Sunday, December 13, 2009

Minor manual tweaking of freeCommander

I've used a lot of alternative windows file managers in my time.  There's nothing at all wrong with the default Windows Explorer tool.

However, I like having a dual-pane view, additional utilities at the ready, and multi-tab support to jockey multiple windows and file/copy/move actions I conduct.

So although I've shared posts containing other file managers, copiers, and sync utilities, I keep returning to the one that will rule them all:

FreeCommander - freeware file manager

I'll leave it to you to hop over to that page to read about all the features it provides, for free, in both an installable and "portable" version.  Suffice it to say, most tech folks I introduce it to are very pleased.  Sure there are others that probably work better as alternative windows file managers for the non-technical crowds (home users) such as Xenon File Manager Portable or UltraExplorer. Or for someone looking for a "high-end" solution there is Q-Dir 3.95 which comes in both x64 and x32 release versions.

Marek Jasinski, the genius behind this tool works hard to keep it updated and periodically provides updates for download.  It has always been stable and dependable to me.

However, while poking around a bit in the program's folder, I noted that while most of the executable and dll packages aren't "self-updatable" there seemed to be some compression-related ones that might be a bit old and could possibly be swapped out with newer versions.  freeCommander comes with an integrated zip/rar management feature to make it very easy to view and extract the contents of archive files:

  • Supported archive formats: ZIP and CAB ( read and write), RAR (read)
  • Files can be compressed
  • Archives can be unpacked
  • Creation of self-extracting files is possible (ZIP)
  • The intern file viewer also works in archive files
  • Files can be also searched in  directories and drives
  • Search for file contents (text) is possible
  • Search in archives (ZIP, CAB, RAR) is possible

Now, I'm no coder, and it is very likely that Marek might code the main executable for freeCommander with these particular dll versions in mind.  That said, my experiment with replacing them hasn't seemed to broken anything (yet) though I make no claims it won't and that doing so will provide you any enhanced performance or benefit.

What I found was...

As I said I had my attention drawn to the following compression-related files in the 2009.02 version.

  • DelZip179.dll  - file version - dated 04/20/2008 (DelphiZip)
  • dzSFXus.bin - file version dated 10/23/2002
  • UnRar.dll - file version - dated 11/2/2004

Now Marek is a stand up guy as he includes all the following related attributions and credit information in his "Help - About" program information box.

I've got no experience or clue on how Marek compiles his application from all these different sources, but I figured if I can at least find the three particular dll files noted above and swap them out with newer versions, I might be doing something.

To that end I found:

  • WinRAR archiver offered their UnRAR.dll.  I just unpacked the exe into a "temp" folder by running the file and found the unrar.dll file right there at the folder root. It checks in as version dated 08/16/2009.  I renamed the original file and then copied this newer one in.

DelZip179.dll and dzSFXus.bin are part of the DelphiZip - ZipMaster package. 

  • I quickly finally found a package that contained DelZip179.dll in a format that was easy to access:  unzip, find, rename the old, replace with the new.

It took me a while longer to figure out and find the dzSFXus.bin replacement. 

  • However you can either use the not-UPX compressed source package or the UPX compressed source.  The STD package has a newer one "04/15/2008" while the BIN package is dated "09/19/2005" for what it's worth.

(In case you are curious, it seems the dzSFXus.bin file is used to create self-extracting archives.)

So is this going to make things better for freeCommander users?

Ummm probably not.

Will it make a mud-hole of Marek's hard coding work?  Quite possibly.

But if you are curious, brave, and have to see if the latest is better, then you might want to give it a try.

At least until Marek lets us know that this might cause the planets to destabilize from their current orbital paths and fling them into the sun.

Claus V.

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