As this is the first part of this series, and of my software recommendations/reviews, I thought I'd explain how I plan to approach these. As you will come to discover if you keep reading this blog, I have a rather long form style. To put it bluntly, I'm long winded, verbose. Hopefully some of you will like this, but I don't expect everyone to. So for the reviews I thought I would cut to the chase, putting the name of the software, its purpose, and the highlights of features right at the top. I invite you to read the rest of the post, which will explain my recommendation, but if all you're looking for are the highlights, you'll be able to get them right away. Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions for how to improve the format.
Software: Free Commander (and other 3rd party file managers)
Function: File Manager
Replaces: Windows Explorer
Why: If you dislike the Windows 7 file manager like I do, this allows you to go back to XP-style explorer, with more traditional (and useful) search functionality, dual-pane interface, and lots of other useful features.
*Update*: See below for some further comments after extended use of FreeCommander on Win7.