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File managers for Symbian smartphones

The advent of file browsers for smartphones running on Symbian is, on the one hand, a proof of the users desire to get a handy tool for work with their handsets file systems, but on the other side, it can be regarded as indication of the inbuilt system applications weakness. At that, smartphones basing off the UIQ3 got much less lucky in this respect. All we have to say is that new versions of popular file managers come out quite regularly, and what is more, new products join the rows of the well-known solutions as well.

In this comparative review we are going to highlight all updates to this category of these vital system utilities. The questions about accessing to system folders stored in main and card memory appear on every forum rather frequently. But I have to say that as of today no utility is capable of showing the content of SYS and Private folders and in the near future such utilities will hardly appear. It is all due to the general security policy implemented on the system level. Most makers quite fairly believe that the user has nothing to do in these folders. Those who are eager to see the structure of these folders can extract memory card and open it via a card-reader. Desktop OS is free from such restrictions so you may look through the content of the desired catalogues. You should be content with the view only, though, as incompetent interference in them will require card formatting and reinstallation of all apps. Of course, this does not apply to those users who are conscious of what they are doing.


Developer - Jukka Silvennoinen. www.pushl.com/y_browser. The browser has been updated to version 0.8, acquired a selection of handy utilities and is moving towards the release at full speed. The new version, together with main module installation, allows you to set up utilities for viewing text, working with Zip-archives and showing inbound messages as a stand-alone folder. The full set of utilities includes the main browser and three plugins. You may find them on the site mentioned above; for the older versions plug-ins already come included in the installation file. Then you should just select the items he needs to install.

Inbox folder

The system tools are incapable of managing files, whose types are not registered in the API. So the cases when the user is attempting to open a file transferred via Bluetooth (standard zip-archive, for instance) and receives the notification about unknown type occur pretty often. If the handsets memory is used for storing received files by default, then getting them out of there will be quite a challenge. So the presence of Main folders shortcut substantially facilitates your life when working with incoming files. You are free to copy them to memory card and open whenever you like making use of an appropriate app.

Archives management

To manage archives you have to learn a number of simple rules.

1. Creation of your own archives.

In the 0.8 the process of new archives creation has slightly changed. Now to make a new file you should create a new file via File-New File option. Then the file will pop up in the currently highlighted folder. In the line that appears on the display you will see the utility with whose help this archive will be created. Then you have to select the files you want to add to the archive - to mark them quickly, you might want to use Mark function, or Pencil + Joystick (down/up) key combination. Now with the help of the system menu you have to add the files to the new archive. While choosing you are free to edit the list of selected files, i.e. add or delete them from other folders. When you feel that you have finished composing a new archive just select Done in the options menu. The restriction of the given version is impossibility of adding whole folders to an archive.

2. Files extraction.

With this version you are can handle both created archives and those copied to the device. Should you just click joystick upon an archived file its content will be opened in the folder for temporary files storage. You are at liberty to extract either all files or only selected ones. To extract files you should indicate the folder first.

It is getting to be one of the musts to enhance any credible file manager with the utility for handling archives and we couldnt help cheering on this fact. This functions inclusion into a free application reflects the general trend of arming free apps with functions which previously were available only for shareware programs written by third-party makers. Running ahead, I like to say that the Y-browser is not the only file manager capable of working with Zip-archives.

Text files

The addition of a default text viewer leaves mixed emotions. First of all, in order to launch it you must choose the option Open with from the File menu. Then, the program cant work with Russian encodings yet even files saved in Unicode are opened in an inappropriate way. However English was never an issue. On the other hand, the solution of such problem is as always only a matter of time, so proper support for Russian language will probably get tacked on later. For the time being Text viewer is only an optional utility and can be used to view numeric notes alone.

Standard browser functionality

This part has undergone practically no changes. From the File menu you can view the object properties, change its attributes, delete, rename as well as create new catalogue or archive file. If the cursor is upon the file these options are extended with Open with and Send. The program was incapable of transferring protected files or Java-midlets via Bluetooth before, and nothing has changed. In the Edit menu you will find such items as copy, cut and paste into the file. A special menu item is responsible for files marking.

The program offers quite advanced search options. The search can be performed by mask with restrictions for maximum and minimum size, by attributes and the last modification time. All found files are displayed in a general list; marking a file with cursor youll see its location in the upper line. Last search results can be saved.

To get access to additional programs capabilities you may use the Extras menu. With its help you can program hot keys. There are nine of them in sum, and each allows you to bind one of the 27 built-in commands.

