Uniquely Symbian: BUILT-IN File Manager: Files

| April 22, 2013 | 108 Replies




Dear MNB Readers,

Symbian. A lot of us have been using Symbian for years now and have become accustomed to its features and while some of those features have been duplicated on other platforms, their implementation may be different from on Symbian. For this article, I would like to talk about Symbian’s standard file manager called Files.

File managers are not exclusive to Symbian and have been and are present in some form on other mobile OSes such as Android, Windows MOBILE, Maemo, Meego and the like. The main difference is that the availability of a file manager may vary from device to device using the SAME OS. For example, on Android, manufacturers (Samsung, HTC..)have picked up the slack and now include a file manager in their custom builds of Android but to my knowledge*, (*correct me if Google has now included a file manager in stock Android) Android still lacks a default, built-in, user accessible file manager.

What that means for users of other OSes is that there isn’t a guarantee that they will have a file manager on every device that they buy. The user may have to search and download any of the free or paid file managers. Some people know how to do this and are willing to do this, others are not, while others see no use for a file manager on a phone in the first place. The other scenario is that an OS (iOS, Windows Phone, others) may not have a file manager in the OS at all or have one with so many restrictions that it barely allows you to manage your files. This brings us back to Files, the standard built-in Symbian file manager:



Files is a part of Symbian:

Included on every Symbian phone from the 808 PureView back to the beginning of time (or close to it 🙂 ), excluding some odd firmware decisions that I am not aware of, Files can be found in the application menu or it can be placed on the home screen as a shortcut. What this means for the user is that no matter how old the device, the cost, form factor, display resolution, qwerty, touchscreen, hardware generation, UI, Symbian version, updated or not, still supported or not, there is a file manager on the device.

The Files UI should be familiar to anyone that has used a file manager or folder system/explorer on a computer and it behaves the same as well. Pictured to the left is the standard view when you open Files. It shows several “drives”, C:, E: and F: with F: being your memory card if your Symbian device has a memory card (SD, Mini/Micro SD) slot. Pictured to the right, you can see additional drives that are shown when you connect external devices via USB On-The-Go (if your device has USB-OTG) such as flash drives, hard drives or other phones. G: and H: represent the Mass Memory and Memory card on my Nokia N8 that is connected to my 808 PureView via USB OTG….that’s a LOT of GBs to manage!

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Once in Files, you can long press (equivalent of the right mouse click on a computer) to see the details of the selected drive and access other options to modify the content as pictured below. Clicking Format allows you to erase the contents of the drive and it then automatically recreates the standard Symbian folders. This is useful if you switch memory cards, firmware or if you are having issues with the drive and you want a fresh start. Clicking Details shows what is consuming the memory on the drive. Looking at my memory card pictured on the right, I have over 5GBs in Videos, showing as using 5178MB.  You can also set a password for a particular drive to ensure spying eyes won’t have access to your sensitive and personal files.


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Once you select the drive that you want to access, all of your folders are displayed just as they are located in the file system, minus and hidden/system folders but there is an app for that :). You can browse files, get details, open compatible files if you have the software installed on your phone (Office apps, PDF, Zip managers) or simply Move, Copy, Paste, Cut and otherwise manager your files.


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You can also Mark files to select multiple files. There is even a Mark All in the event that you need a mass move or deletion or to send files via email, Bluetooth or other methods.


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Your options may vary by file type or storage location but generally, if you can see it, you can select it and therefore you may have additional options. Please note that this article is only about the built-in file manager and not the downloadable file managers that may have more options and deeper/secured folder access.

Files does a great job at standard file management and access. Functionally, all user-created content is accessible and able to be managed, such as pictures, video, music, documents and other file types without the need of a computer or separate app. It is a wonderful thing to have a USB OTG enabled device and cables and have the ability to assist friends in getting pictures or other documents to and from their device just by accessing their file system. There is almost something secret agent 007 like around the “oooooh… my phone can read your phone’s file system” feeling when helping others but then again, that person trusts you with accessing their files so let’s be on our best behavior. 🙂 That pretty much covers the basics of Files.

