So now you know about some of the big features in Opus and you know how powerful and flexible its toolbars and hotkeys can be. I'm going to finish things off with a list of the little things in Opus that make a big difference. These items only need a couple of lines each to describe but, you know what? Many of them are far more important than those big features you've already seen. The people behind Opus have been writing file managers for years, right back to the days of the Amiga, and the experience they've built up really shows. From the grand designs right down to the minute details, appropriate attention has been paid and the right decisions have been made. Here's a handful of examples to prove it.
Better inline rename: When you rename a file by pressing F2, Opus selects the name minus the extension. You usually don't want to change a file's extension and this allows you to start typing the new name immediately. If you do want to change the extension you can press ctrl-e to instantly highlight just that part, and you won't get a patronising dialog asking if you've thought through the overwhelming consequences of changing a file's extension. Ctrl-f selects just the name part again and ctrl-a will select the whole thing.
It's not a big but it is clever.
Middle-click selection toggle: You can use the middle mouse button to toggle the selection of individual files without affecting other files. Just like holding ctrl when you left-click except you don't have to touch the keyboard. (Opus also can also put toggle-select on the left mouse button if you prefer.)
Shift double-click tamed: How many times have you shift-double-clicked a directory in Explorer to open it in a new window, only to find you accidentally did a range selection and opened fifty other folder windows as well? In Opus if you shift-double-click an item it will only launch the item you were actually clicking on. (But you can switch back to the standard behaviour if you want to.)
New item sorting: When you're viewing a directory and new files are added to it they get sorted into the file list correctly, not dumped at the end of it. (But if you like the way Explorer does it you can turn the option off.)
Numeric sorting: Similar to Explorer's "use intuitive filename sorting" option (visible via TweakUI), Opus provides a "numeric sorting" option. In both cases the aim is to provide more logical sorting when filenames contain unpadded numbers:
Standard Sorting Numeric Sorting Image1.jpg Image1.jpg Image11.jpg Image2.jpg Image2.jpg Image3.jpg Image3.jpg Image11.jpg Zebra.jpg Zebra.jpg
Day names in dates: You can opt to see day names instead of dates, for dates within the last week. For many it's much easier to read "Monday" and know the file was made on the previous Monday, rather than have to work out how many days ago a particular date was.
Auto-sized columns: If you like, columns in the file list can be automatically sized so that if you go to a directory with a long filename, or if such a file appears in a directory you're already looking at, you always see the full name and never have to resize the column by hand.
Resizable dialogs: Almost every dialog in Opus can be resized. Although someone at Microsoft clearly thinks differently, you should not have to put up with managing hundred-item lists in a fixed-size box that barely fits three items next to its two inevitable scrollbars.
Background threads: Almost every action in Opus happens in the background, on a separate thread. The file list you're using won't be tied up when you start an operation and you can move or minimize the progress dialog out of the way and then continue working, even starting further actions, while the original continues.
Description column: The Description column provides useful summary information for most file types. Image dimensions, music formats and shortcut targets are all displayed. Of course, you can also add columns which explicitly show this information (e.g. image width and height); such columns use up more space but are also more flexible and, crucially, allow you to sort by their individual fields. They still can't beat the Description column for general summary information in a compact package.
The Description column always comes in handy.
Editable tooltips: You can define your own tooltips for different file types, adding thumbnails and anything you want from the extensive set of fields that are also available as columns in file lists and terms in filtering and Find operations.
All your EXIF data are belong to Opus.
Pressing shift-ctrl-c while a tooltip is displayed will copy its text to the clipboard.
Editable context menus: Opus provides a mechanism that allows you to organise the context menu items added by other programs. Re-order them into logical groups, move the ones you don't use often to a submenu, and completely remove the ones you never use at all. Finally you have some control over the awful mess you probably see whenever you right-click a file.
File and field colours: You can define colours for specific file types (e.g. all GIF images will be green) and also background colours for different fields (e.g. you could give the Image Width field a green background so you can find it quicker).
