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Tabbed Explorer Add-on for Windows Vista (and an Up Button too!)

I’ve been hoping for a Tabbed explorer add-on to Windows Vista ever since I made the switch, but what most of you have been talking about is the lack of an Up button like XP used to have. Reader Shawn wrote in with a solution for both of our problems: QTTabBar, an add-on for Explorer that gives you a ton of functionality for either Vista or XP.

Installing and setting this application up isn’t the simplest thing in the world, so I’ll take you through it. Once you download the file, you’ll want to unzip it somewhere safe, since there’s no installer.

Installation

Right-click on the QTTabBar.exe file and choose Run as administrator.

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You’ll be presented with the only installation screen, which only registers the components, but doesn’t move the files anywhere. Click Next and then continue.

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Now you’ll have to either log off your computer and back on, or you can kill explorer.exe with Task Manager and then restart it with File \ New Task.

I’ll assume you are back from restarting explorer. The first thing you’ll notice is… nothing. That’s because the toolbar hasn’t been turned on yet. Either hold down the Alt key, or choose Menu from the Organize \ Layout menu in order to turn on the File menu.

Now you’ll want to go to View \ Toolbars \ QT TabBar and select it. You can select both of the toolbars at this point, since one is for the tabs, and the other is for the buttons.

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Tweaking the Configuration

The default layout and button choices aren’t very pleasant, so right-click on top of the buttons and choose the Customize option.

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Now you can choose your button options. Here’s where you’ll find that Up button you’ve been hankering for.

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If you want to change the defaults for the tabs, you can right-click on the tab area and choose Options.

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There are loads of options, far too many to get into for this article… you can change pretty much anything that you’d like.

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Tabbed UI Goodness

Now check out my nicely configured explorer, tabs and all. I chose to lock the toolbars when I was done, and put the buttons on the left side because that way I can expand to more tabs without the UI cramming them in there.

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Usage Tips

  • You can move the toolbar positions by dragging them from one side to the other.
  • Once you’ve moved the toolbars, you can right-click on them and choose to Lock the Toolbars so they won’t move around.
  • There are a full set of keyboard shortcuts, which mimic many of the Firefox shortcuts.
  • The New Tab functionality is in the Clone Tab button. Obviously you can’t create a new blank tab, which is why it’s called Clone Tab.
  • Middle-clicking on a folder will open it in a new tab.
  • Middle-clicking on a tab will close it.
  • You can copy files between tabs by just dragging them to another tab.
  • You can turn off the explorer File menu in the options.
  • You can turn off the hovering buttons over folders in the Misc tab of the Options.
  • The tabs support skins, so you can change the look of them if you want.
  • Read the help file!

Get QT Tab Bar from quizo.at.infoseek.co.jp

The author has a paypal button – if you really like this software, you should consider donating. He’s got a development version up with more features, including plugin support. We’ll be watching this one closely.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/3/07

Comments (43)

  1. bcell

    Wow! Just installed. It looks really nice!

  2. Will

    I couldn’t get your link to work, but this one did: http://members.at.infoseek.co.jp/Quizo/freeware/indexEn.html#qttab

  3. The Geek

    That’s odd… either one works for me. Thanks, though!

  4. ak03

    IK already knew about this… I read about it on raymondcc blog. Only thing was that it made my explorer take FOREVER to load. about 10 secs

  5. The Geek

    I’ve been using it for a while, it’s always worked perfectly for me.

  6. Zbyszek

    Hi

    Thanks for the tips. Cool!. However one thing is anoying me after installation of this QTTabBar

    Every time now when I open a folder or change the tab I hear a sound – like double “peak” – I checked options in this QTTabBar but I cannot switch it off. If I really cannot switch it off then sorry I will not use it. Do you know how to switch it off so I will not hear any noise.

  7. Peace

    It works great, I love having my frequently accessed tabs locked instead of leaving shortcuts on the desktop. However, I noticed the memory explorer.exe uses kept increasing. Each time I accessed a folder and close it, the memory increases by a bit. It never went down. I got a friend to install and test it out and he got the same problem as me, both running Vista by the way.

    Restarting the explorer process “temporary” fixes the problem, getting the memory consumption back to normal but the problem still persist. I wouldn’t recommend having this add-on installed unless you restarts your computer frequently or you free memory you can spare. Or simply go through the trouble of putting..

    taskkill /f /im explorer.exe
    start %windir%\explorer.exe

    into a batch file and running it once in a while.

