The Windows Explorer interface and open/save file requester dialogs have never been terribly efficient. When you browse through them to get to your desired folder it’s usually a case trawling through the navigation tree down the left hand side for a seemingly endless amount of time to get to where you want, especially if the folder you want is several sub folders down. Either that or type the complete path into the address bar which still isn’t exactly fast. You might sometimes be lucky and get the Places Bar in your dialog requester using XP or certain software like Office which gives five shortcut locations but it’s getting a bit rarer these days.
A possible option is being able to use a third party utility that provides you quick folder access to a number of favorite or frequently used folders allowing you to access areas deep down in your system with no more than a couple of clicks of the mouse. Thankfully, there are a few tools around to help you make this possible and they usually have a few extra features thrown in to make them a bit more appealing. The three pieces of software below are freeware and each under a 2MB download. 1. FileBox Extender
FileBox Extender enhances Explorer windows and the file open/save dialogs with the addition of some quick access function buttons in the title bar next to the close and minimize buttons. The first two from left to right are; a menu to access the most Recently used folders through the open/save dialogs and the Favorites menu which can be populated with a predefined list of folders. This can also include executables and other files such as documents. The other two are a ‘Rollup‘ button which minimizes the window to show only the title bar revealing the desktop or other windows underneath, and a ‘Pin‘ button which performs an ‘always on top’ of the window.
The program is easy to configure and sub menus or line separators can be added to make the favorites menu better organized. If one of the feature buttons is not to your liking, it can easily be turned off. The whole program can also be disabled for certain programs with the ‘Exceptions‘ tab because inevitably some software uses custom requesters or windows and sometimes they don’t play well with this type of utility.
FileBox eXtender also can open the favorite and recent menus with hotkeys and the open/save dialog windows can be set to a specific custom size. The default view can be set to always display in the ‘details’ view along with auto sizing the columns and choosing the default column to sort by.
Unfortunately, FileBox eXtender is no longer being supported by its developer Hyperionics, so if there are still bugs they won’t get fixed. I didn’t really come across any bugs to speak of but the only thing worth a mention is the four buttons do look a little odd with any color window that isn’t a shade of blue. Compatible with Windows XP, Vista and 7.
2. Chameleon Folder
This program is pretty similar to Filebox in that it gives you a quick access menu with your favorite locations quickly accessible from a menu. Chameleon doesn’t however use buttons in the title bar but the menu is reached using a middle mouse button click in the window or a hotkey (default is Win key + z).
Chameleon Folder doesn’t have the roll up to the title bar function or the ability keep the window on top by using the pin button. This does have a plus side though as it should be more compatible with non standard windows and dialogs. It can also apply filters in the open/save dialog boxes and has an option to automatically put an open Explorer window path into the dialog as well.
Chameleon Folder is not as useful as Filebox Extender but it is being actively supported and updated meaning there is always a good chance of new features or bug fixes. Compatible with Windows XP, 2003, Vista and 7 32bit and 64bit.
3. Direct Folders
Direct Folders is developed by Codesector, the people behind that useful copy dialog replacer Teracopy. This program pretty much fits in between Filebox Extender and Chameleon Folder in terms of what features it has. It does have the ability to resize the open/save dialogs to a specific size and also set the default view type and sort column. Two other options are right clicking on the window close button to keep the window on top, and a right click on the maximize window button can roll up that window to the title bar. Although I had a problem with this last option as the window stayed the same size but the contents disappeared!
Direct Folders works on the same principle as Chameleon Folder in that there are no buttons to press and the menu is accessed through a middle mouse click or a double left click. The double left click seemed to work in some places and not others so you need to use a hotkey or middle mouse click in those cases. A couple of other useful options are custom icons are allowed in the menu and an alternative folder can be specified with the use of shift clicking.
I don’t believe development for Direct Folders has stopped but it hasn’t been updated for a while so the problems I found with it or any others may never get fixed. There are also some features only available in the Pro version, but they don’t have anything to do with the basic functionality. Compatible with Windows XP, 2003, Vista and 7 32bit and 64bit.
Direct Folders certainly doesn’t seem quite as finished or polished as Filebox Extender which is the one I would recommend you take a look at first, simply due to the fact all the functions it has seem to work well and without major issues. If the title bar buttons are not your thing, Chameleon Folder is more discreet and does the quick access to folders without the extras.