Microsoft Unveils New Explorer For Windows 8

With Windows 8 still some way from launching, it’s always interesting

to see what the people in charge are planning, for what should be a pretty major

overhaul of the operating system.

It was back in June when Microsoft 8 officially, introducing the Metro UI we’ve become familiar with from Windows

Phone 7. However questions remain over whether Windows 8 will be a one-size

fits all OS appearing on touch devices as well as laptops and PCs, but details

just released about the new Explorer in Windows 8, point to the possibility

that we will see two versions of the OS.

Windows 8 Explorer

The latest post on the Building Windows 8 blog details how the engineers at Redmond have redesigned Wondows Explorer based on telemetry data collected from millions of logged session from a broad range of Explorer users.

The data threw up some very interesting results including

the fact that of the top ten commands used in Explorer, only two are available

from the command bar in the current Windows 7 UI.

Windows 8 Explorer

“This further reinforced our thinking that there was a big

opportunity here to improve Explorer by making common commands more readily

available. A clear user interface design principle is that frequently used

commands should be easy to get to—clearly we had not yet accomplished that with

existing designs,” Steven Sinofsky said in the post.

Microsoft looked for customer feedback and as well as suggestions

of support for many third-party add-ons used by power users, the biggest category

of feedback was requests to bring back features from Windows XP that were

removed in Windows Vista, especially things like bringing back the

“Up” button from Windows XP, adding cut, copy, and paste back into

the top-level UI, and for providing a more customisable command surface.

Microsoft set itself three goals for the new Windows

Explorer: Optimize Explorer for file management tasks; Create a streamlined

command experience and respect Explorer’s heritage.

Windows 8 Explorer

It looked at several layouts before settling on implementing

a UI which takes its cues from Office, including a ribbon which offers access

to most of the important commands.

The new ribbon has four tabs: Home, Share, View and Manage –

which combined give users access to a large range of around 200 commands. In

the File menu, one improvement has been the ability to quickly access the “Open

command” prompt, and a new command – “Open command prompt as administrator” – both

of which launch a command prompt with the path set to the currently selected


Windows 8 Explorer

One of the main requests from power users was to include more

keyboard shortcut and Microsoft has duly obliged with around 200 set to be included

by the time the OS launches next year.

While third-party add-ons for Explorer will continue to work

in Windows 8 in the right-click context menus, they will not be able to plug

into the ribbon UI, which will be a disappointment for many heavy users of the


Regarding the touch-nature of the new Explorer, it seems

clear that the new ribbon interface has been designed more with keyboard and

mouse users in mind, than those using their digits.

Windows 8 Explorer

This would lead us to think that Microsoft will be bringing

out a more touch-friendly overlay of the Explorer for touch-enabled devices –

or at least we would hope it will be.

However, Sinofsky believes this design will work for touch interfaces: “As it so happens, while not primarily a touch interface,

the ribbon also provides a much more reliable and usable touch-only interface

than pull-down menus and context menus (we’ll have lots more to say on the

topic of touch, of course, we definitely know there is a lot of interest but

also want to make clear that we know how important keyboard and mouse scenarios

are to power-user scenarios of file management).”

With the time line for a Windows 8 launch still rather vague, we expect to see more drip feeding of information regarding the OS in the coming months as well as more clarity on whether there will be a specific touch-enabled interface.

Source: Building Windows 8