Norton Commander


The section differs from the others in that I will walk you through the functions I use the most. So it is a bit like a course in using NC.

This section is here because many people have purchased and use this excellent program, originally written by John Socha. The description mainly relates to the English-language version 3.0.

As time goes by, you cram a lot of files onto your hard disk, and these are spread around in many different directories. I have always used Norton Commander to manage files and directories. If you don't have this program, I'm afraid that you won't benefit much from this section. However, bits here and there might interest you enough to make you consider buying the program. You may well ask (with good reason) why I devote so much space to a program that doesn't come with DOS.

There are many similar programs, including Dosshell, PCTools and File Manager in Windows. I personally find NC the easiest, fastest and smartest.

NC was developed many years ago to ease the management of files and directories. You can use a mouse in NC but I will only describe the use of the keyboard.

Start NC by typing NC at the DOS prompt, and exit by pressing F10. Tab toggles between the two windows. Press Esc if you regret doing something; if you open a window and select a function that you don't want, press Esc. The screen is split into two windows, as if you had two simultaneous DOS prompts, a very intelligent and handy function, especially when copying and moving files.

At the top of each window is the paths of the two directories shown by the left and right windows. I call the horizontal marker the "bar." The bar marks a drive, a directory or a file. If the current directory is empty, the bar will be at the top of the screen.

Both windows show files and directories in the manner you stipulate via the pull-down menus. Try pressing F9 and Enter or the down arrow.

This activates the pull-down menus. You can move around in a window by using the up and down keyboard arrows, and you move to a new window using the right or left keyboard arrows. Press Esc twice to return.

The bottom of the screen shows the actions of the different function keys. Try holding down Alt and you will see what Alt + a function key will do.


Let's start by configuring your screen and program to resemble mine while you read this. You can always change it later. In the options menu, select configuration. In each dialogue box, you select with the space bar to activate a point and move with the arrow keys, Tab or Enter. Here are my recommendations.

Screen blank delay means that the screen goes (almost) blank after a certain period of time if you haven't touched the keyboard. This protects your screen. Mine is set at three minutes, but you make your own choice.

Show hidden files: blank (until you are familiar with NC, I recommend you use a setup that doesn't show hidden files). Ins Moves down means that pressing the Insert key moves the bar one step down. Auto change directory means that if you have a directory tree in the left window and the corresponding files of a marked directory in the right window, the files of the new directory will be shown each time you change directory in the left window. Under other options, select: Menu bar always visible - blank. Menu bar always visible means that the top bar for pull-down menus is always visible. Auto save setup - x, means this configuration is saved when you exit NC. End with OK - just keep pressing Enter until you reach OK.

Still under Options (F9 and either arrow-down or Enter). The selections toggle between on and off each time they're chosen. You should have the following active, i.e. showing a small check mark next to them, which you do by pressing Enter or the emphasized letter. Unfortunately, you can only change one thing at a time.

Path prompt - The DOS directory path: The DOS prompt at the bottom of the screen shows the current directory.

Key bar - The function keys are shown at the very bottom of the screen.


F9, and Enter. The menu for the left and right window is split into three sections and within each frame you can choose from one of the following:

Top Section - Shows the information you choose to see in the window

Brief: file names only.

Full: file names, sizes, dates and times.

Info: information on the current disk, space used and available.

Tree - directory diagram: directory tree in this window and files in the other.

Middle Section - sort order for files

The different options are self-explanatory. Normally, I have Name activated but if, for example, you change something in a program that's made up of several files and you want to see in which file the program saves certain things, the most convenient way is to sort by Time and the changed file will appear at the top of the list. If you need to view many files with the same extension, then select Extension.

Bottom Section - I never use this.

You can select either by moving with the arrow keys and then pressing Enter or by typing the capitalized letter. Try selecting Brief; the window shows the current directory with files, though with names only. Do the same with the other window, by pressing Tab, F9 and selecting Brief. If you press F9 and regret it, press Esc. Move the bar up and down with the arrow keys. Notice that at the bottom of the small frame you get full information about the file or directory that the bar is resting upon.. Directories are written in capital letters and files are written with lowercase letters. Now select Full for both windows (F9, Enter, Full,), which shows the files with name, size, date and time. This is my preference; you may have a different opinion.

nov. 2008

I wrote about Norton Commander many years ago. The development of NC stopped, and another much better programme Total Commander has been available for many years.

I use it also as FTP program. I am a keyboard freak/user and Total Commander is the best file manager I know. It is excellent.

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