Android App Review: Simple Explorer Receives Material Design Updates
At XDA we like to highlight projects that are not only from the community, but also open source, and Simple Explorer, a file explorer by XDA Senior Member DF1E, is just such a project. We first mentioned it when it came out and then when it received a root management update soon after. Now DF1E has given it a Material Design facelift.
Simple explorer is just what the name explicitly suggests – simple. It is currently on version 2.2.2 and available for devices on Android 4.1 and up. If you want another ES Explorer, or even the ability to do intricate root functions, walk away. However, if you value a fast and minimal app, and don’t really need all the additions that the plethora of popular file explorers bloat their apps and interfaces with, this could be the app for you. Oh, and did we mention it is beautiful?
There are things that make this application stand out, even as one of the many apps that lately have been striving for a “minimal” approach. First of all, it has just the basic and fundamental permissions, ensuring you have as much privacy as an app solely made to browse your files can offer. This, plus the fact that it is an open source project (and thus, susceptible to peer review to guarantee no maliciousness), ensures that your privacy, identity, or files remain safe – and yours. As another technical side point, it weighs a measly 3mb, and, that coupled with its minimal and efficient interface and code, makes for a very fast, and reliable file browser… if you exclude the occasional bug. More on this later.
The interface features an even further minimalist conception of Google’s Material Design. While not all guidelines are met (although the diversion is not all that evident), it borrows plenty of elements from it across its interface. The majority of its aesthetics are very consistent, and will not harm your eyes with odd contrast or tasteless color palette choices. If you miss seeing the Play Store’s hamburger-menu turning into an arrow (by far my favorite animation of all of Material Design, why did Google remove this?!), you’ll be pleased to find it at the heart of the app’s functionality, its simplistic action bar. No old, tacky gradients present – plain color and a handful of tidy icons is all you’ll see here. This action bar menu exposes simply two items, “Settings” and “Exit”, both which are self-explanatory. This app takes its name really seriously.
The settings menu also contains some very straightforward configurations, and a dark theme for those of you who don’t want to get blasted by all of the whites present in most MD interfaces, itself a diversion from the guidelines that Google itself should adopt. The app’s look changes the user experience in all the right ways in order to live up to the name. Long gone are the unnecessary amounts of buttons displayed at the bottom, the clashing symbols of the action bar, and the tacky skeuomorphism of the folders and files icons. What you have now is a sleek and mute array of neatly organized elements that seamlessly merge into a nondescript, yet elegant, interface. Considering how outdated the design used to be for a 2013 app, this was a necessary change that deserves recognition.
When it comes to functions, the app follows a list-based approach to opening and displaying the different branches of folders your system stores. The back key takes you back up a folder in the tree, or you can tap the ramifications to get back around your folders – they are elegantly displayed under the action bar. In the action bar you also find the “i” (information) button that displays basic (very basic) information of the folder you are in. There’s also a search function. This one gave me a headache: it’s rather slow compared to other file explorers, and it tends to crash the entire application. This seemingly happens whenever you search for inputs that result in a lot of hits. If you tap a file, it opens it via its default app. Simple as that. You can long-press a file to copy, paste it, and access to the 3-dot menu that gives you more options: the usual file sharing, file details, name changing, erasing, etc. You can also add bookmarks to the action bar, or add shortcuts to your homescreen that take you straight to the directory you are in. A “paste” button gets added to the interface whenever a file is copied, allowing for a non-intrusive way to move files from folder to folder. A “move” option would have been welcomed, though. The rest is standard browser stuff – you can add files, or add folders.
All in all, this app is one of the most honest apps you’ll find. It doesn’t try to lure you in with gimmicks or bloat. Instead, its appeal is its simplicity, its minimalism, its basicness, its essentiality, all nouns with derivatives that plague this review. In some ways, these aspects are great – aesthetics and performance benefit greatly from them. The design (both in looks and functionality) is neatly crafted and it will feel natural to your eyes. However, some of it can get in the way of a good user experience (particularly file moving) and the settings could use a few more options. There’s also a couple of UX inconsistencies and bugs that I’m sure will get ironed out with the feedback from XDA members and the app’s users.
This app gets my praise for being truthful to its goal in a humble way. Nowadays, many developers slap the “minimalist” label to lure users who want a design consistent with the modern OS designs. And in my opinion, most can’t really come up with a consistent or attractive look for their design language, and in the end they end up feeling uninspired. This one seems to focus on being good at what it does, and in that regard, it succeeds. You won’t find a lot here, but what you’ll find has no waste.
- Minimal beauty in a tiny package
- No compromising permissions
- Good use of Material Design
- Dark theme
- Amazing performance
- Some crashes and bugs
- Too simple for its own good sometimes
Try out the app, and let us and the developer know your thoughts and suggestions to improve.