Improvements in Windows Explorer in Windows 8

Improvements in Windows Explorer in Windows 8

Improvements in Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer is a foundation of the user experience of the Windows desktop and has undergone several design changes over the years, but has not seen a substantial change in quite some time.

How Explorer is used today

Over the years, Explorer has grown to support a number of different scenarios, many unrelated to file management – launching programs, viewing photos, playing videos, and playing music, to name just a few.

Goals of the new Windows Explorer

  1. Optimize Explorer for file management tasks. Return Explorer to its roots as an efficient file manager and expose some hidden gems, those file management commands already in Explorer that many customers might not even know exist.
  2. Create a streamlined command experience.Put the most used commands in the most prominent parts of the UI so they are easy to find, in places that make sense and are reliable. Organize the commands in predictable places and logical groupings according to context, and present relevant information right where you need it.

Respect Explorer’s heritage. Maintain the power and richness of Explorer and bring back the most relevant and requested features from the Windows XP era when the current architecture and security model of Windows permits.

 

Explorer in “Windows 8”

Using a ribbon for Explorer has benefits in ways that the ribbon:

·         Exposes hidden features that they already use but which require third party add-ons to use in the Explorer UI today.

·         Provides keyboard shortcuts for every command in the ribbon, something many people have been asking for.

·         Provides UI customization with the quick access toolbar, taking us back to a customization level that is basically equivalent to Windows XP.

A ribbon gives us a lot of layout options and has three main tabs: Home, Share, and View, plus a File menu and a variety of contextual tabs.

 

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, 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 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 file.

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.

File menu

There are 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.

Search tab

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 future use.

Here are examples of some of the other Explorer context tabs:

Library Tools

Picture Tools

Disk Tools

 

Details pane for images

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.

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.

Making it work well for power users too

One of the top requests from more advanced users is for more keyboard shortcuts. All of the existing Windows Explorer shortcuts work in this version of Explorer, all of the approximately 200 commands in the ribbon now have keyboard shortcuts as well.

Keyboard shortcuts

The new Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) in Explorer provides a lot of customization opportunities. Similar to Office, by right-clicking any button in the ribbon, you can add it to the QAT. Additionally, you can choose to have the QAT display above or below the ribbon, and to display the ribbon in an open or minimized state. This is a big increase in the level of customization available in Explorer (you can choose approximately 200 commands to add to the QAT) and returns it to a level equal to or greater than we had in Windows XP.

QAT customization options

A customized QAT with a minimized ribbon

Finally, as one may have noticed in several of the screen shots, that the “Up” button is back to Windows 8.

UP Button