My next Uniquely Symbian topic will cover On Device Backup and Restore which is a part of Files.

Here is the opening paragraph of that article:

Pretty much every modern mobile OS has a device backup feature. Most backups are done via a PC client such as Nokia Suite, iTunes, Zune, Samsung Kies or another branded software suite. On some OSes (example: Android), you can download 3rd party backup software such as Titanium Backup (does a lot more than just backup) or other free or paid software. All of that is great but what do you do when you are not at a computer or you don’t have a 3rd party app installed or even a data connection to download the free app, or you want to back up your content to different destinations? Symbian has you covered!

I originally planned to make one article covering both topics but it looks like I am going to have to split them into separate articles due to technical reasons.

I wanted to point out that the unique aspect of Files is that it is built-in to the OS. That is the important part in my opinion. Sure, there are more capable file managers out there that can be downloaded separately but that isn’t unique to Symbian. It is my hope that this article sheds a little light on a Symbian gem that may be overlooked or taken for granted or long forgotten. I use Files all the time, managing my sound files from Recorder and pictures from other devices.

Do you use Files? If you do, what phone do you use Files on, what version of Symbian? Do you have any screenshots of Files from older versions of Symbian or stories of how Files may have saved the day or helped a friend? If you don’t use a file manager on your phone, what do you do to manage your files? I am always mindful that even though I may already know something, that doesn’t mean everyone else knows because at some point in my life, I had to learn as well.

All comments are welcome as always and thank you for choosing MyNokiaBlog!



Category: Nokia

About the Author ()

Good day everyone! My name is Demitrius Harris and I am a fan of all things true. I currently hold a position in the IT Department at a college and I teach various classes when the opportunity presents itself. In the past, I was a Special Education Teacher and a Technology Education teacher at an elementary school and have held titles in the Financial industry. What does that mean for you, our dear readers? It means that I love to write and communicate as accurately as possible! It is my hope, that I will always be able to provide factual information concerning all things related to Nokia (even when the Nokia brand isn't printed) and anything else in the scope of technology that fits within the purpose of MyNokiaBlog. I humbly thank you all for reading my posts (and the MNB Team) that sometimes contain THOUSANDS of words. You all are the best and most respectful blog supporters in the world! Thank you for choosing! Sincerely, Demitrius Harris. Favorite phone of all time: Nokia N82 - Black
  • For what purpose are people using file managers today?

    Files are used in the applications, so if applications know which files they can work with, what use there is for a file manager?

    • Jon

      Fair point.
      But being a techy, I’d like to have a file manager.
      Nice article but it’s a lot of text about s simple ‘file manager’.

      • What does a techie do with a file manager?

        • Deaconclgi

          Manage Files. The use for a file manager is defined in it’s name. It is to manage files. There are many reasons a person may want to manage their own files. Here are a few examples of how I have used Files on Symbian and different downloadable file managers on Android:

          1. Creat specific folders for my photos and videos: When I was a school teacher, I wanted to store my pictures by school year. I created a 2009 and 2010 picture folder and kept all the photos from that year in that folder. That way when I needed to go directly to those folders, I could find the pictures. Sure, they still were displayed in the Gallery on the phone but when I connected my phone to the computer, I could navigate directly to the folder and copy the entire folder to my school computer to share or produce documents.

          2. Managing Documents: I use my phone to view and edit budgets and if I need them stored by Month, Year or Mid Month, End of Month, I would create a folder on the phone so that I can find what I am looking for if I need to access the files. The Office programs just lump them all together but like on my computer, the files are in folders and I need my folder structure to be the same for record keeping and continuity.

