updated 01:55 pm EDT, Mon August 29, 2011
Microsoft outlines changes to Windows 8 Explorer
Microsoft on Monday took the time to detail Windows 8's file explorer on its Developer Network blog. It's being described as the first substantial change to the most widely used desktop tool in a long time. The improvements are meant to eliminate the need for replacement add-ons to be used by power users when managing files on their computers.
Microsoft looked at telemetry data to judge which functions are most common and which areas need the most changes. It found that the majority of the frequently used commands are hidden in sub-menus, so making them more accessible in a refined user interface was a priority. Also, customer requests to bring back some Windows XP features were also considered. These included the 'Up' button, the cut, copy and paste into the top-level user interface and a more customizable command surface. More keyboard shortcuts were also requested.
The team then set out three main goals when redesigning Explorer in Windows 8. These included optimizing it for file management tasks, streamlining the commands and organizing them and do both while maintaining Explorer's heritage.
After looking at several options, the team chose an Office-style ribbon. It allowed the placement of the most important commands in prominent locations, grouped them accordingly and puts about 200 commands in an easy and consistent view without needing menus, pop-ups, dialog boxes and right-click menus. It should also be familiar to many existing customers. It will also translate better with touch interfaces. It also provides keyboard shortcuts for all commands in the ribbon and lets users customize it with the quick access toolbar.
The ribbon houses three main tabs: Home, Share, and View, along with a File menu and a variety of contextual tabs.
A new Search Tools contextual tab launches when the search box is clicked. It lets users filter results by date ranges, file type, size and author or name. Searches can then be saved for later use. Library, Picture, and Disk Tools are other contextual tabs.
Screen real estate was another user concern. As widescreen formats are the most common, the team optimized the new Explorer for this layout by removing the header at the top of the main view and moving the Details pane to the right side. A one-line status bar at the bottom of the window shows critical information. The new look allows two more lines of files compared to Windows 7 on a 1366x768 resolution screen. Closing the ribbon grants even more vertical real estate.
The Quick Access Toolbar allows adding any button in the ribbon to it. This brings the customization levels equal to or greater than that in Windows XP.
The team is still working on finalizing some details of Explorer for Windows 8. More details are likely to show at the Build conference in September.
Explorer Windows 8
Contextual Search tab
The return of the Up button