Software

Get to know File Explorer's Ribbon toolbar in Windows 10

Greg Shultz explores the Ribbon toolbar in Windows 10's File Explorer for recent Windows 7 and Windows XP users.

File Explorer's Ribbon toolbar

If you skipped Windows 8.x and have just upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows XP, you're probably a little disoriented when you go to perform file management tasks. To begin with, the name of the tool has changed from Windows Explorer to File Explorer, and the file management tool has been given a slightly new user interface that features a Ribbon toolbar instead of a traditional drop-down menu system.

When I first encountered File Explorer's Ribbon toolbar, I was more than a little disconcerted by what I initially thought would be a big learning curve. However, once I adapted to it, I found that I really liked the Ribbon toolbar. I can now say with confidence that, once you get used to the Ribbon toolbar, you'll wonder how you ever got along without its feature set. It's truly a much more efficient navigational system.

To help you get started, let's take a look at some of the main features of File Explorer's Ribbon toolbar.

Keep in mind that while there are a host of other new features sprinkled throughout Windows 10's File Explorer that add great functionality to all the typical file management operations you are likely to perform, I won't cover them all in this article.

Overview

File Explorer's Ribbon contains one menu and a set of Core tabs that are always visible along with the Contextual tabs, which appear based on the type of object that you've selected—such as a location, a folder, or a file—and then provide related commands. This system of Core and Contextual tabs is designed to easily expose close to 200 different file management commands. The majority of these commands have always existed in Windows Explorer, but they were buried in numerous nested menus, pop-ups, dialog boxes, or right-click context menus.

The Ribbon in File Explorer (Figure A) includes the File menu and three Core tabs titled Home, Share, and View.

Figure A

Figure A

File Explorer's base Ribbon contains the File menu and three Core tabs.

File menu

As I mentioned, the Ribbon toolbar contains one menu called the File menu (Figure B). This menu is designed to provide you with quick access to some of the more general commands in File Explorer. When you access the File menu, you'll see a set of commands on the left side and Frequent places on the right. The Frequent places show the most recently accessed folders, and this remains visible until you select a command that has a submenu. That submenu then overlays the Frequent places space and provides you with related options.

Figure B

Figure B

The File menu provides access to the general commands in File Explorer.

For example, when you select Open command prompt, the submenu overlays the Frequent places and shows commands to open a regular or an administrator command prompt (Figure C). Both of the open a command prompt window selections are targeted on the currently selected folder.

Figure C

Figure C

Selecting an item from the File menu displays a menu of related commands.

As you can see, other commands on the File menu allow you to open a new Explorer window, open PowerShell, Change folder and search options, access Help, and close File Explorer.

Home tab

The first of the Core tabs is the Home tab (Figure D), and it provides you with access to the most often used file management commands. The Clipboard group includes all the standard commands, along with a very handy Copy path command. Just select a folder, click the command, and the current path is copied to the clipboard.

Figure D

Figure D

The Home tab provides you with access to the main file management commands.

In the Organize group, you'll find that the Move to and Copy to commands are readily accessible rather than being hidden away on the Edit menu as they were in Windows XP/7. You'll also find that the Delete and Rename commands live in this group.

Moving down to the New group, you can create new folders and files of various types. Using the Easy access command allows you to make things easier to find by adding folders to a Library or to the Favorites, as well as by mapping a drive letter to a network location. This menu also contains items for configuring and using Offline files and folders.

In addition to the Open and Edit commands, which function just like before by launching the associated application and loading the selected file, the Open group provides you with quick access to the Properties dialog box.

The History command provides access to the File History feature. (File History is a new feature that works like a combination of Previous Versions and Windows Backup and Restore. File History continuously monitors files stored in Libraries, Desktop, Favorites, and Contacts folders, and when it detects changes in any file, it then makes a backup copy to another location—such as an external hard disk or a network drive. I'll cover File History in more detail in a future article.)

The Select group provides you with a set of commands for selecting groups of files and folders.

Share tab

The Share tab (Figure E) is your one-stop location for any command related to sharing files with others. For example, within the Send group, you can create a Zip file and email it. You can burn files to an optical disc, plus print or fax documents.

Figure E

Figure E

The Share tab is your one-stop location for any command related to sharing files with others.

In the Share with group, you'll find a gallery that allows you to share files and folders with your homegroup or with specific users. The Advanced security command opens the Security tab where you can lock down sharing by setting specific permissions.

View tab

On the View tab (Figure F), you'll find a host of commands that you can use to configure the way you want File Explorer to display files. In the Panes group, you can configure the Navigation pane, plus enable or disable the Preview pane or the Details pane—the latter now appears in the same space as the Preview pane rather than on the bottom of the window.

Figure F

Figure F

The View tab provides you with a host of commands for configuring File Explorer's display.

The Layout group sports a live preview gallery for choosing your icon display—just hover over an option in the gallery, and the file display changes accordingly. The Current view group exposes several great commands. First, the Group by and Sort by commands give you neat ways to narrow and organize the display of your files, they're readily available. Second, when you're using the Details layout, the Add columns and Size all columns to fit commands come in real handy for getting a better look at the available file and folder details in File Explorer's display.

The Show/hide group brings several valuable items that were previously hidden in the Folder Options dialog box to light. The Item check boxes option allows you to enable the check box file selection feature. When you want to show or hide file extensions on the fly, just select the File name extensions check box. When you need to quickly see hidden files, just select the Hidden items check box. The Hide selected items command allows you to quickly set the Hidden attribute—no more going to the Properties dialog box. The Options command opens the Folder Options dialog box.

What's your take?

What do you think about Windows 10's File Explorer? Are you ready to take advantage of the Ribbon's wide array of features? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

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About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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