comfortable browsing experience!

The registry editor on the other hand is somewhat disappointing. The developers of TCCE have chosen an unusual route for creating this editor, and have not opted for the familiar tree view (the only one view useful for a registry editor). A credit for them in any case: even though it's not as intuitive or comfortable to use, I was able to productively make good use out of it when no other options were available. So would conclude that despite its limitations, it's really better than having nothing at all.

Figure 7: Registry Editor

Total Commander CE can be installed into main memory or onto a storage card, requiring approximately 231 KB of space. If you are installing onto a CF card, and experience a hard reset, TCCE can operate immediately from the storage card, without requiring a reinstallation, but in doing so you will lose access to the help files.
The built-in help itself is decent though for normal operations most users will not need it as TCCE is fairly intuitive to use in the first place. For information on the more advanced features, or for assistance with add-ins it is well worth a look before attempting to obtain support from other resources.
Ghisler, the developer of Total Commander CE, while releasing the program as freeware are known to be very keen on updating their applications based on customer feedback, so are always looking to hear from users who feel TCCE is missing something they can't live without.

Total Commander CE is a high quality freeware application that lives up to its promises as a true alternative to using the often-limited Windows Explorer that ships with every Handheld PC. Working on virtually all Handheld PC's, even Windows CE 2.0, users can experience the benefits of using Total Commander to supplement or consolidate existing applications that they may already use in their daily lives.
Total Commander CE 2.0 is over all an application that makes you feel at home, creating a unified experience between your PC and your H/PC and greatly enhancing your productivity while at it.


System Requirements:

Supports Windows CE 2.0, H/PC Professional, HPC2000, Windows CE 4.x .net
MIPS, SH3, SH4, StrongARM, XScale

Cost: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional
Usability: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Built-In helps: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Customer Service: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Overall: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional

Total Commander 2.0 can be found at the following URL.

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Monica Erdody
Handheld PC Reviews