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Break down Ribbon Core tabs in Windows 8's Windows Explorer

Greg Shultz introduces you to the new Ribbon in Windows 8's Windows Explorer, concentrating on the Core tabs.

As you know by now, at last week's BUILD conference, Microsoft released the Windows 8 Developer Preview and made it available to the world via the Windows DEV Center site. Of course, this version of the operating system is not fully complete (it's not even at Beta) as the main focus of the preview is just to provide developers with an API and the development tools for building Metro style, touch-based apps. Even so, it does provide enough of the core operating system to allow us nondevelopers the opportunity to experiment with some of the new features that have already been announced, such as the new Windows Explorer.

Furthermore, since Microsoft has designed Windows 8 as an operating system for various hardware platforms, you do not need to have a tablet or touch-capable system to use Windows 8. You can use a keyboard and mouse just like you have always done. (You have to keep in mind that Microsoft specifically designed this preview version for developers to use on prototype touch-based tablet from Samsung, so there are a few rough edges when it comes to using the desktop UI and a keyboard and mouse.)

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I will introduce you to the new Ribbon in Windows 8's Windows Explorer. As I do, I'll only touch on the Core tabs of the Windows Explorer Ribbon -- there are just too many new features to cover everything in one blog. I'll continue with additional details next week in Part II.

Note: Keep in mind that since this is such an early release of Windows 8, some of the features that I'll describe in this article may change between now and the time the operating system is actually released.

For a comprehensive look at the Metro Interface, check out the First Look Photo Gallery or go even deeper in Greg's Photo Gallery Examination of the Windows Explorer Ribbon.

Popularity poll

To begin with, I know that the Ribbon is not the most popular interface feature that Microsoft has added to their products. In fact, when I mentioned in last week's Windows blog that the Ribbon was coming to Windows Explorer, the discussion forums lit up with a lot of flak aimed at the Ribbon.

I must admit that when I first encountered the Ribbon in Office 2007, I was disturbed by the big learning curve that it appeared to impose, but once I adapted to the Ribbon, I found that I really liked it. I must also admit that as I have become more adept at using the Ribbon in Office as well as in Windows 7 (WordPad, Paint, Movie Maker, and Photo Gallery), I have found myself stumbling around when using applications with menus and wishing for a Ribbon.

To the naysayers, I have to point out that it appears that the Ribbon is gaining momentum and not going away, so you really need to stop grumbling so much and embrace the advantages that it brings to the table. Really, once you learn your way around a Ribbon, you'll definitely come to appreciate its design. This is especially true with the new Ribbon in Windows 8's Windows Explorer -- it's truly a much more efficient navigational system.

Getting started

In Windows 8's Windows Explorer, you'll discover that the Ribbon contains one menu and a set of Core tabs that always appear in the Ribbon along with the Contextual tabs, which appear based on the type of object that you have selected, such as a location, a folder, or a file, and then provide related commands. This system is designed to expose close to 200 different file management commands in Windows Explorer without having them buried in numerous nested menus, popups, dialog boxes, or right-click context menus.

The Ribbon in Windows Explorer includes the File menu and three Core tabs titled Home, Share, and View, as shown in Figure A. Let's take a closer look.

Figure A

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

File menu

The File menu, shown in Figure B, is designed to provide you with quick access to some of the more general commands in Windows Explorer. When you access the File menu, you'll see a set of commands on the left side and Favorite places on the right side. The Favorite places show the most recently accessed folders and remains visible until you select a command that has a submenu. The submenu overlays the Favorite places space and provides you with related options.

For example, the Open command prompt submenu contains commands to open a regular or an administrator command prompt. Both open a Command Prompt window targeted on the currently selected folder.

Figure B

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

As you can see, other commands on the File menu allow you to open a new Explorer window, clear the history, change folder options, access the Help system, and close Windows Explorer.

Home tab

The first of the Core tabs is the Home tab, and as you can see in Figure C, 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 it and the current path is copied to the clipboard.

Figure C

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/Vista/7. You'll also find that the Delete and Rename commands live in this group.

Moving down to the New group you can, of course, 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.

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 also provides you with quick access to the Properties dialog box. The History command appears to be a new name for the Previous Versions feature.

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

Share tab

The Share tab, shown in Figure D, 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 as well as print or fax documents.

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.

Figure D

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

View tab

On the View tab, you'll find a host of commands, as shown in Figure E, that you can use to configure the way you want Windows Explorer to display files. In the Panes group you can configure the Navigation pane as well as enable or disable the Preview pane or the Details pane -- the latter now appears in the same space as the Preview pane.

Figure E

The View tab provides you with a host of commands for configuring Windows 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, which give you neat ways to narrow and organize the display of your files, are readily available. Second, when you are 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 Windows Explorer's display.

The Show/Hide group brings several valuable items that were previously hidden in the Folder Options dialog box to light. Now, 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.

While F5 still works, having the Refresh button on the far right of the View tab is a handy addition.

