Windows 8 is about reimagining Windows, so we took on the challenge to improve
the most widely used desktop tool (except maybe for Solitaire) in Windows. Alex
Simons on the program management team authored this post with a detailed look at
the evolution of Explorer and the major improvements to its interface and
functionality for Windows 8. Judging by the passion on file operations and user
interface design, we know this is an important subject so we expect a pretty
engaged dialog on the topic. We put this in one lengthy post, will watch the
comments and dialog, and down the road we'll continue the discussion.--
It’s exciting to have this opportunity to share the improvements
we’re making to the file management capabilities of Windows Explorer. Explorer
is one of the most venerable parts of Windows with a heritage you can trace back
to the “MS-DOS Executive” in Windows 1.0!
The new ribbon
The Home tab is focused on the core file management tasks, and we’ve put all
the major file management commands there in prominent locations: Copy, Paste,
Delete, Rename, Cut, and Properties. We’ve also given new prominence to two
popular heritage features, Move to and Copy to, along with exposing a hidden
gem, Copy path, which is really useful when you need to paste a file path into a
file dialog, or when you want to email someone a link to a file on a server.
The new Home tab
The Home tab is the heart of our new, much more streamlined Explorer
experience. The commands that make up 84% of what customers do in Explorer are
now all available on this one tab:
Overlay showing Command usage % by button on
the new Home tab
The Share tab is for sharing files by typical methods like zipping them up
and emailing them to a friend, or burning them to optical media. Or you can
quickly share files with other people in your home group or your network domain.
It also provides one-click access to the ACLs for the currently highlighted
The new Share tab
The View tab provides access to options for view customization. We’ve enabled
one-click access for turning on/off the Navigation pane, Preview pane, and
Details pane, a live preview gallery for the different icon display sizes, quick
access to sorting and grouping by column, the ability to quickly add columns,
plus easy access to three hidden features: show file name extensions, show
hidden items, and hide selected items.
The View tab
The customization options for the Navigation pane are also much easier to
access – in the drop-down menu, you get one-click access to them, including a
new option to show or hide favorites.
Navigation pane options
The file menu and other tools
The file menu lets you quickly open new Explorer windows, access your
shortcuts, and change folder and search options. It also includes a hidden
feature that we love, Open command prompt, and a really useful new command, Open
command prompt as administrator, both of which launch a command prompt with the
path set to the currently selected folder.
We’ve provided a variety of contextual tabs that activate in the context of
specific files and folders, and for tasks like searching, managing libraries,
viewing pictures, and playing music. One of the best examples is the new Search
Tools contextual tab which launches when you click in the search box.
The Search tab surfaces a bunch of hidden gems that most people are not aware
of, but that could solve some common problems for them. You can quickly adjust
the scope of any search, filter by common date ranges, file type, file size, and
other properties like the author or name. Then you can save these searches for
Here are examples of some of the other Explorer context tabs:
Designing for a wider screen
When considering the ribbon UI, we knew we had to be conscious of one of the
primary customer concerns we hear about: screen real estate. As we looked at
ways to mitigate this issue, we dug up some more telemetry data for Windows
7:This approach gives you a new Details pane that is much easier to read, makes
better use of widescreen formats, and preserves screen real estate for the main
file/folder pane. The exact number of lines might vary a bit from PC to PC
depending on what add-ins you have, but for the out-of-the-box configuration
running full screen at 1366 X 768, you can actually fit two more lines on the
screen than you could in Windows 7.
And this comparison assumes you have the ribbon open. If you collapse the
ribbon (double-click the tab, or click the Minimize arrow on the right side of
the ribbon), you get even more vertical real estate with our new approach.
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