          3. Emulators: I created a SNES, GBA, Genesis and N64 folders on my computer and copied them to my phone the exact way in the root of the memory card. I was then able to manage my files on the phone and when I opened an emulator, I could choose the correct directory, for example, I don’t want my SNES emulator looking into a ROMS folder that contains SNES, GBA, GENESIS, and N64 roms because it can ONLY play SNES ROMS so I set the emulator to ONLY look at the SNES folder which I can manage on my phone. Maybe I don’t want to call it SNES, simply go to Files and rename it, move it, delete it, do whatever. Manage it.

          4. Using the same memory card in different phones: I used my same 32GB card in my N8 with my HTC One S. I didn’t want my photos being mixed together as they are of different quality so I could simply manage the files, instead of just having DCIM, I could name one DCIM2 so that no photos from the 2nd phone will be mixed in with the first. The same goes for the entire Android file system. Once the card was back in the N8, I created a folder call Android and copied ALL of the Android files into that folder to keep everything separate form the Symbian file structure.

          All this was done on my phone. Those are just a few examples of real world use. Maybe somepeople just use their phones As-Is or within the guidelines set by the manufacturer but others use their phones to their full ability.

          What is important is that the device does what you need it to do for YOU. I own iOS devices and Android devices and all those things that I described above are not possible with just their OSes. We have to know the advantages and disadvantages of the products that we buy and see if they fit our needs.

          When I buy an Android device, the first thing I do is install a file manager because I know that I will be managing my files in a way that suits my needs, not in the way the application designer, OEM or whomever decided it works best for them.

          Just like with a computer, I customize files and folders how I see fit. Sure, there is a Pictures Library, Music Library and so forth in Windows but in Pictures, I have folders by importance, there is a Family folder, a MNB folder, 808 PureView, N8, C7 folders and so forth. In Music, I have a Conversions folder, Kindle folder, iTunes folder, CLGI folder and others that I have managed. When I want to get content onto my device, I can simply copy the folders to my my phone, using the familiar folder structure, manage them on my phone and then copy the folders back to my computer and keep everthing organized.

          • Disclaimer: I use WP which does not have a system wide file manager.

            1) When you transfer those photos to your computer, any photo syncing software or even the computer file manager can easily sort the files in a way that you can copy only your 2009 or 2010 files. What you do seems very pointless to me.

            2) This I can easily relate to, except I generate the file structure exactly once in desktop system and keep those folders in my Skydrive so I don’t have to manipulate the structure in my phone anymore. Office in WP can then access the Skydrive and see the file structure I’ve assigned. Once again no need to do anything with a phone.

            3) I’ve absolutely no idea why you bother. Each respective emulator will (or at least should) understand only the files it can use so you don’t see ton of redundant extra SNES ROMS in an N64 emulator because of the different file extensions.

            4) I’ll give you this one, I’ve never had to use the same card in multiple phones with different OS, what you do is a smart move.

    • xxx

      To manage files locally. The file manager is just the application like any other. You can create file manager when there are no restrictions to share files between applications. I can use many epub readers, I don’t have to download the same epub file when I want to switch between readers. It’s easer than upload file to cloud based repository, then download it every time I want to use it in another application. Symbian is a file oriented system (good for creation tasks and sharing results between applications). WP is just an application launcher. If you can’t organize files in your phone, you have to move it to your computer (collect document, pictures, etc). With symbian phone I can live without computer and It makes my life easier.

      • xxx

        Another reason why file management is required. I have “FilesPlus” which integrates my phone with ftp servers, cloud storages and manages my files locally. I have several apps which could be filled with data from remote computers. In WP or IOS every app must be integrated with cloud storage separately. In symbian none.

      • How on Earth is it easier to manually transfer epub files between the application folders than just syncing to a cloud service where the file is? It absolutely is not.

        I remember doing exactly this with my N9, trying to find & access an epub file with different epub reader than the one I had originally used to download it and it was an awful experience. I would’ve killed for an option to just sync a dropbox folder dedicated to my ebooks.

