Take a closer look: File Explorer in Windows 11

Windows 11 general availability is only a few weeks away, and while we’ve already covered its key features from a bird’s eye view, we’ve also taken a deep dive into the capabilities on offer to give our opinion on the changes through our Closer Look series as well. .

So far we’ve looked at Search, Widgets, Start Menu, Snapshot Layouts & Groups, Taskbar, Quick Settings & Notifications, Virtual Desktops, Power Settings, and battery life and the default application configurations in Windows 11. Today we’ll be looking at a crucial part of the operating system – from an end user perspective – namely the File Explorer.

As part of this hands-on exercise, we’ll be looking at Windows 11 build 22000.194 which was released to the beta channel a few days ago versus a publicly available and up-to-date Windows 10 (version 21H1 build 19043.1237). As usual, it is important to note that the operating system is still under active development, so it is possible that some of the features we are talking about will change between now and the general availability of Windows 11.

File Explorer in Windows 10

Instead of discussing the features and capabilities present in Windows 10 this time around, I just want to focus on the File Explorer UI. This is because it will take me a lifetime if I start writing about every feature. Frankly, I’m not even familiar with all of the features it offers, and that’s because my use of File Explorer is heavily dependent on my use cases. There might be faster and better ways to perform the activities I do in File Explorer, but I don’t consider Google (or Bing, or anything for that matter) to be the most optimal way to perform a task on the software, unless I’m stuck. .

So, I’ll just talk briefly about the user interface. File Explorer offers a ton of customization options on this front, you can have checkboxes next to each item, file previews, file extensions, thumbnail sizes, sorting techniques and filtering, and so on with regard to the user interface. There is also a ribbon that shows you categories like File, Home, Share, View, etc., depending on which file you clicked. I find it quite satisfying to use and think it is a powerful utility to have.

File Explorer in Windows 11

When switching to File Explorer in Windows 11, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the new icons for Windows folders like Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos. This extends to other system icons such as device and drive icons as well as user-created folders. The new file explorer also features rounded corners which is a staple of the design for Windows 11. Personally, I like the redesign because it is just fresher.

Another thing you’ll probably notice is that Microsoft has done away with the traditional File Explorer ribbon, which has now been replaced with a set of quick action buttons. Depending on the file you clicked, you will see a set of quick action items such as New, Cut, Copy, Paste, Rename, Share, Delete, Sort, and View. This has all the options I need for most use cases, so I’m not bothered by this change at all. In fact, it simplifies the user interface so that I can quickly complete common tasks.

File Explorer with Open Dropdown in Windows 11 on Desktop
File Explorer ribbon drop-down menu in Windows 11

But if you are thinking about how you would perform other more advanced tasks, then don’t worry. Microsoft has added a drop-down list in the same quick action pane that gives you more customization and groups others under the “options” category.

File Explorer options open in Windows 11 on the desktop
More options for File Explorer in Windows 11

While I didn’t do an individual comparison between all of the setups in Windows 10 versus Windows 11, I was able to use most of the options I was looking for. As previously stated, I never used all the utilities available in File Explorer anyway, but Microsoft did not detail any deprecated File Explorer functionality in Windows 11. So if the company has removed a behind-the-scenes feature without announcing it, I haven’t found it yet.

File Explorer context menu open in Windows 11 on the desktop
Windows 11 File Explorer Context Menu

There is a new context menu (or “right click menu”, whichever you call it) and just like the simplified ribbon in File Explorer, you will see a set of quick actions like Cut, Copy, Rename , Share, and Delete in the pane at the top, followed by other features below. All of the other options you’re probably used to on Windows 10 have been moved to the “Show more options” setting. That said, this is not a file explorer specific setting, but it is similar in the desktop context menu as well. As such, I plan to cover it separately in a dedicated Closer Look article in the near future.

That’s about all when it comes to File Explorer in Windows 11. No new features to speak of (or nothing I’ve found yet) but a bunch of design changes that I welcome. The user interface is much more streamlined and easier to use, especially for people like me who only use the most common features.

That said, if there was one new feature that I would really appreciate in File Explorer, it would be the ability to have tabbed instances in the same app. I think it would increase my productivity tenfold. Microsoft announced this interface redesign under the “Sets” brand in 2017, but the project was scrapped in 2019. It is also not part of Windows 11, which is a bit of a disappointment. I didn’t expect it to be there at all, but given the mockups and overall enthusiasm we’ve seen for the online feature, I really hope Microsoft will consider restarting development.

What do you think of file explorer in Windows 11? Do you like redesigning and simplifying design? Are there any features present in Windows 10 but not available in Microsoft’s next operating system? What else would you like the business to improve? Let us know in the comments section below!


Take a look at the section here or select from the links below to continue exploring Windows 11 in our ongoing “Take a Closer Look” series:

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