Windows 8 and 8.1 Forums

Improvements in Windows Explorer

  1. #1

    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. Windows 8 is about reimagining Windows, so took on the challenge to improve the most widely desktop used 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.
    -- Steven
    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!

    MS-DOS Executive in Windows 1.0

    Over the years, Explorer and its forerunners have gone through several major iterations:

    File Manager in Windows 3.1

    Explorer in Windows XP

    Explorer in Windows 7

    It’s a bit daunting but also pretty exciting to have the opportunity to revisit and rethink this cornerstone of our product. Many of you who are reading this (and most of us on the development team) are among the most extreme “power users” of the file management tools in Explorer and likely start from a different perspective than the broad base of customers. As we approach the work to improve file management in Windows, we do so knowing many of you have long ago "given up" on Explorer and are using some of the wide variety of add-ons or alternatives.

    As we mentioned in our post on improvements in the copy function, telemetry data indicates these add-ons and alternatives are mostly used by us power-users and we represent a small but influential group of people. The most popular add-ons and replacements (programs like TeraCopy, FastCopy, xplorer2 & QTTabBar) are installed (note that does not mean used) on about 0.45% of PC’s. Our goal is to improve the usage experience for a majority of customers while recognizing that, with such a long history and variety of depth usage, we cannot possibly provide all of the power everyone might want. We expect that there will be a vibrant third-party toolset for some time to come. Windows 8 is an opportunity to substantially improve the experience for everyone.

    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. We wanted to know which of these capabilities customers were really using. Using telemetry data, we were able to answer the question of how the broadest set of customers use Explorer in aggregate. As a reminder, the telemetry data is opt-in, anonymous, and private, but it does represent hundreds of millions of sessions from all customer types.

    This data is pretty interesting. First it shows that even though there are over 200 commands in Explorer, customers use a small number of them with any real frequency: the top 10 commands represent 81.8% of total usage. Additionally it shows us that people overwhelmingly use Explorer for core file management tasks - the top 7 commands (72.2% of usage) are all for managing/manipulating files.

    This data represents the total usage of Explorer and includes cases where a person has a third-party add-on installed that uses one of our built-in commands (i.e. “play,” “open,” “edit,” “email,” etc.) A good example would be that a customer might have a third-party music app installed, which is the default player for all their music formats. The command usage of this third-party add-in from within Explorer is included in the data above. There are a class of add-ons that add their own custom commands (i.e. “rotate”) and we don’t get telemetry data for those, though we do know how often they are installed and get invoked.....
    Read more at:

      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  2. #2

    Posts : 1,252

    It's old news, but The Office Ribbon in Explorer...puke. What a mess.

    I would like to know who's horrid idea that was.

    Please tell me I will be able to change it back to a Win 7-ish theme.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  3. #3

    Posts : 5,707
    Windows 8.1 Pro

    Having used the Ribbon myself, I have to say it's quite helpful. But wow, the Nav buttons and Address bar seriously need to put somewhere else. Oh my gosh, it looks cheesy and stupid right under the Ribbon, it doesn't flow from a design standpoint. I would suggest Microsoft to consolidate the Address and Search bar into one, like IE 9 did.

    And oh my gosh, they need to get rid of that awful pale blue color! Seriously, it sucks. Hopefully the next Aero version will change that to what ever color you choose, like for example, you choose your windows color to be black, the Ribbon will change to a translucent black. Just like it is in Office 2010.

    Is it just me, or does anyone else find the location of the Address and Nav bar to be awkward?
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  4. #4

    Having used the Ribbon myself, I have to say it's quite helpful.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  5. #5

    Covington, La
    Posts : 1,184
    Windows 7 HP 64bit, Windows 8.1 Pro w/Media Center 64BIT

    After reading the article and watching the video, I like it. I use my mouse for most of the things I do and this puts most commands just one click away. I have only used the ribbon with Windows Live Mail, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker and find the ribbon very useful. Looking forward to Win 8 Beta and hope I get a chance to try it out. I don't go for leaked versions so will just wait for a released version to try.

    Jim :nerd:
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  6. #6

    I really want to like it but I can't. Horribly designed. Too cluttered. It was more confusing than helpful in office and here I see the same thing. They need to get a new design team. It's neither aesthetically pleasing or user-friendly. Not to mention the buttons are all difference sizes. Even if this is their effort for touch which I hope it is not, it will not work. Especially when you want to press one of the smaller buttons unless you have skinny fingers.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  7. #7

    Posts : 2,130
    Windows 8.0 x64

    Quote Originally Posted by Airbot View Post
    It's old news, but The Office Ribbon in Explorer...puke. What a mess.

    I would like to know who's horrid idea that was.

    Please tell me I will be able to change it back to a Win 7-ish theme.

    Sure looks like a waste of screen space up at the top of the window. I use QTTabBar and have the buttons for that disabled. Nice to have multiple tabs.

    Seems like they want to do Ribbon because the standard Menu is old. Well, it's old because it works. You know how to use it right away. I use Chromium Browser and like it, but they just stick all the menus under the Wrench icon so as to be a "Ribbon." Even in W7 WordPad was so much of a chore I just downloaded another rtf editor. I don't want to relearn how to use apps I already know how to use. What a time waster!

    Also a question for anyone using Explorer 8. Is there finally an easy way to enter a comment for any file type on the system and see it in Explorer? I've been writing hacks to do that for over 10 years now. It really needs to be built into the file system and system file manager instead of tacked on from outside. From what I can see in Windows Seven there's a Comment field you can force Explorer to display, but you can't enter a Comment for any file type. Yet another thing to stop and study. The whole GUI thing was to minimize studying the command switch documentation of the command line. Now we have to study all these specialized icons to use apps wei've already used. It's a throw-back.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  8. #8

    Posts : 3
    W7 64BIT

    You can change the color in Outlook from the standard blue in the Options Settings. You can choose from Blue, Silver and Black.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  9. #9

    Posts : 1,252

    It just doesn't make sense to me.

    They want to move to the elegant, minimalistic/simplistic way of Metro all of the sudden in WP7 and Win 8, but then they want to use an overly-cluttered/anti-simplistic Ribbon in Explorer for Win 8.

    Talk about a contradiction.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  10. #10

    Posts : 36
    Windows 8 Pro, Ubuntu 12.10, Backtrack Linux

    That was a bad idea Microsoft... bye!
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

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