Using Pencil + numeric key combination you can create a shortcut to any folder. To do this you should enter the chosen folder, then select the command shortcut in the menu and press a numeric key. From this menu item you also have access to all reserved keys. The Extras menu is home to the programs system settings. In order to make folders open quicker (especially if they contain many files) you may turn off the file recognition function. Options for setting the screen to landscape mode, changing catalogue icons and updating contents can be also found here. The archive with extra icons inside can uploaded from makers page.

For those who follow the program updates closely, many reviewed options will not seem a breakthrough. At that, Id like to note that developers keep working on enhancements to the applications, rectifying letdowns in a very prompt fashion. For the time being the most serious of them are inability of transferring some types of files via wirelessly and incorrect treatment of Cyrillic alphabet symbols. As for the rest the Y-browser is one of the most advanced file managers for smartphones running on the S60 third edition with great search engine, handy system of shortcuts creation and proper zip-archives management.


File browser X-plore has been developed by a well-known Lonely Cat Games team (www.lonelycatgames.com) which is listed as the creator of Profimail, one of the best apps for handling E-mail. Recently the company released LCG Jukebox, a new software player, which is now enjoying a deserved success. The forefather of the X-plore was actually the file browser included into Profimail, which the developers have decided to release to release as a stand-alone application. The latest version of the program hasnt made it through the beta stage, sporting the 0.98 version. It is possible that by the moment you are reading these lines, a new version of the program is available, as updates come out on a regular basis. The differences between editions for S60 and UIQ3 system will be listed in the end of our review.

The basic functions are the same for all file browsers so Im not going to spotlight them. What is more, everyone who has used Profimail will be right at home here.

The latest versions have acquired Hex-viewer armed with search and edit functions. Text files can be opened in the built in viewer, at that Win 1251 and Unicode encodings are handled pretty much correctly. There is no need in picking up any additional application to open files. File type gets recognized properly basing on its extension. And the built in search utility is another proof of advanced text viewer capabilities. At that, search by a phrase is performed in archives too. The abilities to change font size and switch into full-screen mode in settings theoretically give you an opportunity to use this feature for reading packed files. However, it will not be a great pleasure, as it lacks text formatting, auto-scroll settings and other attributes characterizing traditional readers, but it packs enough to enable viewing a small text fragment or attached text file.

Traditionally, the function for viewing Word documents is available. For fairness sake Ill note that pictures are not shown in the text. Right from this application you are at liberty to create and edit your own text document. This can be handy especially when you need to create a quick note or comment.

Archives management

The program can handle zip-, rar- and jar-archives and at the same time allows you to launch Jar-files with the help of Open with system option. Thus without exiting the application you can view the archives contents and install Jar-applications. But when it comes to packing files into archive, the application falls flat, which is really disappointing. As for marked files, you are enabled to copy, cut, transfer them but there is no way to paste them into an archive (even already existing one). These probably are the restrictions of the current version, which will be done away with in the future.

You can extract files into any folder including a newly-created one.

Files sending

The ability to send files of any types via wireless services has always been a strong point of the file managers by Lonely Cat Games, and this version is no exception. You are at liberty to send files to other devices over both Bluetooth and Infrared port. Nevertheless, it is not a rare occasion when it is impossible to open these files on the recipients device. Especially this concerns protected DRM-files.

With the X-plore as well, just like with the Y-browser, the user is allowed to create shortcuts to folders. For this purpose you can employ only numeric keys that trigger off only together with the Edit button (Pencil of Shift).

Tools menu

In this item they have gathered various settings, added the folder with inbound messages, utility for association of file type with installed applications, program information, device update and brief device info. The Messaging folder displays only letters with attachments; it is impossible to view text files via this folder. The same holds true for the Y-browser, as you remember.

Graphics management

The built in image viewer allows you to open graphic files either in portrait or landscape mode as well as to fit it into screen. For management purposes you can turn to hot keys system.

Winding up this review, we are listing the differences between X-plore for S60 and UIQ3.

There are two major differences. First the UIQ3 does not show folders with incoming messages. Second the UIQ3 version doesnt known how to beam files via Bluetooth. As for the rest the programs are quite similar if you overlook the stylus-related things. By the way, on the P990 the app works with the flip closed when the lower part of the window gets cut.

One of the X-plores serious advantages over the Y-browser is the ability to send any types of files wirelessly. On the upside of the former browser are correct work with text and rar-archives. At the same time the current X-plore version doesnt offer you tools for creating own archives. Thus having both applications installed is a must.