  8. Jesse

    I personally would recommend .xplorer2. It’s a 2 pane file manager with tabs and an up button. I guess you can replace it in the shell but I wouldn’t do it.

  9. Travis

    Absolutely hate this, and uninstall refuses to work.
    I can hid the qttab bar but there is no way to hide the menu bar any more.
    How about a HOW-TO on uninstalling this.

  10. Peace

    Simply run the installer and uninstall it? The un-installation is guided and doesn’t require you to do anything other than pressing “Next”.

  11. Travis

    Great idea.
    Except for one thing…. It simply does not work.
    Not for me anyway.

  12. tomr

    Doesn’t seem to be working – the QT Tab Bar and TabBar Options install all right, but are greyed out after logging off and logging on… and restart also. Any ideas why?

  13. JolleyJoe

    Absolutely amazing! Worked perfect on my Vista machine.

    I’ve been looking for something like this for the longest time… xplorer2 was too complicated and had too many features that I didn’t need. I just wanted a simple tabbed explorer, and I got it!

  14. Jeff

    I really like this. Wanted it only for the Up button, but really like the tabs, too. Thanks! (Did get some errors the first day or two after installing whenever I’d select “Customize” and it would lock up Windows Explorer. Tried it again a few day later, and it worked as advertised.) Thanks!

  15. Andy

    Well, there’s always DirectoryOpus.

  16. Vara

    It works great man. But if I try to customize it, I am getting some exceptions.
    I am using Vista, and the exception is about Microsoft .NET framework. Any Idea ?

    Thanks.

  17. jd2066

    @Andy: The QTTabbar bar program now has it’s own forum at http://qttabbar.wikidot.com/forum/c-15221/qttabbar-general-discussions where you can the author and other users of it about a problem.

  18. StevenX

    My friends i got it!! (Vista up button) http://mavisapps.com/up-button/

  19. Kane

    I haven’t been able to get this to work. I didn’t get any install error messages. Both toolbar options (“qt tabbar” “qt tab standard buttons”) are grayed out and can’t be selected. Anyone have any ideas?

  20. jd2066

    @Kane: You can running the registry file at http://www.kellys-korner-xp.com/regs_edits/toolbarsgreyedout.reg
    If any policies are making the toolbars unavailable that should fix it.

  21. Mark

    I found this while trying to figure out how to get those buttons back. This program is amazing. Thanks so much. Works perfectly with my Vista Home Premium.

  22. Shirley

    Can a Delete button be put on this menu also ?

  23. Kane

    Unfortunately, the reg file didn’t work. I don’t think there are any policies that are keeping them from showing. Other custom toolbars that I’ve tried worked fine. I didn’t have any installed when I tried QT but do now. By the way, the QT address bar worked fine right off the bat. Is anyone else having the problem I am?

  24. jd2066

    @Shirley: If you install the FileTools plugins pack for QTTabBar you can get a delete button as part of the QTTabBar Toolbar.
    The url of it is http://qttabbar.wikidot.com/plugins

    @Kane: Do you have .NET Framework 2.0 installed? If so and it still doesn’t work you could try posting at the official forum for QTTabBar at http://qttabbar.wikidot.com/forum/c-15221/qttabbar-general-discussions

  25. Kane

    Thanks jd2066. I will post over there. I do have .net 2.0 installed but is there a way I can check to make sure there’s no problems with the installation?

  26. jd2066

    I just reread your post and remembered that QTAddressBar uses .NET Framework 2.0 too so if that is working then the problem shouldn’t be with .NET Framework 2.0

  27. Kane

    jd – thanks for your help. On the QT Wiki, someone else posted an obvious solution to my problem a few days ago. Somehow, my qt toolbars were disabled. Once I went into “manage add-ons” from the internet options control panel and re-enabled them, everything worked fine. Thanks for your help and I feel like a blockhead for not figuring this out sooner.

  28. terrahertz

    This does not uninstall properly, it is impossible to hide the toolbars in vista 32 after uninstall.
    There is a tip to remove a registry key if you encounter this problem but it doesn’t work.
    If you try this software make sure you have created a restore point manually before hand.

    The only way I could get rid of the toolbar without doing a fresh install was to create the following registry key which I wasn’t too happy about as I havn’t done it before and don’t know if it will have any unwanted side effects.

