Some of the new inclusions for the upcoming Windows build have already been discussed, including the possibility of Windows 8 being a touch-friendly operating system. In one of their latest posts at the Building Windows 8 blog, the Windows 8 team discusses changes to the ubiquitous Windows Explorer program, something that’s been with the Windows OS since the 1.0 build. In fact, the post, besides previewing the alterations, also offers something for the nostalgia crowd, as the developers track the history of Windows Explorer.
Needless to say, for those of us who have been around since at least the Windows 3.1 days, such a retrospective reminds us just how much we’ve aged during the Windows development cycle. Despite that, the blog indicates the Windows Explorer updates have been introduced to win over “power users” who, because of their dissatisfaction with previous versions, have used alternative methods to organize their Windows files:
As we approach the work to improve file management in Windows, we do so knowing many of you have long ago “given up” on Explorer and are using some of the wide variety of add-ons or alternatives.
And so, the “winning back” process is still going on, in earnest. What better way to facilitate this process than by highlighting some of the improvements that have been introduced?
After discussing some of the input data concerning how people use Windows Explorer, the developers highlighted the goals of the file management system in the upcoming Windows 8 upgrade:
- Optimize Explorer for file management tasks. Return Explorer to its roots as an efficient file manager and expose some hidden gems, those file management commands already in Explorer that many customers might not even know exist.
- Create a streamlined command experience. Put the most used commands in the most prominent parts of the UI so they are easy to find, in places that make sense and are reliable. Organize the commands in predictable places and logical groupings according to context, and present relevant information right where you need it.
- Respect Explorer’s heritage. Maintain the power and richness of Explorer and bring back the most relevant and requested features from the Windows XP era when the current architecture and security model of Windows permits.
Here’s a quick look at the what Windows Explorer will look like in Windows 8:
To facilitate these improvements, the developers discussed the different kinds of user interfaces that could be used to help make the Windows Explorer experience more robust and easier to control. The style they chose was the ribbon interface, which is the same type used in Microsoft Office. An example:
The developers acknowledge the ribbon may not be satisfactory to the “power users” they mentioned, but they also discussed the merits of this kind of navigation:
We knew that using a ribbon for Explorer would likely be met with skepticism by a set of power-users (like me), but there are clear benefits in ways that the ribbon:
- Exposes hidden features that they already use but which require third party add-ons to use in the Explorer UI today.
- Provides keyboard shortcuts for every command in the ribbon, something many people have been asking for.
- Provides UI customization with the quick access toolbar, taking us back to a customization level that is basically equivalent to Windows XP.
Whether or not that satisfies the masses remains to be seen, but the reaction to the navigation ribbon has been mixed. A quick glance at the comments demonstrates this quite nicely:
Denis J. 29 Aug 2011 8:28 AM #
Ribbon UI may have its positive sides, which you noted – however, when it comes to touch operations and looks overall – it is simply not good enough. 2 cents
Amin Rahimi 29 Aug 2011 8:37 AM #
looks very nice.
It’s like office ribbon and I love it so much.
Nevertheless, ribbon-based navigation is coming to Windows Explorer when Windows 8 launches. The post continues in its breakdown of the new navigation system for Windows Explorer, essentially reassuring users why such a drastic change is necessary. One of the hidden gems of this portion is access to the command prompt. As you can see in the upcoming image, one of the ways to access the DOS shell is in the Windows Explorer File menu:
Another detail is how the interface was designed. With many PC owners switching to widescreen monitors, the Windows Explorer redesign was done with that in mind. To take advantage of the increased monitor real estate, the following alterations were made:
We removed the header at the top of the main view and moved the Details pane to the right side (and also did a visual revamp of the pane) while keeping a one-line status bar at the bottom of the window where we show you critical information.
As you can see, the changes are not just cosmetic, although, resistance to the ribbon navigation may prove problematic in terms of feedback. Nevertheless, if it works as advertised–that is, it improves the ability to navigate in Windows Explorer–the upgrades will be justified.
Another “addition” to Windows Explorer for the upcoming 8 is the return of the “Up” button, something that’s sure to please long-term Windows users:
At the lead of the article, the video discusses these changes and gives viewers an idea of how these alterations and new navigation systems will work. Yes, there are other things besides the ribbon navigation, although, it is the focus of much of the feedback. Thoughts on Windows 8 updates? Let us know in the comments.