You’ll never run out of file managers on Android, especially since the platform does not completely hide the filesystem from users, unlike that other mobile OS. The benefits and drawbacks of such freedom is still open to debate, but until that changes, file managers will be a fact of life on Android. It’s sometimes hard to paint an app as the cream of the crop, but ES File Explorer comes pretty darn close. It’s not going to win any awards for prettiness and new or casual users will probably be a bit confused. But for those who want to squeeze out some every bit of functionality from their device, ES File Explorer aims to please. Here are four “power user” features that you might find useful someday or today.
Hide your files and folders from untrained eyes
Android is based on Linux, and that fact shows itself in how it handles files and folders. To keep it short, Linux, and therefore Android, hides any file that starts with a dot (‘.’), which has become a common convention to hide certain things that users wouldn’t normally need to care about, like app settings. You can use this fact to create your own personal hidden stash, for whatever reason you may have. The first and most important step is to set ES File Explorer to show Hidden files, otherwise you might find yourself surprised that the file you just created suddenly disappeared. Next, navigate to where you want to create the hidden file or folder and create such a new item. Name it anything you want but be sure to put a dot at the beginning, like “.HideMe”, but without the quotes. Once that’s done, the file will appear but will be partly transparent. If you disable showing Hidden files again, which, by the way, is the default, they will disappear from view.
Not all file managers, especially stock ones, allow users to view hidden files, so this an effective way to hide them from those that don’t know about it. Of course, anyone who knows about it will also know ways around it, but they’d have to know the exact path to your stash.
Hide your files from Android’s eyes
Android has a media store function that keeps track of your media files wherever they’re stored. Those files then appear anywhere appropriate, like videos in a Video Player or your MP3’s in a music collection. While that may sometimes offer conveniences, it could also easily lead to clutter, as it will index anything and everything that fits into the categories of images, music, and videos. If you don’t want to or don’t have the luxury of renaming those files, you can simply put them in a hidden folder using the method above, and Android will not go through them when scanning for media files. But if you can’t even do that, there is another trick available. Go inside the folder whose contents you want to hide from the system and, using the steps shown above, create a hidden file named “.nomedia”. This will cause Android to skip all files, folders, and sub-folders below it. They will, however, still be visible in any file manager, but most users won’t even know that they’re there since none of the usual photo or video apps will show them.
As a side note, ES File Explorer itself has a Hide List feature that you can secure with a password. It may, however, be inferior to the two methods mentioned since it really only hides the files from ES File Explorer. They will still show up everywhere else.
Turn your apps into APKs
ES File Explorer also offers a set of convenience features that go a bit beyond your normal definition of a file manager (though still in line with the Linux mantra of “everything is a file”). On the sidebar menu, you will see a few Manager options that help you manage not just files but your whole system. One such manager is the App Manager, which, as you might have guessed, lets you manage your apps. One particular interesting functionality of the App Manager is that it lets you backup apps. This practically puts a copy of the app’s APK inside the /sdcard/backups/ folder, which you can then copy for safe keeping or for other devices. Of course, ES File Explorer also lets you uninstall apps from the App Manager or even directly Share an app, which sends the APK to the chosen target. We leave it up to the reader to think of the ways this feature can be utilized.
Users should note, however, that just because a backup APK exists, it doesn’t mean they will immediately work on any other device you copy it to. Even if you manage to get it installed on another, dissimilar Android device, it may not still work because of missing prerequisites or missing hardware features. In particular, this method is useful for copying apps from a smartphone to the Samsung Galaxy Gear, but due to the smartwatch’s limitations, not all apps will run as is.
Transfer files over WiFi in a snap
If you see yourself constantly moving files between devices or computers, then ES File Explorer’s Remote Manager might make your life just easier. Instead of struggling with cables, or setting up complicated home networks, or even the going the roundabout route of uploading files to the cloud first, Remote Manager sets up an ad hoc FTP connection, the very same protocol used for downloading files from the Internet, from your Android device to any other device that has a browser or a file manager. All that is required is that the devices sit on the same network, which is usually the case when you’re at home or using a mobile hotspot.
The setup on the Android side is dead simple. Simply go to Remote Manager and tap “Turn on”. However, you might first want to set a username and password to keep anyone else in the same network from connecting. Remote Manager will then give you an IP address that you can enter into any browser, which will then display your device’s filesystem as a webpage full of links to files and folders. This, however, is a one way trip. You can only copy files from the Android device where Remote Manager is running. If you want a two-way connection that allows you to copy to the device or even delete files on the device, you’ll need something more than a browser. You will need an FTP client (FileZilla being a favorite of mine) or a file manager that allows FTP connections. Nothing has to change on ES File Explorer’s end. More advanced users will probably also setup a static IP and a hostname for their device to make things even easier.
We’ve definitely just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ES File Explorer’s power features. This file manager even lets you access cloud services as if they were just local files, making it easy to move files in bulk. Admittedly, not all of them get used every day, but it’s nice to know that the feature is there when you need it. Some even become habit forming.
Do you use ES File Explorer, too? If so, what are your favorite features? If you have some other favorite file manager, what features do you think put it above the rest of the crowd? Hit the comments below and share your thoughts and ideas. Maybe you can help others find out a feature they never knew existed or even discover a new favorite app.