Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Five free Android apps for easy SMB connection

With the help of these SMB connection tools, you can easily manage files and folders on a local network share.

With the Android platform there are so many options for nearly every task. Such is the case with file sharing/browsing. With Android file managers you have more options than you might expect; one such option being the ability to connect to network file shares (otherwise known as SMB / CIFS shares). This functionality isn't built-in, however. In order to connect to an SMB share on a remote computer, a third-party app must be installed. Fortunately, there are enough applications that offer this feature to choose from. But which one is right for you? I have found five SMB-capable file managers for you to examine. Each of these tools is free and makes the task of connecting to your shares a snap. Once connected, you'll be copying and/or moving files back and forth with ease.
All of these applications work well with either Android tablets or smartphones and do not require root access or the most up-to-date version of Android. Let's dig in and see which of these is best suited for you.

Five Apps

1. Folder Tag CIFS

Folder Tag CIFS is a SMB/CIFS plugin for the Folder Tag file manager. With this plugin you can manipulate (move/copy) files to and from a network share with ease. With this file manager you add all folders as 'tags'. These tags enable you to quickly open folders by 'tags', similar to tagging files and folders on a desktop PC. You can filter and sort tags as well as open, send, create, store, delete, rename all tags. The Folder Tag file manager has plenty of other plugins, but the CIFS plugin is the only one you need in order to connect to your SMB shares. To add a share first tap Add (upper right corner - Figure A).

Figure A

Folder Tag running on the Verizon-branded Android Galaxy Tab
In the resulting window, enter the connection details (Figure B) and tap OK.

Figure B

Creating an SMB connection in Folder Tag

2. Astro File Manager

Astro File Manager is one of the finest file managers available for the Android platform. Once installed, nothing more need be added - SMB connectivity is built in. Astro has an outstanding interface that makes every aspect of usage simple. Of course, Astro also has plenty of other features - most important is built-in cloud support (Facebook, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box or SkyDrive). To connect to an SMB share with Astro, tap Create New Location (Figure C).

Figure C

The Astro File Manager main window
From the resulting screen, tap SMB server and then fill in the address of the share and tap Save. Once the connection is made, the share will appear in the file manager (Figure D).

Figure D

An SMB share in the Astro file manager

3. AndSMB

AndSMB might not have the prettiest interface, but it's one of the more powerful SMB-capable file managers on the list. This is the manager you want if you need to keep numerous shares saved on your Android device - each with different authentication. AndSMB allows you to manage local and SMB files with download and upload support. The interface is fairly bare-bones, but it's incredibly easy to use. To create an SMB connection, tap the Add button from the main window, enter the necessary information (Figure E), and tap Save.

Figure E

The AndSMB connection creation window
Once you've saved the connection, you can tap Connect from the listing in the main window to connect to that share (Figure F).

Figure F

Shared folders as seen from AndSMB

4. ES File Explorer

ES File Explorer has the sleekest interface of the group and allows you to connect to SMB shares as well as cloud services and FTP servers. ES File Explorer also has one of the largest feature sets of all the file managers (built-in viewers, built-in zip/rar support, application manager, root explorer, task killer, and more). With the SMB connection you can copy/move files to and from the share. To create an SMB connection tap the New button and then fill out the necessary information for the share (Figure G).

Figure G

Creating an SMB connection with ES File Explorer
Once connected, the share folders/files will appear in the main window (Figure H).

Figure H

Connected to a SMB share in ES File Explorer

5. File Manager (Explorer)

File Manager (Explorer) falls in line with AndSMB, with regards to its interface. But don't let the simplistic interface fool you; File Manager makes working with SMB shares powerful and easy. With features like grid view, bookmarks, search, FTP file sharing, streaming media playback, multi-select, list and grid view, cloud storage support, photo/video thumbnail support, built-in text editor, and more - File Manager is perfect for those looking for a minimalist interface with maximum features. To create an SMB connection, tap Create and then fill out the SMB connection information (Figure I).

Figure I

The File Manager connection window
Once connected (Figure J), you can work with files, set bookmarks for folders, and much more.

Figure J

Connected to an SMB share with File Manager

Bottom line

You are limited to your local file system on an Android device. With the help of these SMB connection tools, you can easily manage files and folders on a local network share. Give one of these a try and see if it doesn't help to extend the capabilities of your Android device well beyond the local file system.