How-To Geek

Windows 8 UI: Here’s Your First Look at Windows Explorer

If you were making a list of the features you want most in Windows Explorer, what would be at the top? Here’s a look at what Windows 8 has to offer for your file management tasks.

You’ll see that it’s completely redesigned, using the Ribbon UI, and it even has the “Up Button” again! Click the link for all the details.

Improvements in Windows Explorer [MSDN]

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 08/29/11

Comments (101)

  1. Tor

    I hate Ribbon UI.

  2. Oguz

    It really sucks. I hate Windows 8 design

  3. Sam

    Oh no! Looks like a possibility the ribbon UI can be minimised (up arrow next to help button?), but it would still be nice for a user to have more control over what buttons/menus are shown.
    Ah well, at least we can say it’s a more practical UI than that of OSX’s Finder.

  4. ReynaldoRiv

    Oh God, I’m getting nightmares of IE6 toolbars.

    The Ribbon UI is great for the Office suite, but it really should just stay there. I don’t need two big effing copy and paste buttons staring at me every time I open a folder.

  5. RandyN

    Don’t care about the ribbon either way. I just wish they’d give users either dual panes or tabs in Windows Explorer.

  6. Al-H

    My question is this: Why isn’t there already a copy/paste button on the keyboard instead of still leaning on ctrl+v. It’s practically as common as pressing the space bar. Everyone’s hating on the caps lock key lately, let’s just replace it with 2 smaller ones.

  7. John

    Is there a way to hide that POS ribbon? This is clearly designed for those that barely know how to turn a PC on much less use Windows Explorer. I hate how Microsoft (and many others) keeps dumbing down their UI.

  8. Karl

    Wait… I don’t understand.
    Why are people hating on the CAPS key?

  9. rushfan54

    I honestly feel really sorry for the people still using windoze.

  10. Ali

    This new UI suxxxx

  11. Ted Lilley

    First, fix the folder view so it never moves after you click a folder. No UI design should allow you the time to move your mouse to select something only to yank it out from under you at the last millisecond.

    Second, tabs.

    Third, dual pane mode.

    Fourth, spend a few moments with any of the excellent free explorer alternatives for a plethora of other ideas. I might suggest CubicExplorer.

  12. Russell

    We want it simpler… they make it more complicated and intimidating by giving us this POS Ribbion UI!

    As long as Windows sticks to the Registry and Services as key functions to the OS there will always be blue screens of death and system crashes… ALWAYS! You can’t even do a simple thing like removing a program in Windows without an “uninstall” program… and if it gets corrupted your screwed.

    Windows! Fix the crashes and viral infections and make the system bullet proof from people who corrupt YOUR product… and give it to us FREE!

    Ah but, there’s a reason why people are standing on lines in Apple stores to have the privilege of paying $2000 for a system that does basically the same thing as a Windows system for $500. Microsoft can be very thankful Apple is so greedy. It is Windows lousy reputation and poor historical quality is why the Apple is $2000 and the Windows is $500. Windows junk is bringing the whole system, hardware and all.

  13. Luís Artur

    Oh god please don’t…. Stop f*cking with Windows Explorer!

  14. Enigma

    Just remember how Windows ME was and how XP fixed it and then remember Vista and how 7 Fixed that. I can only assume windows 8 will be another ME/Vista and windows 9 being another XP/7.

  15. KatsumeBlisk

    I really hope that can be hidden. I don’t mind the Ribbon in applications, but I really hate it in the OS’ UI. It takes up so much space. I really like how in Windows 7 you just hit Alt to bring up the menu.

  16. Lee

    I agree with everyone else. The ribbon on Windows explorer just looks cluttered. If they replaced the ribbon with tabs, I would like it MUCH more.

  17. nt0xik8ed

    it looks like live movie maker, and we know how useless that is.

