By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
A salamander in my PC? If you look at the screen of my Windows 95 computer, that's what you'll see.
It's called Servant Salamander, which takes the prize for the craziest name so far this year for a serious Windows program. It's a free replacement for the Windows 95 File Manager, and it's outstanding.
At this point, you should be asking, "What Windows 95 File Manager?" Most Windows 95 users don't use File Manager (and probably don't even know it's loaded on their computer) because Windows 95 has another program for handling files and folders, called Explorer. Any time you double-click a drive icon or a folder icon, Explorer runs and opens the drive or folder. (Don't confuse Explorer with Internet Explorer. I'm not talking about the Web browser here.)
Even though your Windows 95 PC has File Manager in its Start Menu, Microsoft keeps File Manager out of harm's way because of a fatal flaw: File Manager wrecks your long filenames. It won't even show your long filenames. If you copy or move a file or folder that has a Windows long filename—a name with spaces, for example—File Manager trashes the long name and substitutes the short name.
File Manager has many other flaws, too. I'll just name one. It hasn't the foggiest idea that anything is happening outside its own window. You can't drag files or folders out of or into the main File Manager window, the way you can do with Windows Explorer. Aw, heck, I'll name another one. File Manager thinks your right mouse button is a ham sandwich. It doesn't support that all-important right-button-context-menu at all.
So, even if you find Windows Explorer maddening (because it forgets its own settings, for one thing) you'd be crazy to use File Manager under Windows 95. I say that even though I've promoted a small utility program that allows File Manager to handle long filenames. (A link to that utility is on my Web site.) The utility doesn't solve any of the other problems of File Manager, so it's more of a curiosity than a solution.
That's where Servant Salamander comes in. Unlike File Manager, it handles long filenames perfectly, and even lets you see the short names in the same list as the long filenames. It also works like Explorer, letting you drag and drop files and folders to or from a Servant Salamander window.
Unlike the dreaded Explorer, Servant Salamander knows how to save its own settings so that it opens the same way each time you run it. (A tip: Set things up the way you want them, then go to the Options menu in Salamander and choose "Save Configuration.")
Servant Salamander has many features you won't find on most other replacements for File Manager. My favorite is an option that strips the read-only attributes from everything that's copied from a CD-ROM disk. If you have a CD recorder and back up files to a CD-ROM disk, you've probably run into the vexing problem of files that can't be deleted or modified after they've been copied back to your hard drive from a CD. Salamander fixes that problem nicely.
Servant Salamander was created by Petr Solin and is available from his Web site, http://voran.sh.cvut.cz/. Please try that site first to download the file, but if you have a hard time getting to it (it's on a slow server in Eastern Europe), you can find it on my Web site or the newspaper's mirror on the Files page.