Wrangler - File manager with sophisticated metadata handling capabilities


Extended file attributes are a very versatile and powerful extension of traditional file system semantics. Yet, most end-user applications ignore xattribs, or in cases where an app choses to make xattribs accessible for the average user, the actual user-interface is hidden in "file properties" sub menus, or cumbersome to use.

Wrangler is a "file manager"-like application that puts file metadata first, offering xattribs and other metadata alongside traditional metadata (size,type,mtime,...) in all of it's views. The application was designed to browse and manage large collections of multimedia content files, digital assets, and their associated metadata.

A modular application-layout in combination with a Plugin facility makes Wrangler adaptable to most workflows or work environments. The central file-browser can be complemented with a Navbar and Sidebar widget, for comfortable browsing, or with more specialised multimedia widgets: Wrangler's image/video Previewer or the Metadata-Editor. If you try only one feature, and you haven't used xattribs until now, then test the Previewer. It reads preview-thumbnails embedded into JPEGs and takes the lag out of browsing large image file collections - without maintaining an additional database.

Wrangler is not meant as a replacement for your primary file manager. "SEE ALSO" lists a number of very capable file managers. Wrangler is primarily a metadata handling application, while it also offers the interface and most functionalities commonly found in file-managers for navigating filesystems and selecting files. But if you end up using Wrangler for everyday file browsing, that's okay with us.


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FileBrowser is able to display arbitrary metadata. Most file-managers offer only a hardcoded or limited set of file attributes for display in the columns of a directory listing, mostly traditional stat values. Wrangler can display user-configurable metadata from Filesystem, the Extended Attributes and MIME details in any order.

FileBrowser's file-listing behaviour is just as configurable. Users can adapt it to a number of different browsing or interface styles: File listings can offer the up-dir "..". Or a Navbar on top can be used to display clickable directory "bread crumbs" instead. More display options are zebra-striping or media-file highlighting.

Wrangler tries to offer users a "glimpse into files" while traversing directories. This includes a configurable metadata editor, which can also be used to edit writable file properties. But also the Previewer, a widget that displays image previews (embedded thumbnails first, which makes it very fast) and extracts stills from video files, which in turn can easily be saved to disk.

Although Drag'n'Drop is currently missing, Wrangler's "Paste" operations are a bit more elaborate. In FileBrowser, users can paste files traditionally, but also as symlinks. In addition to that, when Bitmap data is on the Clipboard, users can "Paste image", to write out clipped image data as files - which is handy for screen captures.

As part of the official release comes the ColourLabels Plugin, which enables users to label files with colours from a fixed, Mac-compatible set.


Wrangler's unreleased 1.x branch has been used in a production environment for many years now. The present 2.x branch is based on proven code and shares many principles with its predecessor, still it also introduced quite an amount of new code. As Wrangler handles valuable data assets, underlying file-related operations have received much attention and should be safe. That said, Wrangler is also a work in progress, and bugs or unexpected behaviour may occur at any time.

The list of known issues may appear long. But we thinks it's better to inform than to pretend. So please read on and decide if anything on this incomplete list of known issues affects your usage scenario:

  • When user-input is processed, from Wx LabelEdits or TextInput fields, UTF-8 handling is not perfect and not thoroughly tested. That affects file renames, directory and file creation.

  • Internal path handling in relation to symlinks and paths with /../ fragments may have issues.

  • File-browser: When the listing is refreshed, selections are remembered. This is done internally with a lookup-hash based on file-paths. For refreshes after renames, mkdir, etc. where the file list is changed, the restored selection is incomplete.

  • Previewer complains about file not found after renames in FileBrowser.

  • Previewer mouse-wheel zooming behaves erratically when pointer is moved between zooms. Also, the displayed image is magnified but not really zoomed (in terms of resolution).

  • File-browser: Renderer used to display metadata in columns is not configurable, for example date is set to ISO-Date.

  • File-browser is currently only available as ListCtrl, as WxPerl's TreeListCtrl is not yet ready for primetime. But if you are interested, an unfinished FileBrowserTreeList is included in the release.

  • Copy-and-paste'ing an item within the same directory would result in two items of the same name in one directory - which most filesystems do not allow. In these cases Wrangler appends the string '_copy' to each new item. This could be improved by adding this string between basename and optional suffix.

  • There's no "combine folders" functionality upon copying/moving one folder into some other directory which already contains another folder of the same name.

  • Drag-and-Drop of files and folders, internally and in combination with other applications, is not yet implemented.

  • The Sidebar widget is currently Linux only, as it relies on Linux Trash locations, Linux GTK bookmarks etc. Also, you can't change entries via UI, only by manually editing the gtk bookmarks file, or using another app to do so.

  • The Navbar widget does not look at path length, so the end of longer/ deep paths might become unclickable by disappearing under the right side of the application's border.

  • Widget layout is not fully configurable and modified splitter sash positions are not remembered by the application.

  • Internal metadata abstraction is not as abstract as it should be. For example, far too often low-level file functions like rename() are called directly, instead of relying on an abstract interface that regards a filename as "just another file-object property".

  • As of this release, Wrangler 2.x only ships with a file-system abstraction for *nix systems. Windows (NTFS) and OS X adapters are todo.

  • When files/folders are moved across filesystem-boundaries, there's no check or compensation yet, for when the target fs is not able to store xattribs. So xattr, if set, will get lost when you do that.

  • There's no progress indicator for file-operations, so copying/ moving a large file, for example, won't pop-up a (cancellable) progress-dialogue.

  • The Plugin facility is a work-in-progress and its API is expected to change over the next revisions.

  • User selected "Value Shortcuts" are not checked for a possible overlap with existing (system) keyboard shortcuts.

  • Filesystem changes are currently only monitored with a simple pull-scheme, where mtime is checked in a configurable interval. Once Wx 2.9 enters 'stable', this could be replaced with push/ inotify like bindings.

  • Wrangler 2.x is English only, no translations/ localisations/ i18n yet.


Wrangler's official homepage is at

As said, Wrangler is not meant as a perfect file-manager. If you are looking for fully-fledged file-managers, then there's Nautilus, Thunar, Marlin, PCmanFM or Konquerer on Linux, on OS X there's Finder and on Windows you'd have Windows/File Explorer. Also, if you are working solely with images, ExifTool and GUIs for it, like ExifToolGUI on Windows, might be more helpful. And there are a number of dedicated solutions for audio file "tagging", like EasyTAG or Picard which you might consider for sole audio file handling.


As with most Perl programs, Wrangler's source-code is open. And as such it can be modified by the user. However, we ask you to report back any bugfixes or improvements. Also, as Wrangler's license does not allow to redistribute a modified Wrangler as a whole, certain restrictions apply for submitting patches via public "forks". Please read the exact licensing terms if you want to work on the source or contribute code.

Wrangler's public repository is currently on github.


Clipland GmbH


Copyright 2009-2014 Clipland GmbH. All rights reserved.


Wrangler is dual-licensed under the Wrangler Non-Commercial License for private, non-commercial use, free-of-charge; and under a purchasable license for commercial, institutional and educational use. Please contact Clipland at to buy commercial licenses.

Please note that Wrangler's license keeps it from being officially "open source" software. Nor is it GNU "free software", as it permits only one (freedom 2) of the four freedoms.

Wrangler falls into Debian's non-free software category, as the Wrangler Licenses do not allow derived works, which would be rule 3 of the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG).

Wrangler relies on a number of Perl modules and the WxWidgets toolkit. If you are interested in the licensing and copyright status of these modules, please have a look at Makefile.PL which contains some notes.