Windows 8: Even more new File Explorer features

Greg Shultz continues to introduce advanced features found in Windows 8's new File Explorer.

In Part I and Part II of this series, I've been looking at some of the new features in Windows 8's File Explorer. So far I've been focusing on the Ribbon and have examined the three Core tabs titled Home, Share, and View. I then delved into the new set of contextual tabs, which appear based on the location or type of object that you have selected in File Explorer, and then provide you with groups of appropriate commands. The contextual tabs include Computer, Drive Tools, Search, Libraries, HomeGroup, Network, and File Type. While the Ribbon and its tabs are the most noticeable new features in Windows 8's File Explorer, there are other new features that you'll want to get to know.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I will introduce you to some of the other new features Windows 8's new File Explorer.

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Minimizing the Ribbon

While the Ribbon is a great feature, there are going to be times when you'll be working on straightforward file management tasks and will need more space for displaying files. Fortunately, when those occasions occur, you can minimize the Ribbon such that it only appears when you want it to. To do so, right-click just about anywhere on the Ribbon and select the Minimize the Ribbon command, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

You can essentially remove the Ribbon by selecting the Minimize the Ribbon command.
When you do, the Ribbon will essentially disappear and will only reappear in File Explorer temporarily when you activate it. As soon as you press [Esc] or click on another part of the screen, the Ribbon will instantly disappear. For example, if you select one of the tab titles, which remain at the top of the window, as shown in Figure B, the Ribbon will temporarily appear. You can reactivate the Ribbon anytime by selecting the Minimize the Ribbon command again to remove the check mark.

Figure B

When the Ribbon is minimized, only the tab titles appear at the top of the window.

Using the Quick Access Toolbar

While File Explorer's Ribbon and its series of tabs is designed to expose close to 200 different file management commands, chances are good that there is a set of commands that you'd always like to have access to - regardless of which tab is currently being displayed on the Ribbon. If so, you'll want to add those commands to the Quick Access toolbar, which by default appears in File Explorer's title bar. However, if you look back at the context menu in Figure A, you'll see an option on the menu titled Show Quick Access Toolbar below the Ribbon. When you select this option, the Quick Access Toolbar moves down from the top of the File Explorer window and appears between the Address bar and the Tab titles where it is more accessible, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

The Quick Access Toolbar now appears below the Ribbon's Tab titles.
Now, you can add your favorite commands to the Quick Access Toolbar. To do so, just locate the command, right-click, and select the Add to Quick Access Toolbar from the context menu. As you can see in Figure D, I've right-clicked on the Move command on the Home tab and selected the Add to Quick Access Toolbar command.

Figure D

You can easily populate the Quick Access Toolbar with your favorite commands.

Change the View

I haven't found the exact name for this feature, but in the bottom right corner of the File Explorer window are two buttons, as shown in Figure E, that allow you to quickly change the view used to display files. You can select one button to quickly change to the Details view and the other button to quickly change to the Large Thumbnails view.

Figure E

The Change View buttons appear in the bottom right corner of the File Explorer window.

The Up button

In Part I of this series, I began by telling you that the infamous Up button was returned to File Explorer. However, no one seemed to mention it in the discussions that followed the article. I found that rather curious because when Microsoft removed the Up button from Windows Explorer in Windows Vista, many folks were in an uproar and have been looking for a way to get it back for years. I thought that there would be more excitement about the return of the up button I suppose that my emphasis on the Ribbon in that first article stole the thunder.

Anyway, I figured that I would point it out again. As you can see in Figure F, the Up button appears right next to the Back and Forward buttons just like it did in Windows XP. It's a bit smaller, but it works the same way. When you click it, you'll move up one folder in the folder tree. It's a very nice feature to have and I for one am glad that it is back.

Figure F

The Up button makes a reappearance in File Explorer.

What's your take?

What do you think about Windows 8's File Explorer? Are you minimizing the Ribbon? Have you experimented with the Quick Access toolbar? Are you glad to have the Up button back? 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.

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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.


Horray! The up arrow is back! I'm excited! But I've gotten used to the ALT+(up arrow) keyboard shortcut.


I hate the new File Explorer in Windows 8. The ribbon area is confusing, the keyboard shortcuts of previous versions don't work, etc. And the lack of a divider makes it so if you do manage to find a file, you have to hover over it to see where it is. WORST OF ALL: No drag and drop or click to open with some file/program combinations, which pretty much does away with the usefulness of the File Explorer. Hopefully someone will come up with a replacement to do what MS no longer seems able to do: create software that is user friendly.


I don’t like the band, I find it slows me down. Apart from that : The design is too bleak, details are hard to find. Where is the line that separates two columns so you can change the width? If you click on a folder and move the mouse over another you have to look twice to find the one you are using. The Up-button - is there anything faster than the Left Arrow? In the old Explorer the right window showed the content of the folder that was marked in the left window - now you have to click on it (or press ENTER) to see the content. Worst of all is the virtual folders. They are confusing. Folders are duplicated but does not have the same content. I have 4 Document folders (and I have no right to one of them - on my own computer?). One document folder contains another Document folder in the left window - but it’s nowhere to find in the right? And I could continue. But I have found a way through this jungle (in the beginning I nearly deleted important stuff) and can now use my computer, but I find it much slower to use this new Explorer than the old. Is it possible to get the old one back?


Hi Greg, I just read and enjoyed your three articles on New File Explorer features, which are very helpful to me getting over my initial hesitation to take full advantage of these new ribbons in Office, File Explorer, and increasingly, other third-party apps, as well. One great historical improvement in opening any kind of window was the Aero interface that allows you to slide any window left or right and automatically fill half the screen. That was years ago, though, and I'm wondering why it's not yet a standard feature of Windows 8 to be able to set a default size and position for opening windows—as far as I can tell it's just random. It doesn't even seem to pay any attention to the last time the window was opened. Repeated Google searches don't seem to shed much light on this problem, so I'm wondering if it's even possible. Do you have any words of wisdom on this subject? Dare I even hope for a solution? Many thanks, Jim Duppenthaler


that the ^ in the menubar expands and minimizes the ribbon, too. no need to right click.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Greg has made a very thorough examination of the new features in Windows 8 File Explorer. Do you see the potential for more efficient navigation?


I usually click in the bread crumbs if I need to go backwards.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...that you liked the File Explorer articles Windows Snap, the feature that allows you to instantly arrange windows by dragging them to the edges of the screen still works in Windows 8. Now, because Windows 8 has hot corners and edges, snapping windows with a mouse can be tricky, so I often use the shortcut keystrokes [Windows]+[Left Arrow] and [Windows]+[Right Arrow]. As far as specifying the default size and position for opening windows... Well, that has never really been a feature in the OS. although, in Windows 8, it seems that most windows will open in the same location and size that they were when you last closed them...more so than in previous versions. However, moving and resizing windows is simple enough. I wouldn't fret about it.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...also access the Minimize the Ribbon command from the drop down arrow on the Quick Access toolbar as well as with the right-click method. There are multiple ways to access a lot of controls in Windows ;-)

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