File Explorer Changes in Windows 8

Microsoft has made a number of improvements to its File Manager program in Windows 8. While it might seem as though Windows 8 is a step towards abandoning legacy desktop programs, the more critical system tools are still largely dependent on the desktop. When it comes to the File Manager, the changes are long overdue.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of those changes and how they can make an average user’s experience just a little easier.

One of the biggest changes of note is that Windows Explorer is no longer called that. It’s now called File Explorer, though the purpose of the program is only slightly different than it was before. File Explorer is no longer the primary platform on which Windows is navigated by the user. The Modern UI has replaced many of the functions of the Explorer program, and it now exists almost exclusively as a file manager.


File Explorer Changes in Windows 8Microsoft fell in love with the ribbon back when it introduced the element in Microsoft Office in 2007. Since then, the ribbon has become a navigation tool of choice for many Microsoft products. Now, the ribbon can be found in File Manager.

By hitting Ctrl+F1 or clicking on a little arrow in the upper-right corner of the File Manager window, you can expand the ribbon which will make common processes immediately available via mouse click. From the Computer menu, you can map a network drive, access media, add a network location, open Control Panel, uninstall or change programs, check system properties, and numerous other things you would normally achieve through right-click submenus and keyboard shortcuts. This is done, in part, to make File Manager more accessible to touch users by offering fewer steps toward particular operations.

You also have the option to change view settings including how the panes in File Manager are arranged and file sorting properties. It works a lot like the ribbon found in Microsoft Office in this way.

Context Tabs

When you enter a folder filled with photos, videos, music, or a mixture of media, you’ll be met with a little tab that resembles a Post-It note giving you immediate options to contextual actions specific to the type of media listed in the folder. For example, a folder of photos creates a ribbon-style tab that enables you to rotate images, start a slide show, set an image as your background, and even play a specific file on another device. It acts as a shortcut past having to open a photo editor or enter a series of right-click submenus.

This is one of my favorite new features because I’m not a huge fan of having to find ways to access features I use most often. If I want to start a slideshow, I should be able to do it from the file manager without any steps or hurdles in the process. This really has sped up my experience with the program.

File Transfers

File Explorer Changes in Windows 8Transferring files between folders and drives is a very different experience. You’re no longer left with simple dialogues letting you know how fast the transfer is going and what the estimated time of completion is. Today, that transfer comes with a new Modern UI-style interface and a much more detailed readout of the transfer process.

You can actually see how fast the file is being transferred along with a historical graph which lets you know if there’s a bottleneck taking place during transfer. This can help with a number of different troubleshooting applications, but also give you a real look at whether or not a file transfer is actually happening the way the ETA would reflect. If you’ve ever had an ETA grow from minutes to hours and then back again, this graph will help you understand why.

Start Pinning

Do you have a specific drive, folder, or file you wish to access directly from the Start Screen? You can do this by simply right-clicking the item in File Explorer and selecting Pin to Start. This will create a shortcut on the Start screen which will give you instant access to that content.

There are many different minor changes Microsoft has done to make the desktop experience a little easier for the user. Windows 8 isn’t all about the Start Screen. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the changes being made to advanced user tools.

What is your favorite change in Windows 8? Is there anything Microsoft has done to improve your user experience beyond any other? Leave a comment below and share with the rest of us!

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