Content type detection: The Content Type Detection system allows Opus to automatically adjust to directories which contain certain file types. For example, you could automatically switch to thumbnails view on entering a folder that mainly contains images, or automatically add Artist, Title and Track columns on entering a folder that mainly contains music files. You can fully configure what, if anything, changes, for which file types, as well as the thresholds (percentage of files in the directory) that trigger the changes.
Actually, the Content Type Detection is on by default and is the number one cause of confusion for new users, despite the bubble-tips which appear the first few times it's invoked. Remember what it does so you don't get confused, and remember that you can turn it off if you don't want it.
Folder size calculation: Opus can calculate and display the size of directories. This can be done automatically, in the background, every time you enter a folder or it can be done on demand, via a toolbar button, either for all directories in the current folder or just for those you have selected.
Relative size bars: Relative file size can be displayed by a bar graph, making it easy to spot the large files from the small ones. The largest file in the current list gets a full-width bar while all other files get proportionally sized bars. Similarly, you can show relative age bars.
International language support: Opus is international. Translations are available for several languages and resources will be provided to anyone who wants to translate Opus to a new language. If you're using Windows 2000 or above then you can use the UNICODE version of Opus which supports filenames in non-ANSI character sets.
Undo list: Undo history in Opus goes back as long as you want it to and you can open a dialog of your recent actions and undo selective ones, or all of them. Or clear the list for privacy.
Action log: In addition to the Undo history, Opus can be configured to write your basic file management actions to a log file. If you can't remember where you copied that file to yesterday, or what it was called before you renamed it, check in the log window. Of course, you have control over what gets logged and can turn logging off completely if you wish.
Smart Favourites: Opus has a "Smart Favorites" system which automatically maintains a list of your most popular folders. You can put this list into a submenu for quick access to the directories you're using a lot at the moment. You can edit the criteria used by the points system which decides which folders are your most used.
Favourites filter: When displayed in sub-menus, Favorites lists can be filtered. You can elect to have a particular list only show those items on a certain branch of the favorites tree, or only those items which point below a given directory. This allows you to use the Favorites interface to maintain different lists of directories, each with its own purpose and shown in a different place.
Clipboard image and text paste: It was already mentioned in the Viewer section, but this is worth mentioning again: If there is image or text data in the clipboard then you can press ctrl-v in an Opus window to paste it into a new file in the current directory. Great for quickly storing text copied from a webpage or document, an image copied from a graphics program, or just a grab made with the Print-Screen key.
Preferences import and export: Opus can export all aspects of its configuration into a file. You can use this as a backup of your settings and customizations and it's ideal for transfering configurations from one computer to another.
More places to drop files: Opus allows you to move files by dropping them in a few places you might not expect. For example, drop files on the Parent toolbar button and they'll be moved to the parent folder.
Well, that's it for now. I hope these pages have given you the desire to check out Opus for yourself. Remember that, while it is long, this list is not complete. There are many more features in Opus, both big and small, that I've ignored. Maybe one I didn't consider important -- or just didn't remember was there -- will make a big difference to you.
Keep in mind the main power of Opus: You configure it to work the way you want it to. Don't expect to understand every single feature and create the perfect configuration overnight. It takes time to learn all the different parts of Opus and it also takes time to realise there's a better way to do those things you do every day but haven't thought about yet. I've been using Opus for several years now and my configuration is still evolving.
Finally, when you're setting things up how you want them and you're trying to create your first custom button but it's not quite working, remember that the Opus Resource Centre forums and the DOpus Yahoo Group are both there to help. Post your question there and you'll get advice from a community of Opus users, from the gurus to the fellow beginners. Soon enough, if you're anything like me, you'll wonder how you could managed to use a computer before Opus.
- 31st July 2006
A German translation of the tutorial has made by Haage & Partner: http://www.haage-partner.de/dopus/tutorial
- 19th May 2005
- Leo Davidson -- All text, screenshots and videos.
- Trevor Morris -- Toolbar icons and the Opus logo.
- GPSoftware -- Directory Opus itself, and the bandwidth to host all these images.
- Directory Opus, Opus, DOpus, DirOpus, OpusPC, PCOpus are trademarks of GPSoftware.
- Since a few people have asked, the video captures and SWF encoding were done with TechSmith's Camtasia Studio. Everything else was done using Opus, Photoshop and TextPad.