It wasnt a fluke that when we started off this review we mentioned the interest of both users and developers in file managers. Rounding out the selection of the latest additions to this range are a few more applications. Some of them arent even certified, as of today, so that I had to do that manually.


Developer - Cyle. E-mail antares@163.com.

This program is likely to still float around the early stage of its development. Among the options provided, there are only the most essential such as mark, copy, paste, delete. At that they are very unstable in case you try to copy a file to other folder the program shuts down automatically. Sending executable and protected files via Bluetooth turns out to be impossible. The menu captions are quite crude; so for the time being this application is of no interest at all. If the author comes up with a more fetching and efficient version, we will surely return to it.

The other two programs are much more worthy.


Dominic Hugo ( www.gosymbian.com) released a version of its own file manager for the devices running on the S60 third edition. Yet the program lacks certificate so youll have to make it manually.

The home screen resembles a well-known file manager of previous editions. Against each disk is free/occupied memory volume, folders of processes and running tasks are available.

Since the release of the programs last version for the devices on the S60 second edition the interface has not changed. Standard options (search, rename, delete, properties, attributes change) apart, menu File provides you with such items as Open with and Editor/Viewer. These options do not work correctly in the current version but making use of them you will be capable of assigning the program for certain file types and use the built in editors for viewing. For editing ANSI and Unicode are used, and Hex viewer for viewing.

A new option, mark/unmark, has been added to the menu Edit. Being well-known in PC file managers it wasnt available in any file browser for Symbian devices before.

Menu Tools has also undergone some updates. To such familiar options as taking snapshots, always-on backlighting and infrared port, they added Bluetooth manager (does not work yet), memory compression and an utility for browsing installed apps. Launching the last one causes it to create a text file - Instapp.txt, where the application stores the list of installed programs. Settings for screenshots can be found in the browsers main settings.

Menu Phone can provide you with information about IMEI and IMSI of the device and network info, the phone restart feature can be also found here.

Even judging by the beta version with many capabilities disabled, one may readily have a glimpse of the programs potential. Some of its functions are really unique. As for things you will definitely come across, inability of handling archives with the built in tools and missing shortcut to incoming messages can be mentioned. The final products price is also unknown. But should the manager, like previous version, remain freeware it will lay claims to the position in the top three of most wanted and competent applications, if revamped, of course.

And finally the last highlight of our review is a file browser, known as Active File by Alie Tan.

The programs launch is accompanied by a 3D demo.

Two-window mode is the main difference of this browser from the rest. If in all other apps leaning the navi-pad right/left you swap between folders, in this program pressing the joystick laterally swaps browser panels, where the same functions are available. Such solution makes it really a breeze to copy and transfer files from different folders and disks within the same device. The windows are marked with FX1# and FX2# indexes.

The files-related options are standard, but for some of them only hot keys are available as special menu items are not provided. For example for marking a file, 0 will be your option. The program has expanded capabilities for files sorting while viewing the list. They can be arranged by name, size, data and type. Folders can be shown either at the top or the bottom of the list. Options for files compression and encryption are also bundled but seem to be disabled in the current version.

The program sports a built in task manager. You are free to switch to the processes list as well as try to stop some of the active tasks. This option may prove to be rather handy if you want to set free some more memory. The bundled utility for taking screenshots has its own settings. Snapshots can be taken in a number of formats, while graphic files can be saved both on memory card and in the devices storage space.

For now, the programs version is very crude but some functions seem quite interesting. Its two-window mode is unique to this application alone, for instance.

This review of file managers for smartphones on Symbian (mainly the S60) platform will give you an opportunity to choose the most comfortable manager for daily use. Unfortunately or, maybe, thats for the best, the ultimate program is nothing but a dream thats why I always use a number of time-proven file managers. Your final choice will depend on various preferences and main goals you are setting off to achieve. Complementing the bottom line of our review is a comparative table of the file managers functions which will help you to pick one or another program. The Q-browser the only evident outsider, which made it to this article solely thanks to packing so many fresh ideas.

Core functionality of file managers for Symbian S60 based devices.

Utility Archives management Inbox folder Two-window mode Screenshots Hex viewer Text files support Graphics management
Y-Browser zip Yes No No No Problems with Cyrillic Bundled
X-plore zip, rar Yes No No Yes Yes Bundled
Q-browser No No No No Doesnt work Doesnt work No
FExplorer zip No No Yes Yes Doesnt work External
Active File zip No Yes Yes Yes Yes External

Dashkevich Viktor (viktor.dashkevich@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)

Published - 07 May 2007

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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