Far Manager: powerful, old-school file and archive manager


Orthodox file managers are back with a vengeance! This was my first thought when I saw the screenshots of Far Manager.

90% pure interface of Norton Commander from the eighties/nineties of the last century. But despite the freaky look Far Manager is one of the best free Windows file managers.

Running Far Manager – file and archive manager probably brings nostalgic memories to everybody who has used Norton Commander.

The same blue interface with the DOS “box characters”.

Press Alt-Enter to go fullscreen and take a tour to the 1990-s! All the same keyboard shortcuts work – F5 Copy, F9 Menu, F10 Quit etc. Like Norton Commander running in DOS virtual machine – that could be the first impression.

NCcomparison - 55
Far Manager
Norton Commander ver 5.5

[Note: this post was written by Freewaregenius contributor Priit L.]

But the visual resemblance is deceptive. Try to use the mouse and you see the difference, as Far Manager also allows mouse drag-drop operations. Try to use keyboard and you will realize that the functionality is extended and enhanced. Far Manager is a quick and powerful tool.

Far Manager interface and functionality

The interface corresponds to all the rules of an orthodox file manager (see the history section below).

  • It has normal 2 panels of fixed width, one of them is active and the other one passive. Use mouse click or arrow keys and ‘Enter’ to change directory. Use Tab key or mouse-click  to change the active panel. You can show the contents of one folder in the right panel and another one in the left panel. In the active panel You can select files and perform actions like delete, rename or copy/move to the other panel.
  • To see the keyboard commands there is a strip at the bottom with hints; holding down Shift, Ctrl or Alt key will usually give different keyboard commands.
  • There is also a command prompt where You can paste the current file or folder name with a key-press and execute commands.


Both of the panels can show files and folders, depending on the view, with different amounts of information like names, dates, sizes, owners etc. In the standard dual-pane view You can switch one pane to show folder tree, system and disk information or quick view. The quick view is useful for showing contents (binary, text) of the file that is under cursor on the other panel. With Far Manager You can easily move/copy files, make folders, delete or wipe files (to erase the remnants of the file contents from the hard disk), change file attributes like date, read-only flag etc. Far manager has a extensive file search (by name, contents, size, date and other criteria) and ability to compare the contents of two folders. And actually there are also 2 views that have only one panel with more information about each file/folder.

Of course like most of the file managers Far Manager can handle archive files. You can open a ZIP, ARJ and other compressed files like folders and manipulate the files inside – copy out, add to archive, delete etc. You can even access the contents of ISO, CAB, MSI and other container files.


Far Manager contains a lot of built-in functionality. But, in addition, it has powerful plug-in architecture – it is possible to extend the functionality by adding plug-in from different authors. The examples are: editors with syntax highlighting, registry editing tools and picture viewers. The list of available plug-ins is at http://plugring.farmanager.com/

The first version of Far Manager is written by Eugene Roshal in 1996 and now it is developed by Far Group. Far Manager is freeware under BSD licence.

Here are the pros and cons of Far Manager:

  • Pros: fast interface, powerful functionality, expandability by plug-ins, at the same time having lightweight memory use.
  • Cons: no image/multimedia viewers built-in (plug-ins are available), unconventional interface that does not allow to drag drop files between other windows applications.

The verdict: The power of modern file managers put into a classical appearance. We fist learned about Far Manager when readers told us about it in the comments section of our post entitled “Best freeware file manager: a comparative analysis“, where we also learned that it had a dedicated core of followers who really like it.

If you can live with the interface (or even, if you actually like it), this file manager will deliver a lot of power. If you are curious (or if you value function over form), then give it a try; if you like it, you will probably like it a lot.

Version Tested: 2.0 build 1807

Compatibility: WinAll; 32 bit or 64 bit builds available.

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 3 megs).

A bit of history: orthodox file managers

Orthodox file manager is a term that describes file manager that has Norton Commander style dual-pane interface. In May 1986 – 25 years ago – the first version of Norton Commander (NC) was released and it became the most famous and most sold file managers of DOS era. File handling in DOS prompt was quite uncomfortable. To list the folder contents You had to execute DIR command, then remember the file name and use something like COPY filename anotherfoldername. Like in the Windows command prompt described here. Norton Commander and some other file managers did make the file handling much more easier, giving the ability to see the contents of the folder; mark necessary files without needing to memorize and type in the names; manage files by keyboard shortcuts instead on memorizing and typing in the DOS commands. Norton Commander was the most successful of them. Millions of people have used NC or the numerous clones, they are familiar with the interface and keyboard commands. Countless clones are still used every day, under Windows, Unix/Linux consoles etc.

Having this 25 year old interface under new versions of Windows raises an inevitable question – why should anyone who has no history of using Norton Commander, Total Commander or other clone, use a file manager where F5 means Copy, not Refresh like (almost) all modern Windows programs? Maybe the same reason that some people still have mechanical wristwatches while most of the people now use the cell phone to check the time? Do You have an answer to this question, dear Reader?

Additional information about orthodox file managers: WikipediaSoftpanorama