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The History of Development of Norton Commander (2010) (softpanorama.org)
67 points by quijoteuniv 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments

I am still using total commander which has proven as by far best gui replacement while I have never found any text based even close (any suggestion is welcome but mc is not it) as far it goes regarding tc tooling and integration of plugins. Or search (and replace) for files etc. I never really understood why something like explorer copies are used on all systems.

Anyway if someone wants to try, https://www.ghisler.com/ while here are 3rd party plugins: https://totalcmd.net/ There is more than meets the first glance and one huge benefit is that you dont need to use mouse. At all.

Total Commander was one of the tools I really missed when I completely switched to Linux a decade ago. Krusader is nice, but it still pales in comparison and isn't actively developed. I haven't found any other two-pane file managers that are available on Linux and come close in features.

I'm currently developing another file manager for macOS, Windows and Linux named 'cryo' which also has a dual-pane mode.

It's not yet as future rich as other commanders but hopefully will be in the upcoming months.


A suggestion, study very closely how plugins in TC work and even more on which places: like file system plugin also working in search dialog. Implement support for TC plugins, you will gain enormous ecosystem for almost free.

Check its viewer and find in files options (utf8+utf16+regex+office files and then combining everything with git plugin (or one of other plugins) where commit comment contains something not matching to another regexp. And on top of everything it is very simple to make it happen).

Do study TC, it is by far the most complete file manager on any system, in any time and extremely well thought of. There is just nothing that compares beyond "I have two pane file manager".

It is visually outdated and it doesn't run on all platforms but it is really really hard to beat in features (like rename all *.cpp in all directories and subdirectories to #filename#-#dateofcreation#-#gitrevision#-#gitbranch#.cpp or use parts of exif header to rename file). I would love to have multiplatform alternative (as I have dumped the windows due to w8 and w10 abominations) for TC but I just dont see how this could be achived without really, REALLY huge engineering effort.

You might figure out that it is not worth competing against it for its licence price of 37 euros (27 for students) and "shareware" version without limitations except nag screen.

Yep, it's the best but more a successor of Norton Commander. I even miss Total Commander on macOS sometimes. At least Forklift (macOS) does the job also quite well.

I've also been using it for years. Its feature range and performance is phenomenal.

Edit: URL changed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norton_Commander.

This is probably too well-known a topic to justify a generic Wikipedia link. There are better articles available - for example, http://www.softpanorama.org/OFM/Paradigm/Ch03/norton_command..., which can be found either by web search or HN search. Perhaps we'll swap that URL in.

This issue with Wikipedia submissions has been coming up a lot lately. Recent explanations:






There also was Volkov Commander (VC) - a faster and smaller clone of NC. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkov_Commander

There is also Dos Navigator, a slower and bigger clone of NC.

I was always a fan of XTree[1], was always more intuitive to me than norton commander.

Still have the shortcuts in muscle memory `xtg` for the win

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XTree

I liked Xtree. I actually had my own DOS file manager (Directory Freedom) but that was deliberately kept very small and fast. I liked Xtree for when I wanted to look at or work with the whole directory structure.

> It was published by Underwear Systems, later Executive Systems, Inc.


Came here to basically say this :-)

I never used NC much, but I recall a friend of mine having a DOS PC that booted into it.. When I first ventured into linux, I was not good with the command line, and was very pleased to find MC, it helped me a lot until I got the hang of the CLI.

FAR manager is still a nice way to manage files in a 2-pane mode on Windows

Left windows years ago and not looking back, and FAR manager is the only software I miss on Ubuntu. midnight commander doesn't even come close, unfortunately.

There is a port of sorts: https://github.com/elfmz/far2l Still an early stage but nonetheless.

I still use it daily.

I have stopped using Windows, but the only software that I miss is a modern NC clone called Far Manager [1].

[1] https://www.farmanager.com/

Have you tried Midnight Commander?

Of course, but MC is (to put it lightly) not feature complete :) Ended by using MC, far2l (Far Manager 2 Linux clone) and Far Manager 3 under Wine depending on a task, but nothing can compare to native Far on Windows.

Far for Linux now works well. But I have adapted to mc since then.

TIL Far for Linux exists! Will go check it out now.

Norton Commander is to DOS as Directory Opus is to the Amiga.


I noted with some interest (now about 20 years ago) that Directory Opus had gotten a Windows version. It still seems to be alive and kicking, which is good to see!

Norton Commander was in the autoexec.bat of virtually every computer I saw between ~1992 and 1998. Dos Navigator replaced it for a while, then Windows Commander, later renamed to Total Commander. I still have Total Commander pinned to the taskbar of every computer I use, I bought a few dozen licenses back in ~ 2008-2009.