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced] “ShowToolbars”=dword:00000000

    But toolbar gone!

  29. SDX

    w00t!!!

  30. SDX

    This is by far, beyond any shred of doubt the most amazing explorer enhancement I have seen till date. Beats all other explorer replacements/enhancements hands down. Keep up the excellent work Quizo!!!

    Just one thing the memo plugin does not seem to be working as desired and it causes the explorer to malfunction. For example the explorer is redirected to the my computer page (in WinXP ) while trying to open some folders. Was about to file a bug report against QTTabBar but posting this here seems to be much easier (please pardon me for being lazy but this is better than not posting at all :) )

  31. SDX

    Hey Zbyszek,

    Please take a look at Control Panel->Sounds and audio devices->(program Events) windows explorer->Start Navigation change the associated sound to None if its not already so. I hope this helps.

  32. jd2066

    @SDX: You should post on the official QTTabBar forum at http://qttabbar.wikidot.com/forum/c-15221/qttabbar-general-discussions
    You would have a better chance at getting a reply from the author there.

  33. Joe

    If you press alt+up arrow (in vista) it has the same effect as the “up one level” button from XP

    side note*
    alt+left arrow = back
    alt+right arrow = forward

    *works in both explorer and internet explorer

  34. jose

    i have a problem! it installed properly but instead of the tabs aligning horizontally, they are aligned vertically!! how do i fix this? please help..>.

  35. david

    great program took while to get it running properly but at least I have the navigation buttons I got used to from xp thanks for thr tip

  36. Andi

    Same problem with the uninstalling, once you install this you can never hide your menu bar again! Even after it’s uninstalled. I even reinstalled it, told it to hide bar, uninstalled, and the bar is back.

  37. matt

    I also had the same problem, after uninstall the menu bar was not going. I found a site where i got the problem solved.

    http://tandt-u.blogspot.com/2009/01/tabs-up-button-for-windows-vista.html

    it worked for me. hope it would help someone.

  38. Steven

    How can I EVER thank you???!!?! I HATED how there was no up one level, and now you’ve given me not only that, but a Firefoxized Windows Explorer! You are so cool! Kudos to howtogeek.com!

  39. stan

    You know how in Windows vista the plus and minus icons have been replaced by the little triangles that are only visible when you mouseover the explorer bar? Does anybody know how to get the plus and minus icons back

  40. Tim Acheson

    Has this been tested in Windows 7 RC yet? I’m currently using the 64-bit version and don’t want to introduce any potential instabilities.

    I’ve submitted a feature request to Microsoft for tabbed browsing in Windows Explorer:

    http://www.timacheson.com/Blog/2009/aug/windows_explorer_needs_tabs

    Windows Explorer definitely needs tabs. It seems obvious when you think about it! :)

  41. Gabriel

    I really hope the developers of Tabbed Explorer (QTTaBar) update it to work with Windows 7. I tried installing it on my Windows 7 x64 O/S and it DID NOT WORK. It looked like it did initially, but once you close the Windows Explorer and reopen it, it dissapears and messes up Windows Explorer.

    This feature is so important (at least) for computer programers like myself, who needs multiple windows open at once when bouncing between projects and comparing files, etc..

    I do not know what i’ll do now without this awsome utility. I guess I’ll have to toggle between windows again taking a step backwards :(

  42. Dr. H

    Hi
    I have the same problem as Kane, but…
    I had qttabbar working fine on my my Vista Ultimale 64, until I decided to reset my Internet explorer 7 bc it was freezing someitmes. After U reset IE7, I couldn’t find qttabbar on my windows explorer.
    I followed ur instructions jd2066 but I can’t see “qttabbar” in the list of addons in IE to be able to enable it again.
    Please help, I simply can’t stand Vista without qttabbr anymore.

  43. MikeB

    OK I guess. But nothing to get excited about – and this from a utilities freak. Really, a customizable toolbar with no big red X to delete selected files. What was the author thinking? I know it’s on the context menu, but I’m resisting a paradigm shift from the XP era.And, yes, I know I can drag a shortcut to the trashcan to the places bar. Done that.

    When I work with files, I much prefer side-by-side windows so I can drag things around and see everything that’s going on. It’s a personal preference. That makes the Windows 7 “snap” feature very useful for me. Sorry, tabbed web browsing is good. Tabbed file browsing, not so much.

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