Some users might have hoped Windows 8 to ship with a file manager pumped with new features, not just a fresh UI design that highlights the most used commands. Tabs would have worked well.
However, the tab-challenged Windows Explorer can overcome this deficiency with third party tools, such as Clover
. It is a simple program designed specifically for adding tabs into the user interface of Microsoft’s iconic file manager.
Clover is absolutely free of charge and, although it functions as an extension for Windows Explorer, the installation process is the same as in the case of a full-fledged application. Thus, you will find its entry in the “Programs and Features” panel if you decide to remove it from the system.
There is no interface available so as soon as the installation procedure completes, it automatically becomes active and equips Microsoft’s file manager with tabs. We tested the application on Windows 7 and 8
. On both operating systems everything worked without any problems.
If you are a Google Chrome user, the new set up can’t but seem very familiar because the tabs look and behave exactly as their counterparts in the web browser. They have rounded corners, the “x” mark to close them and even the button for opening a new one is present in the same manner as in Google’s browser.
Similarities go even further, and mimic the wrench icon available up until version 23 of Chrome
. However, it is not positioned intuitively at the right end of the “tab bar,” but before it. Because of the system theme applied and the darker background, we had a bit of trouble finding the settings button on Windows 7. However, on Windows 8 it was highly visible because no transparency was applied.
A new tab can be opened either by using the new tab button or by firing up a new Windows Explorer instance, from the icon or by using Win+E keyboard shortcut. With Clover on the system you will no longer be able to view two separate instances for Windows Explorer, everything is available in a single window.
For those that rely on two windows for copy/cut operations through “drag and drop,” all is not lost because you can still do this: after grabbing the files drag them to the desired tab and drop them.
Power users accustomed to using shortcuts in web browsers can hone their skills with Clover as well. The application is governed by the same general keyboard shortcuts for web browsers. Thus, launching a new tab can be done with Ctrl+T, closing it requires Ctrl+W (careful, closing the last tab exits the file manager altogether) and skipping through them is done with Ctrl+Tab and Ctrl+Shift+Tab.
The resemblance to Google Chrome is so strong that even the tab menu is almost identical, the only option missing being the one for reloading the page. Other than this everything is available, from duplicating the tab or closing all items except for the current one or only those to the right to reopening the last closed tab and even creating a bookmark. Tab pinning feature does not miss from the mix, either.
The bookmark manager is simple and functions by the same rules as in a web browser. Any location can be bookmarked using Ctrl+D combination or the tab context menu.
Clover can also display a bookmarks bar (Ctrl+Shift+B) to have them all within easy reach. However, some uses might not appreciate having the bookmarks available at all times because the bar takes up a noticeable chunk of the file manager. What is more interesting is that you can pin individual files to the bookmarks bar.
Simplicity is good, but in the case of Clover some users might argue that it has too much of it. It is nowhere near the complexity of QTTabBar
and, indeed, some features would come in handy, assigning icons to pinned tabs or customizing the colors for the tabs being just a couple.
Furthermore, we noticed that Windows Explorer automatically loses its identity in the taskbar as Clover’s icon will be displayed. It may be a bit confusing at the beginning, but you’ can also get easily used to it.
As far as resource usage is concerned, Clover manages to keep everything within reasonable limits. During our tests on Windows 7 it required a minimum of 7MB and usage grew each time we opened or closed a tab, without RAM being reclaimed; it did not increase by much and for a regular use it would be very difficult to exceed the 20MB limit.
On Windows 8 resource usage was much better, with Clover requiring much less; we put some effort into reaching a constant of 4.4MB, because of the operating system’s improved memory management. The Good
It fits perfectly in Windows Explorer and “impersonates” the same functions and features of tabbed browsing. You can pin tabs and create bookmarks for various locations. It uses the same keyboard shortcuts as any major browser. The Bad
Some may think of it being too simple and require some basic configuration panel to allow them to modify various aspects of the application. The Truth Clover
looks better in Windows 8’s Explorer and offers a neat functionality. The advantages of tabbed browsing apply to files as well. It is a very simple instrument that does exactly what it was meant to do, no more, no less.