In ~ 1994 I wrote a limited feature clone of NC in FoxPro just to show some colleagues in college that it can be done fast and easy. It motivated them to learn FoxPro and a few become developers using it for the next 5-10 years.

Dos Navigator was such a great productivity tool! Guys who made it (Ritlabs) went on to develop TheBat! email client which was also pretty amazing.

Sweet memories... [1] is a great walk down memory lane.

[1] http://www.softpanorama.org/OFM/Paradigm/Ch03/norton_command...

Nimble Commmader (https://github.com/mikekazakov/nimble-commander) is the real deal for dual panel managers fanboys with macs.

I still use Midnight Commander on the daily basis. It is immensely useful for e.g. exploring a large codebase. I don’t know why it is frowned upon by many people.

Meant genuinely and with 0% troll: why? What does it get you that ls (-ltr and optionally |less) doesn't? I know that some people love mc and I've never...got it. I've never really asked them in great detail.

What are the 'killer features' of MC over the more "usual" *nix tools of find/grep/ls/awk/sed/vim? I'd love to know if I'm missing a trick!

Exploration — you are entering the unknown codebase, and you _see_ file and directory structure, presented before you. The unix tools are good if you planned beforehand what are you going to do; mc is great for when you don’t know yet.

Targeted selection — it is really easy to select 20-30 files arbitrarily to e.g. copy them to the new directory. With cp/ls, it takes much more time.

What I like most about MC is oddly off by default. Under "Options" > "Panel options" there is an option under "Navigation" for "Lynx-like motion". Once this is on, you can navigate in/out of directory structures with the left and right arrows on your keyboard. It makes it super quick and easy to move around a file system without a bunch of successive cd/ls/etc commands (or other tools)

This. Installing Midnight Commander is one of the first things I do on a fresh *nix system, next to installing vim. :) Heck, I even have it installed on Windows in WSL - it's a life saver, allowing to navigate really fast, as well as connect to remote locations (SCP, SFTP...) to copy files around.

I am sure the reason is irrational and involves pseudo geek points for 'hey, i am not using anything graphical at all!'

Midnight Commander is awesome and together with Byobu you're all set for full fledged terminal-only speedy filesystem exploration.

MC is great but very slow when copying or moving a lot of small files, when I have a task like that I use SpaceFM in the GUI.

I remember Volkov Commander too. From Wikipedia :"Volkov Commander (VC) is a file manager for DOS inspired by the Norton Commander. Volkov Commander is purely written in assembly language, and is thus very small (less than 100 KB) and fast". It was really fast and really small when we had the 1.4 mb floppy disk back then.

Still using Total commander on my android phone

IMO, this port is subpar. Ghislers original is "the best thing since sliced bread", I'm using it for more than ~20 years and it is the first software I have on USB flash drive or install (copy) to a new Windows machine. But the mobile version never clicked for me. I'm using X-plore on Android for ~2 years now and I'm quite happy with it. It is also the only app I could find, that supports Windows shares in a rather hassle-free way.

On Windows FreeCommander is a good free Commander. https://freecommander.com

I remembered about Norton Commander today when I opened a second window of "Files" in Ubuntu to do some tidy up and moving around of files.

Why not use midnight commander on ubuntu?

Will check it out :)

mc is disgusting.

Care to elaborate on that? I use it for navigating quickly and i'm just a C-o away from the unbridled shell. I find it very useful.

Also, do you have another command line mc alternative to suggest? I'm always open to try new tools.

It fails to do the 'just works' magic. Selecting files, moving them from place to place is always weirdly unpleasant.

Double Commander is another alternative. Open source, cross platform, actively developed (in Free Pascal and Lazarus) https://doublecmd.sourceforge.io/

There's quite good Worker file manager: http://www.boomerangsworld.de/cms/worker/

I know someone who still uses ZTreeWin (a clone, for Windows) all the time. It looks incredibly quick, with lots of useful shortcuts.

Norton Commander is the reason I still use Midnight Commander on my servers !

My fingers know all the key shortcuts for decades now

Some people might not be aware that dolphin is pretty good split window file manager.

I have to agree. As a heavy user of Total Commander and fighting the Krusader as well as Double Commander clones for some time, I switched to Dolphin after setting up a KDE-based Linux distribution. Its been years, since I did it the last time and I was quite reluctant. But it worked out much better than I thought in the beginning.

I started my computing career as a 5 yo in Norton Commander on a 8088 Intel machine.

Pre-Windows 95 every PC I owned or configured booted into this.

ahh the only useful product Norton ever released :)

Norton editor was another masterpiece.

Pre acquisition Norton products were amazing.

Darn. I loved NC.


Url changed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norton_Commander, which points to this.

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