One complaint commonly brought up against the iOS platform is the lack of a device-wide file management system. Android, on the other hand, gives users complete control over the files on their phone/tablet or SD Card – even more so if you decide to root your device. No surprise then that file management apps are a dime a dozen in the Android Market. But with so much choice, how do you select which app works best for you?
Here’s my list of the top ten file management apps for Android, in no particular order. They all have their own unique advantages and user interfaces, so pick the one that seems closest to your style of managing files on your device. And with all but one of the apps available for the unbeatable price of free, there’s nothing to stop you trying them all out before making a decision.
For a more up-to-date collection of file managers, check out our 7 Awesome and Modern Android File Managers.
I’ll start with my personal favorite file management app here: File Expert. With a gorgeous interface and more features than you can shake a stick at, File Expert is probably all you will ever need as far as browsing files on your device is concerned. Apart from accessing local files, you can connect to cloud storage services like Dropbox and Box.net, access FTP servers, and even manage apps installed on your device right from within the file manager.
For most Android geeks who root their phone and change ROMs like they change clothes, Root Explorer is probably a household name. Once you have rooted your phone, Root Explorer will give you access to the deepest corners of your device’s file system, including the elusive data folder. With hundreds of thousands of installs and an average rating of an insane 4.8, it’s hard to go wrong with this app that more than justifies being the only paid app on this list.
As far as popularity goes, its hard to beat the ES File Explorer for Android. With over ten million installs and an average market rating of 4.7, this one is a veteran, and for good reason. As the description on the Market page suggests, ES File Explorer is a file manager, application manager, task killer, Dropbox client and FTP client all rolled into one. And if you’re stuck with an old phone running Android 1.5, there’s even a version of the app for that.
Another popular choice in the same category is ASTRO, with pretty much the same install base. Along with the usual file browsing and management capabilities, ASTRO brings file and app backup to the fray, as well as built-in image and text viewers, a task manager, advanced search capabilities and a download manager, all packed into a single app package.
The Android Market page for FileGo is an excellent example of not how to describe your product – a single sentence suggesting what’s obvious. Don’t be fooled by the minimalism, though. At its core, FileGo is a pretty decent file manager for Android with one of the best looking interfaces and most of the common features you would expect: a file manager, task manager (aka task killer), app manager and so on.
One of my pet peeves with Windows 95 when it came out was that it got rid of the two-pane view in Windows Explorer that made file comparison and copying so easy. That’s probably why I’m a sucker for Total Commander and its clones on the desktop. Dual File Manager XT tries to bring back that power with two-pane file browsing on your Android device. There’s more, of course, like thumbnail views, archive management, search and so on.
As far as mobile app interfaces go, X-plore file manager is a bit different. It tries to re-create the desktop-like interface on your phone adding in a few tricks of its own to good effect. What you get is a dual-pane file view, ability to browse your through ZIP files, access FTP sites and Picasa photos, built-in viewers for image and text files and more. If you can get past the interface quirks, this one’s an interesting app to try if you’re looking for something different.
Speaking of Total Commander, if you are a fan of that then Ghost Commander on your Android should feel just like home. It tries to emulate the look and feel of Total Commander while adding in useful features like thumbnail views, favorite folders and files, a built-in text editor, and more. Although I’m not a big fan of the UI, I suspect that many wouldn’t mind the simple no-nonsense approach to a mundane task like file management.
In a world where file management apps are scrambling over each other to add more features and bloat by the day, inKa File Manager brings an old world charm to file management. The app is pretty simple at its core, letting you manage regular files, ZIP archives and not much else more in a neat and clean interface. Upgraded recently for Android 4.0 devices, this is the one to go if you hate apps doing too many things.
Now this one’s a bit different. Rather than forcing you to struggle with files on your phone’s tiny low-res screen, AirDroid uses a Wi-Fi connection to create a browser-based desktop for your phone that works on any PC on the same Wi-Fi network. You can manage contacts, text messages, media, files, apps and much more, all from the comfort of your desktop or laptop and using your full-size keyboard and mouse.
As I said before, these are mere drops in the ocean that is the Android Market. If you use an app for your file management that meets your requirements but is not part of this list, I would love to take a shot at it. Lets hear about them apps in the comments, shall we?