What Is a File Manager?

Also called file browsers, these apps make finding files easier

An Apple Lisa displaying its desktop.
An Apple Lisa running its desktop management software.

Dr. Patrick Schäfer 

A file manager is an application that helps you manage files and folders on that device as well as attached disks and even networked storage. File manager applications let you copy, view, edit, delete, or move files and folders.

The first graphical file manager was introduced in 1983 on Apple's Lisa personal computer. While the Lisa was not a commercial success, its interface ushered in a new way of using a computer which included file management.

Where Is the File Manager in Windows 10?

The default file management app in Windows 10 is File Explorer. You can access File Explorer in several different ways in Windows 10.

By default, the File Explorer app (a folder icon) is pinned to the taskbar.

Screenshot of the Windows Explorer icon in the Windows taskbar

This is the fastest way to access File Explorer. Several other options include:

  • Start Menu: Select Start, type File Explorer, and select the File Explorer desktop app.
  • Run Command: Select Start, type Run, and select the Run desktop app. In the Run app, type Explorer and select OK.
  • Start Right-Click: Right-click Start and select File Explorer.
A screenshot of the Windows 10 File Explorer

The File Explorer app in Windows 10 is one of the more functional file management apps offered by Microsoft. It includes several panes for browsing folders, managing files, and previewing file contents.

Open the File Manager on MacOS

The File Manager app in Mac is called Finder. It's always running on your Mac and, unless you changed the Mac's default behavior, it's the app the Mac starts up into.

A screenshot of the Finder in macOS.

File Manager Software on Linux

Linux operating systems have always had the reputation of being complicated to use. However in recent years, the best Linux desktop environments are remarkably intuitive and come with their own powerful file explorer apps that rival Windows Explorer.

Some default file managers included in popular Linux distros include:

  • Dolphin: KDE Plasma
  • Thunar: XFCE
  • PCManFM: LXDE
  • Caja: MATE
  • Nautilus: GNOME
  • Nemo: Cinnamon
  • Pantheon Files: Elementary OS

The process to open the file manager on Linux varies from one OS to another. However Linux developers usually keep things similar to the Windows experience. So, you'll usually find access to the file manager inside a pseudo "Start" menu, on the taskbar, or a desktop icon.

Android File Manager

So long as you're using an Android OS above 5.0 (Lollipop), it comes with a default file manager.

To open the app, just tap on the File Manager app in your apps list.

A screenshot of the default Android file manager

The default Android file manager is very minimalist, but it's also very simple to use. If you just need a simple way to browse, copy, move, or open files, it does the job well.

iPhone File Manager

When the iPhone came out, there was no file manager app (and you couldn't install one because the App Store hadn't been created yet).

With iOS 11, Apple introduced a Files app that could also access and manage local device files.

Like the default Android file manager, it's a very basic app. But for essential file management tasks, it does the job well.

To open the app, just tap on the Files app from one of your homescreens.

A screenshot of the iPhone iCloud Drive app