Windows 8

Slideshow: The new features of Windows 8 File Explorer

The Up button reappears in File Explorer

This gallery is also available as a post in the Windows and Office Blog.

As you probably know by now, one of the many changes in Microsoft Windows 8 includes an updated version of Windows Explorer that has been rechristened as File Explorer. In addition to its new name, 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.

However, while the Ribbon is the most prominent new feature in File Explorer, the basic functionality of Windows Explorer remains virtually unchanged - there is still a Tree pane on the left and File pane on the right. There are also a host of other new features sprinkled throughout the new File Explorer that add great functionality to all the typical file management operations you are likely to perform.

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

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, I must admit that when I first encountered the Ribbon in Office 2007 I was disconcerted by what I initially thought would be a big learning curve, but once I adapted to the Ribbon, I found that I really liked it.

In fact, I've found that I've become very adept at using the File Explorer's Ribbon and have come to depend on it - so much so that whenever I go back to a Windows 7 or Windows XP system I find myself struggling with the old Windows Explorer interface. Of course, I remember when I first began using the new Ribbon interface it took me a while to adapt and I know that you will too. However, I can say with confidence that once you get used to it, you'll wonder how you ever got along without its feature set.

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 File Explorer - it's truly a much more efficient navigational system.

The return of the Up button

The first new feature in File Explorer that I want to talk about is really an old feature. Of course, I'm referring to the Up button.

As you may remember, one of the mistakes that the Windows Vista developers made was to remove the Up button from Windows Explorer. While a lot of users complained about the missing Up button, it remained MIA in Windows 7. However, in Windows 8 the developers heard our complaints and put the Up button back in File Explorer. As you can see in Figure A, the Up button appears right next to the Back and Forward buttons just like it did in Windows XP.

Just click the Up button and File Explorer will display the parent folder. You can also still use the breadcrumb if you want.

Credit: Images by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic

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.

11 comments
ShieldsCW
ShieldsCW

You see those big square arrows at the top of the page that let you go to the next part of the article? Put those on the bottom of the article. Why force me to scroll back up to the top just to see the next section? On an article about the increased usability of an operating system, no less!

intreb
intreb

When you can just click the parent folder in the location bar? I admit I also missed the up button until i realized the location bar in WE was redesigned. You can also just hit backspace if you browsed to the current folder from the parent folder. Goes "back" a page, just like in browsers.

paulweiser
paulweiser

Why oh why haven't they ever brought back a multi-pane facility like they had way back in Win 3.1 File Manager, and like every 3rd-party explorer has? Is it to retain a market for the latter? Moving files, creating shortcuts and generally organising files is vastly simpler with multiple panes. Until they bring this in, Windows Explorer remains to my mind total rubbish.

rnwatt
rnwatt

Where is the refresh button..... my version doesn't always refresh when I have made changes. Roy

gcookman
gcookman

I have been using win8 on and off since last spring, but have not explored it's riches. This is a tremendous help. My kids have moved to the Mac, and I don't know how to make the comparison. I think Apple is a great company, but I do not happen to like their products. Hard to get people to even look at my Win8 phone which I LOVE!

dl
dl

While the Windows Explorer in Windows 8 is a significant improvement, it still pales in comparison to Directory Opus. Directory Opus gives you so many productivity enhancing features that can't be found in Explorer, such as tabs for different directories, customizable shortcut buttons and lots of other customizations, multiple panes for listing files and directories, etc. Explorer is quite nice for folks who don't do a lot of file management, but for those of us who do, Directory Opus is well worth the price.

sarai1313
sarai1313

for the all the advice on windows 8. it has help my friends and family over the last few months with the new os.

scratchbaker
scratchbaker

F5 is the shortcut I've been using to Refresh a screen for at least a decade. At least worth a try in Win8 (I'm not leaving XP til they pry it from my cold dead hands.)

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

I agree 100% with dl@... who says that File Explorer in WIndows 8 (referred to henceforth as FEW8) "still pales in comparison to Directory Opus". I've purchased Directory Opus for both home and work and have never regretted it. It's what File/Windows Explorer (WE henceforth) should have been and never was. I'd like to know whether in Windows 8 you can print a list of the contents of a folder, something missing in all versions of WE I've ever encountered yet a highly useful function. Can you Connect to an FTP site and treat it just as another folder? Can you filter the contents of a folder? Can you do a multiple file rename in one move (I use this a lot for renaming photograph files)? Can you view files within WE? The answers to all these questions and many more are an emphatic "Yes" in Directory Opus. I got my first version as a freebie on a magazine disc many years ago and was so impressed I bought the then current version. I've also has excellent technical support on the rare occasion that I needed it. Forget WE; it's a poor limited program compared with Directory Opus.

Kevin.Legrande
Kevin.Legrande

Most superior. I've been using since Amiga days.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

there's a free tool called 'TreePrint' that will add printing capability to the right-click menu in Explorer. It's been available since at least XP. I can connect to an FTP site as a folder in Vista. I assume that feature is still in W8, although I also assume it isn't done the same way. i can view files in Vista's file explorer, with the same assumptions as I have for FTP. Filtering folder contents can be done with search parameters although I don't think they can be saved. Yeah, multiple rename is a must when dealing with photos.