“The files for last June? Yes, I’ve got them somewhere. Hang on a moment. Umm, I’m sure they were here yesterday…”. If you’ve ever had a conversation like that, during which you’ve been frantically clicking your way through a morass of sub-directories on your hard drive, and searching through cryptic filenames in the hope that the one you want will miraculously leap out in front of you, Visual Explorer may be what you need. It’s a simple application designed to bring document management to the masses.
Once installed, Visual Explorer will search through the folder path you specify (preferably the one you keep your documents in), cataloguing each one and building a directory tree. Like the Windows 95 Explorer, that tree is represented in the left-hand window, while the documents contained within the selected folder are shown in the right-hand window. The clever bit is that the documents are shown as miniature thumb-nail icons of their contents. So, if you have several GIF image files in a particular directory, Visual Explorer will show those images in miniature. You can then click on one of them to load it into the built-in viewer, which will handle loads of different file types.
It’s not just image files that are supported – word-processor documents, spreadsheets, HTML files, PDF documents, PowerPoint presentations and others can all be shown in thumbnail form within Visual Explorer (as can be seen from the screenshot below), and all can be opened and viewed even if you don’t have the application that created them. Even more impressive is the fact that you can e-mail a document to a colleague, who will also be able to view it without the original application. Visual Explorer also has a ‘link bar’ at the bottom of the screen, showing icons of applications currently installed on your PC. But only the applications it recognises – unfortunately, you can’t create new links for the link bar, so you can only drag and drop files into certain applications using this bar.
It is possible to store thumbnail links to Web pages on the Visual Explorer desktop, or download whole pages at once and read them offline. Annotations can be added to stored documents without altering the original file, and the program has a built-in compression system to ensure that data files are kept as small as possible. Basic document search facilities are included, as is the ability to create, delete, move and colour-coordinate your data folders.
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