App Review: Gemini File Manager [for TouchPad] 17
If you were to ask our PreCentral readers for the best File Manager app for webOS, everyone would probably respond with a quick answer of Internalz by Jason Robitaille. Of course, Internalz (and the homebrew Internalz Pro) have really been the only file manager apps available for webOS for the last couple years. That is, until now, with the release of Gemini File Manager by Jack Newcombe of Oma Studios.
Developed specifically for the TouchPad and webOS 3.0, Gemini File Manager is $2.99 in the App Catalog and brings some serious competition to the File Manager space, although it is fair to note that while Internalz is able to run as a full screen Mojo app on the TouchPad, Jason is working on bringing his own TouchPad version of Internalz HD to the catalog in the not to distant future. Regardless, Jason has his work cut out for him because Gemini has a whole lot going for it in terms of functionality and even looks great!
Upon loading up Gemini, you might feel a little overwhelmed and unsure how to actually do anything in the app. Across the top of the screen, you will see a row of buttons (Settings, About, Help, Network), following by a double-paned view of your device's file tree, and finally a bunch of little icons below each of the directory trees. The first thing that I would suggest doing is to tap on that "Help" button on that top of the screen and read through all of the help text that the developer has included here. It will be a bit confusing at first until you start playing around with the app, but only because there is so much to learn and so much to do with the app. Once complete, press the Back button to go back to the main app.
The first thing you need to know what using a file manager app in webOS is that the /media/internal/ directory is the equivalent to what you would see when you plug in your device to a computer and access the USB drive. Unlike Internalz (the app catalog version), Gemeni does allow you access to other systems directories outside of /media/internal, so you do have access to a greater array of webOS's files. However, don't be surprised if some files or directories are missing due to some "jailed" policies of what official app catalogs apps have access to. If you need more complete access to your files via an on-device file manager program, the homebrew Internalz Pro is your only option. But enough about Internalz, let's get back to Gemini.
Each of the file/directory listings on the screen act as an independent viewing experience. On the top of each listing is the current directory name, along with tappable options to sort the listing by name, size or extension (file type). When navigating the file structure, you have 3 modes of how you interact with the files/directory listing, based on the first three icons below each listing. Those icons represent Open mode (folder icon), Selection mode (check mark), and Popup mode (popup menu icon). Open mode is pretty self-explanatory. If you tap on a directory, it will navigate to that directory. If you tap on a file, it will try to open the file if webOS has a default application that knows now to handle that file type. The Popup mode acts very similar to Open, but instead of automatically just opening the file, it gives you a popup to Open, Edit (if available), Rename, Delete, or get Info about the file. If the file is a text file, a text-editor window appears in-app to edit the text, and Info acts similar to the Internalz Info screen to show you some details on the file/directory, allows you to edit Linux permissions and even email the file. In addition, in either Open or Popup mode, there are 3 additional icons below the directory tree that allows to you back-up one directory level, add a new directory, or refresh the current directory.
The final mode option is the Selection mode which is activated by pressing the checkmark icon. This allows you a way to select multiple files or directory within the current directory. From here you can use the icons below the file listing to either copy those files to the directory location shown on the opposite directory pane or to delete them. This is a great way to very quickly copy large files or even whole directories around your device.
The final button below the directory listing is a star button. This represents a bookmark option to add quick links to any directory on your device. Just navigate to the directory you want to bookmark, press the star button and press the "+ Add" option on the bottom of the popup. You then have the option to name the bookmark to whatever you would like. To navigate back to this bookmark, just press the star icon again and you will have the bookmark option immediately available to you on either navigation page.
Up until this point, just about all the functionality we have reviewed is available in both Gemini and Internalz. Some implementations/options may be more extensive in one app vs the other. For example, the text editor in Internalz has a lot more options, such as line-break options, word-wrap toggle, text size options, etc., but copying multiple files is a much easier task in Gemini. And while Internalz has a built in image viewer and more settings around customizing the file explorer experience, Gemini has quite a few tricks up its sleeve as well to set it apart.
First, you are able to search for a file or directory on the device using the text box above the file explorer pane. Just tap on where you see the current directory name and start typing (note that search is CASE sensitive). Type in your search term, press Enter and you will be presented with a search results screen with all results within the existing directory you are in (or any subdirectory beneath it). From there, you will see the full path of the filename with options to open, email or delete the file. I would have liked to see an "open containing directory" option to quickly navigate to it, but the developer said that he does have that on the list for a future enhancement. Either way, having a search feature is a welcome addition to any file manager
While Gemini doesn't have a Photo Viewer like Internalz to load up a single photo, it does have an Image Viewer to quickly scroll through all the images in a given directory. If at least 25% of a directory's files are photo, a little photo icon will appear to the left of the bookmark icon that launches the Image Viewer. Right now, all you can do is look through the pictures. You can't see filenames, you are unable to select, copy or email the files, or really do anything at all. This is a great start to an image viewer, but I really hope that the developer adds additional functionality to this view, as well as lifts that 25% minimum restriction.
Finally, and perhaps the one of the best features of the app, is Cloud storage integration! By tapping on that Network button on top of the screen you will be brought to the Network Manager. Right now, this only includes access to Dropbox accounts, but the developer has already tweeted that Box.net integration will be added shortly (which will work quite well since all TouchPad owners get 50GB of free storage with Box.net) and that he has plans for many other services as well. Once you log into your network account, you will be able to access any given account on the left-side of the screen to bring up another dual-navigation pane. While the left-navigation pane is your on-device listing, the right pane is now your network account. From here, you have same Open and Selection mode icons (no Popup mode here) that will allow you to transfer files to/from your device and cloud storage services with just the tap of a few buttons. One big difference on transferring files when using the Network Manager is that you can only transfer files, not whole directories. This is not an app limitation, but a limitation that the network services apply. So, to transfer a whole directory, you would need to "Back" out of the network manager, create a Directory on your device, go back into Network Manager, navigate to the directory you want to copy, and select each file one-at-a-time in "Selection Mode" before initiating the transfer (a "select all" option would be nice). While it may add a few extra steps to the process, this is still a lot easier than some alternatives to upload your files to a cloud storage service
While Internalz Pro is available for free in Preware and gives you access to some additional areas of your device as compared to Gemini File Manager, I would highly recommend picking this app up for your TouchPad. The search ability and expanding-Network Manager alone make it worth the price of admission. Jack has been working hard to continually improve the app (we have already seen a number of updates just in the last few weeks) and this app is only getting better with time. Jason, the ball is in your court now...how will Internalz HD compare to Gemini File Manager?