The Up button

Oh, and before I forget, the Up button is back! One of the mistakes that the Vista developers made was to remove the Up button from Windows Explorer. It remained MIA in Windows 7. However, in Windows 8 the developers heard your complaints and put the Up button back in Windows Explorer, as shown in Figure F. It appears right next to the Back and Forward buttons just like it did in Windows XP.

Figure F

The Up button is back!

What's your take?

What do you think about Windows 8's Windows Explorer? Are you ready to embrace the Ribbon or are you going to complain about it? It's your choice! As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

About

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.

20 comments
VanierJ
VanierJ

;-0((( How about a "File Viewer" for most popular file extentions... ...at least those from Microsoft

VanierJ
VanierJ

How about a for most popular file extention... ...at least those from Microsoft.

kprince
kprince

"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/Vista/7. " Sorry - how much are they paying you? Move and Copy weren't hidden in an edit menu they were in a logical place as edit functions. The ribbon is with us, I'll live with it but I don't have to like it and "embrace the advantages" - I don't do anything with the ribbon that I couldn't do before in a logical manner. Please just stick to the facts and spare us the MS propaganda - for the majority of users the ribbon is just unnecessary. It's neither bad nor good but definitely not an improvement.

abbos
abbos

Though i know my around in the ribbon-interfaces i dont like them. I dont feel it really ads something. Even worse... the ribbon takes a lot of space. Unnecessary waste of space which can be used for better things (display). So whenever i can i switch to a menu-structure because i like that much better. If it is not there i try to find "Classic interfaces". But the ribbon is really a no-go for me. The problem is not that i cant work with it but i just hate it. For me it is a dragon.

wuboyblue
wuboyblue

Looks and works pretty well....

dalefogden
dalefogden

It seems that every new version of Windoze and Office becomes less efficient than its predecessors, from Windows 3.1 to Windoze 95 and 98 (now called the "classic" shell) to XP and Windows 7 and, soon, Windows 8. Fortunately, when it comes to what should be a simple task, like file management, I use a wonderful tool, J.P. Software's Take Command and 4NT, a DOS-like command line interface that traces its history back to 4DOS, a replacement for COMMAND.COM in MS-DOS. Anything you can do with Explorer can be done faster and easier with a command line. And for some reason, I always found "COPY" and "MOVE" far more intuitive than drag-and-drop or Ctrl-Drag-and-Drop (or the MAC equivalents). It gives me the power of LINUX in Windoze (and there are a few applications I use that run only in Windoze). I also use Excel extensively and each version after Office 97 has made performing many tasks take more mouse clicks (like drop-down boxes in pivot tables) and more arm movement (and no keyboard shortcuts to replace these movements). The only improvement in Excel has been larger sheets (1 million rows by 64K columns rather than 64K rows and 256 columns) Everything else slows me down...and there are no new features that make it more powerful, just more money for MS. And there still is no 64-bit version of Excel.

ian3880
ian3880

I sure hope Directory Opus will work in Win8. Most fantastic little Windows Explorer replacement I've ever come across.

seanferd
seanferd

Is this a proper name or trademarked thing? And why?

Ron_007
Ron_007

Thanks Greg for doing this review. I agree with Carl.Lee, I hate the ribbon! I say that up front. I have ranted about it in Office for the last 4 years (and still do rant about it). It sucks, PERIOD. It is just too cluttered (70-120 hieroglyphics, I counted, in a ribbon is overwhelming) and too dynamic (the d*** things jump around (change location) like mexican jumping beans on speed, change size and look almost every time you resize the app window!) for that application. I have seen it applied in other apps where again it was in appropriate, because the app was too brain dead simple. The was no reason to waste the screen space for 4 or 5 commands, in total on a ribbon. So imagine my surprise when after reading your review I say this implementation looks not too bad. I might even say I like it . I agree with regulus, there should be a simple toggle to convert back to the menu. The ribbon is a pastry thin shell on top of the old menu application (equivalent to "putting lipstick on a pig"). It would be trivial to keep the menu. My fundamental objection to the ribbon is that it completely discounts my personal time and money that I have invested in learning the menu UI. The ribbon is written explicitly for Brand new users (spending new money on new licenses). It totally ignores the needs of experienced users. In this app the shortcuts may have remained the same, but that is not always true in Office apps. Tell me why would the "Insert" tab have a "n" shortcut. And don't get me started on the new 2 letter shortcuts needed to support more than 26 hieroglyphs in a tab ... There is also one more thing I wish they would bring back. That is the 2 window display to make file management (copying, moving) easier. It was a "crime" when they blinded File Explorer to birth the "cyclops" Windows Explorer. It showed a real lack of vision. Greg some questions: 1. could you confirm that they at least have implemented the toggle to minimize the ribbon down to the tabs only, very similar in look to the old menu? It took me 4 years to learn about that feature. 2. are you going to write about the conditional tabs that are implemented? I would like the option to show them all the time disabled when not valid, so we are aware the features are there just waiting to be triggered. If you do write about the conditional tabs, please add a link from this article to that one, and one back to this one, to make it brain dead easy for readers to find both from either one. 3. do any of the ribbon commands still trigger the old dialog boxes, properties comes to mind? Or have the fully implemented the Ribbon Gooey in this app.

