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A file management system is a type of software that manages data files in a computer system. Also known as a file manager or a file browser, a file management system provides a user interface to manage files and folders.

File managers usually have limited capabilities, and are designed to manage individual or group files. Common operations include creating, opening, renaming, moving, copying, deleting, or searching for files, as well as modifying file attributes, properties, and file permissions. Some file managers use an interface similar to that of a web browser. For example, Microsoft Windows File Explorer, previously known as Windows Explorer, looks and acts similar to a web browser, but it is a file manager.

Particularly in large systems, file management is important because files that are saved in an organized manner are easier to find, and a file structure that makes sense to the user is helpful. Each file should have a folder where it belongs.

Operating systems often come with a file manager, but there are also file management systems that can be purchased. For most home computers, file organization might be accomplished using the simple tools of creating folders and subfolders and giving them logical names so that they can be remembered. File management might include simple acts such as creating files, renaming files, deleting files, and moving them from one location to another.

Otherwise, when you store files that you have created, such as word processor documents, spreadsheets, email attachments, and downloaded files, your file system can get out of hand, and you might not remember where you have saved them. Many of the applications that you install come with their own file system and this may include saving them to the cloud, all of which have the potential of adding to the confusion. This is where a software solution might come in handy, and the focus of this category is on the software solutions to file management.

Some file managers include network connectivity through protocols, like FTP, HTTP, NFS, SMB, or WebDAV.

Early software offering some of the features of today's file managers include directory editors and file-list file managers, which are names that you may come across at some point. Orthodox file managers, also known as command-based file managers, are text-menu based. In this type of file manager, there are generally three windows, two panels, and one command-line window. Examples of orthodox file managers are PathMinder and Norton Command for DOS. File managers based on Norton Commander are still actively developed, and available for DOS, Unix-like, and Windows systems.

More modern file management systems use a GUI interface and are more commonly seen today. Usually, there will be two panes, with the filesystem tree displayed in the left pane, while the contents of the current directory are in the right pane, although there are other variations. Files, programs, and directories will be represented by icons.

Known as a navigational file manager, these modern file managers often resemble a web browser and will include back and forward buttons, reload buttons, and an address bar into which the file or directory path may be typed. Most navigational file managers have two panes, the left pane being a tree view of the filesystem. Files can be moved from one place to another through drag-and-drop, select, copy, and paste actions.

Examples of navigational file managers include the Windows File Manager, macOS Finder, and DOS Shell for MS-DOS.

With a spatial file manager, files and directories are represented as if they were actual physical objects. A single window represents each opened directory, and each window is irrevocably tied to a particular directory. Files, directories, and windows go where the user moves them, stay where the user puts them, and retain all of their other physical characteristics, such as size, shape, color, and location.

Examples of spatial file managers are Tracker for BeOS or Haiku, and OS/2's Workplace Shell.

There are also web-based file managers, which are generally scripts written in Ajax, ASP, Perl, PHP, or other server-side languages. When installed on a local or remote server, they allow files and directories located there to be managed and edited, via a web browser, with no need of FTP access.

Whatever the type, software designed for use in file management are the focus of topics in this category.


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