        • xxx

          I also keep ebooks in dropbox, but none of readers must integrate with dropbox when I have dropbox client. I have none of your problems. Ionic is syncing library with local file system. I download epub to any folder, then I click “Import” button in Ionic and my new books are visible in library. The same way I manage my videos and pictures made by 808 or obtained from 920. When file is huge I can connect by Wifi to my home network and store it in NAS. I have to spend twice more time to transfer files to 920. Maybe this is why I prefer symbian/meego over wp/ios. Most of time I don’t have to access broadband network and this is why I don’t like to store huge files in cloud storage (my tablet or smartphone creates local wifi network, and I can transfer directly movies and another files between my devices). When I use symbian I have no connection to Internet if I want to transfer files between my home entertainment system, personal computer and many tablets/smartphones (every day I transfer several GB of data).

          • xxx

            The 920 is the one device I have, which requires the computer aid. Android and symbian devices create ecosystem without access to Internet/PC (very useful when I work in restricted areas and I can’t connect to Internet – security corporate restrictions). I use my notebook for work or 920 syncing. I can’t transfer files to my 920 (except movies, music) without access to Internet.

    • burningBit

      You could create folders to organise your files, shift files from different memory locations to free up space on the phone or memory card etc.

      • You should not have to organize your files. Apps will take care of that for you, photos are found in the photos app, mp3’s in the music player etc.

        • burningBit

          The apps does do that, but having a file manager gives you the (administrator) option of doing further organisations. Like I said, to shift files to make space on certain memory locations.

          • Deaconclgi


  • john

    i wANT A REAL TORRENT APP AND A REAL TORRENT APP NEEDS A FILE MANAGER AND SOMETIMES PEOPLE WANT TO STORE THINGS THE PHONE DONT UNDERSTAND just because you dont youse it, does not mean ther now use for it. its one of the reason i wont buy a windows phone or apple

    • Deaconclgi

      I agree. I have files on my memory card that I don’t even use on m phone but I need them to be there to use on a computer. I am not going to carry my hardrive with me, I just copy and manage the files on my phone and then copy them to the computer and manage them there.

      A perfect example is one of my friends laptop caught a virus and he could not get to the internet to download the Virus Protection software. I created a folder on my N8, downloaded the Setup file from the internet, connected to his laptop, transferred to file to his C:drive and installed the virus protection AND Malware removal.

      I was able to rid his machine of the viruses and malware by managing files on my phone. It was great to have that option and to be able to help, to save the day. There is no way my phone could open the Windows executables but it was great to be able to store them on my phone and not have to worry about a flash drive, harddrive, internet connection, CD, DVD or other separate storage method. I have my phone with me at all times but not any of those other technologies.

      It is a great option to have if the need to manage files ever arises but nothing is worse that needing it and not being able to.

      People should be more open minded about things. I understand if people don’t use file managers but I also understand that people do and that needs vary as do usage scenarios.

      • Marshall

        I agree 100% with all you have said in this thread. I’d like to add that its simply great to have the freedom of managing the files on a memory card or local storage. Why would you not want that?!

    • Vlad


  • Sarvesh Kulkarni

    I am not a geek, but I do like to do things with the phone. I use an E6 and have downgraded to Anna. Well, i downgraded and upgraded quite a few times, to test out different things and implications on Belle Refresh as well as Anna, and having a file manager, it is really easy to back up files, save .sis files etc, so that you can get anything and everything whenever you want. And using symbian, there have been times when i have had to reset to factory settings, and it is really easy to have all the stuff you need in the memory card, and access it through file manager when you need it.
    Again, i am not a geek and maybe there are easier workarounds for that, but it is just satisfying and reassuring to know you are covered, whenever you need to access and personalize your files.
    Also, it becomes really easy to put a custom font or change the messaging conversation skin of the phone by just replacing and tampering with files. (Though you have to use x-plore for that, but still, it is a FILE manager after all)

    I just wanted to clarify that there are uses for file manager to even simpletons like me who’d like to experiment with their phone and ofcourse geeks would have a lot more to do with it. 🙂

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