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Atol Delivers Flawless File Management With No Frills

By Jack M. Germain
Mar 10, 2010 5:00 AM PT

Some system utilities do a variety of things well. They come with tools to give users lots of solutions in one package. Other system apps like the Atol File Manager perform a dedicated function flawlessly without adding other specialties. Atol took a while to grow on me, but now this app is one of my most-used Linux tools.

Atol Delivers Flawless File Management With No Frills

Atol file manager
Atol file manager
(click image to enlarge)

When it comes to file manager applications, that comparison spells out the philosophical design differences of the Atol Twin Panel file manager and the Krusader file manager, also a twin panel app, which I recently reviewed.

Written using GTK+ toolkit and C++ programming language, Atol is a classical dual-panel file manager ported to Linux and Windows OS. I first gained the acquaintance of this little-known file manager as a workhorse utility on my Windows XP desktop. It became my comfort zone when I moved to the Puppy Linux desktop.

Computer users, like political followers, are generally born into an OS platform. They adopt whatever system is used at home, or at school, or in the office, for instance. It takes a deep personal conviction and a strong persuasive argument to drop one political party in favor of another.

That's the process I followed in migrating from Windows to Linux. I left the fold of my computing background in search of better answers, so to say.

Atol File Manager was an easy-to-use application in Windows, so I continued to use it in Linux. It helped me to master the different filing system that Linux uses. Atol's point-and-click navigation got me familiar with the Linux file system layout.

Atol Basics

Atol is a Norton Commander clone, meaning it mimics the architecture of the Norton Commander interface. If you are not familiar with Norton Commander, then this explanation will not help you see the value of Atol. However, if you used and loved Norton Commander in a previous computing life, then you recognize the inherent usefulness of Atol already.

Atol provides common file operations, archive browsing (.zip, .tar, .gz, .arj, .bz2, .Z) and much more. It effortlessly handles common file operations such as copy, move, delete and rename. It also offers support for archiver plug-ins such as .zip, .tar, .gz, .bz2, .arj, .rar and .lst.

Other file management tasks are built into the menuing system in Atol. Just click on a menu category on the top row and select the desired function. This makes it easy to execute file searches, browse bookmarks and filter file lists.

Feature Frenzy

File splitting and file merging tasks are a snap with Atol. So are file encryption and decryption operations. Atol uses strong blowfish algorithm. These features are available from the Advanced drop -down menu.

Atol also handles file hash calculation for crc32, md5 and sha1. Viewing files is just as easy; highlight a file and select the View option in the File menu, or press the Fn3 key.

Atol opens the file in view-only mode with a menu option within the viewer to edit the file in a chosen application. Atol has text, bin and hex modes. A quicker route is to highlight the file and select the Edit or Fn4 option in the File menu.

Ageless Function

It is not uncommon to see programs that are several years old still populating packages management systems for various Linux distros. In the Windows world, such aging wares are a sign of software that is growing out of date. Not so with Linux.

The latest release of Atol is Dec. 25, 2006, as version 0.7.3, and is designated as a stable release for bug fixes. It is released under the BSD License.

Atol was developed by Miroslav Rajcic, the same programmer who developed Note Case Manager. Having both of these apps installed gives me a reliable set of tools for managing my files and my notes database.

Useful Use

Dual-pane file managers provide a handy solution to a constant computing chore. I swap files among the various laptop and desktop computers I use via a thumb drive, and I track projects via a detailed folder system. Moving files from one folder to another is essential.

I sometimes open a standard single-pane file manager app twice and drag and drop these files from one directory to another. However, that adds more steps. The chore is more conveniently handled with a twin-panel solution such as Atol. I can eliminate the drag and drop activity. Instead, I merely highlight the targeted files and Atol moves or copies them with a single click of an icon in the tool bar.

Comparing Directories

With all of my files anchored to a large-capacity USB drive, I always need to synchronize directories between the thumb drive and the hard drives of my various computers. I distrust software that performs automatic synchronization because, well, stuff happens.

I much prefer to maintain hands-on control to ensure that my files go where I intend them to be. Atol gives me that layer of convenience with its Compare directories option in the Advanced menu.

Equally quick is the manual approach. I navigate to the sending and receiving directories so each one is visible in the twin panels. After highlighting the files in one panel that I want to copy or move, I click on the copy or move icon sitting in the tool bar at the top of the Atol window. It could not get any easier.

Other Operations

Linux apps do not typically offer function key support within menus. Atol does. Perhaps the port to the Windows world made including function keys a logical option. For me, being able to press a function key to bypass the drop down menu is another bonus in using Atol.

A related shortcut is pressing the underscored first letter of command. For instance, with the menu visible, pressing the M key carries out the Move command.

The File menu includes expected file management tasks such as Copy, Move, Make Directory, Delete and Rename. It also has Pack and Unpack files in addition to options for creating files, viewing and editing files.

The key to effective computing is time management efficiency. Atol goes a long way toward making short work of file management tasks. It is easy to use as well.

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