Regulus
Regulus

I am not amused. As I said about the previous revisions of the 'File Browser', known by MS as 'Windows Explorer', there should be a 'Switch' available for non-airheads to use that function. (Oh, would Sheldon love to rant on this) As it is, I have 2 alternative 3rd party file browsers installed which I use interchangeably as the situation dictates. This may be compared to using both Firefox & Chrome in lieu of Internet Explorer - which I also do.

dogknees
dogknees

Just because there are a vocal group of people that can't get their head around the idea that sometimes it is a good idea to move on from the way you first learned how to do something is no reason the rest of us should have to put up with their mindless ramblings. Just because it's the way you like to do things doesn't actually mean it's a good idea, or that it has any intrinsic value or quality. Just because it's the way you've done things for a decade or so doesn't mean you should continue to do so. Just because they haven't got their head around the idea that innate resistance to change is a dumb idea, is no reason the rest of us should have to put up with rubbish old interfaces. Just because "it's a natural reaction" is no reason to behave this way. There are a lot of other "natural" feelings that civilised people are expected to control, this is just another one that's well past it's use by date.

Carl.Lee4
Carl.Lee4

"Ribbon is gaining momentum and not going away, so you really need to stop grumbling" Just because something as stupid as the Ribbon isn't going away doesn't mean we have to suck it up. It is gaining momentum, only because MS Developers keep sticking it applications despite a fairly vocal lobby of persons stating that is bites. It is not intuitive, I was forced to endure it in Office 2007 and Office 2010 at work. The Ribbon was the only reason, as shallow as some people will think that makes me, that I did not buy Office 2010 for my home Laptop last year. Then when I heard the GREAT news that the Ribbon Virus will be spreading to Explorer in Win 8, once you get past all the pretty BOXES. It was for that reason I am leaving Windows on my home PC after 30 years working in the computer industry. If I have to relearn everything all over again, I might as well learn it on a Mac this time. Open Office doesn't have the Ribbon, and I don't know what a Mac is supposed to look like so spending 20 minutes finding how to save a file will be ok. The Ribbon is wrong, in apps, in the OS, pretty much anywhere other then a present.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What do you think about Windows 8's Windows Explorer? Is the idea of a Ribbon for Windows Explorer really that hard to swallow?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...Microsoft doesn't pay me anything. I just love innovation and am excited about the new features in Windows 8. Not sure I would exactly call it propaganda though... my goal is to get people excited about the new technology not really to further a cause.

kprince
kprince

Could they make share any dumber? Perhaps MS could trust us to know what we want to do with our files - 'Stop Sharing' for Pete's sake. There's a perfectly good word in English for that - 'lock'.

ron-beauchemin
ron-beauchemin

I haven't done extensive testing but Directory Opus does work in Windows 8. I have used it to copy files, delete files etc.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...might even like the Windows Explorer Ribbon in Windows 8! You can create your dual-pane file manager simulation with 4 simple keystrokes: [Windows]+E [Windows]+[Left Arrow] [Windows] +E [Windows]+[Right Arrow] You dont even have to let up on the [Windows] key. In fact, I press and hold down the [Windows] key and then press E, [Left Arrow], E, [Right Arrow]. Once you have the two windows open, you can easily copy files from one folder or drive to another. Yes, there is a Minimize Ribbon feature as well as an XP-like "Customize toolbar" feature but it is called the Quick Access Toolbar. I'll go into it a bit more in my follow up article, in which I explore the contextual tabs. At this point in time, many of the Ribbon commands tigger the old dialog boxes and Wizards

seanferd
seanferd

Microsoft changed something, so it is the perfect pat of progress and innovation, and made things better. Anyone who has a complaint has absolutely no valid point and is just bogged down by Luddite inertia in devotion to the past. Make an actual argument, why don't you? The Ribbon is a ridiculously over-sized waste of space with the same stupid toolbar items on it. Now, you tell us why it is better. You can skip the tired, old "you just don't want to learn" tripe. Tell us why this UI element is an improvement. You may have valid points, but we'd never know.

Carl.Lee4
Carl.Lee4

I am wrong, I will stop my rants regarding the Ribbon and Metro. Yelling at the wind only makes me hoarse anyway.

Carl.Lee4
Carl.Lee4

@seanferd -First thanks for you support. Second it was easier to attack me and to assume that I was too dumb or lazy to learn the ribbon that to come up with reason why the ribbon is good. My issue, and the main issue of the majority of the posts I have read is the ribbon wastes my time, finding where command I need and taking the extra clicks to do things like PRINT that need to be in on the HOME page. I have serious doubt that people use styles more often than printing, saving and creating new files in Office. I can deal with the waste of space since it can be mitigated by hiding the ribbon. As a side note I love all the people who make this claim (I have read it in many blog posts) "I love the ribbon, I hide it and use the QAT" As a point, if you are hiding the ribbon and using a QAT you took a good amount of time to create you aren't really using the ribbon, you are using the only tool bar you have. Finally, this is not a continuation of my rant, it is me simply answering a question asked in my presence, not directed to a specific person.