  18. Wayne

    I actually prefer the interface of Windows Explorer in Windows 7. The ribbon interface is garbage and a waste of space. This isn’t streamlined. It is bloated. Unless I can turn this off completely and make it look like exactly like Windows 7, then Windows 7 will be the last version of Windows I use. I’ll switch to Linux or OSX over using this. Hiding the menu and moving things to contextual menus was bold. This is garish.

  19. Negm

    That Sucks
    looks like someone was drunk

  20. GM

    I was reading earlier comments and people were right.

    The Ribbon UI should’ve stayed with Office itself, because it is actually a perfect addition to the program.

    And while others think the silly small blue bar is a waste of space, how will that big UI be welcomed by the public?
    This is hilarious, but useful for tablets, touch pc’s, and kids/adults.

    I wonder if they have an alternative UI for netbooks, oh, they’re dying, what was I thinking.

  21. Brian

    Well that’s just the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. They are formally making Macs worth the extra money. I can’t even stand the ribbon in Office.

  22. dima

    I’m surprised you’re all bashing the new explorer before even using it. Let’s wait til it comes out then we’ll see.

  23. gosu

    This Ribbon UI is suck .Even Explorer ++ is better than it .Pls take it easy ,don’t try to make things too complicate to be resolve .It takes too much space ,and can’t be edited .

  24. Danny

    I have two problems with the ‘ribbon’ compared to the old way (ie office 2000).
    1. you can’t have everything up at once. Whilst it makes sense to only show what you might need, it just makes it more effort when you need something else.
    2. Automatically changing the ribbon based on the task I’m doing. Can you imagine sitting at a desk and someone opening and closing the draws when they think you’ll need something from it? You only notice when they get it wrong, not get it right, so it’s only a frustration.

    So long as M$ give me OPTIONS to have it EXACTLY HOW I WANT, I don’t mind what else they do.

  25. John

    Everyone needs to relax. I’m almost certain it can be minimized just like Office 2010 and there will most likely be an option to revert it back to Windows 7 style all together.

  26. Donald

    That window explorer is just plain ugly. I thought they would redesign the whole UI. They must have dinosaurs working for them.

  27. Xana452

    I’ll be completely honest and say that I don’t really like it… I meen yes i could get uses to it but the ribbon really throws me.

  28. AK

    Hey not everyone likes ribbons! Better make it optional, or better make it appear when you hover the mouse over there or something like that

    And the colours are sick! Please include more colour options! grey would be much better than blue

    And how the hell are you gonna make it touch-friendly if it stays this way?

    We are expecting a lot from Windows 8 don’t disappoint us!

  29. danut

    I`m glad i have total commander and powershell. They can`t ruin those.

  30. thenonhacker

    I think the Ribbon will save us a LOT of time looking for commands, and save us from relying on too much Right-Clicks to manage files.

    If you read their article, they put thought about the commonly used commands (telemetry data) that justifies exposing the commands on the ribbon. Who would have thought that Paste Command is the #1 command in Windows Explorer, and yet it has no prominent place in the Windows 7 Toolbar?

  31. thenonhacker

    Having said that: I think they have to make the Navigation and Search Toolbar background WHITE so that it disassociates itself from the ribbon, and tidy up the appearance.

  32. RiiBzxX

    Looks like microsoft word :(
    Don’t like it…

  33. Linas

    Microsoft, make tabs in windows explorer! Why I should open 10 copies of windows explorer if I could open only one of it?

  34. Sagar

    Bad Idea :D

  35. AssasinDroid

    Blast! I thought they will change the ‘My Computer’ icon to somethin more TFT-like.

  36. A.D.Wheeler


  37. chris

    It almost seems like they are trying to shot themselves in the foot.
    IE 6, 7, and 8 suck.
    WMP sucks
    now this crap.

  38. MJ

    To hide the ribbon you can always double click on any of its tabs. I don’t like the ribbon for Explorer, It feels cluttered.

  39. Casiuss

    Guys… please stop runting…

    I dont know if I should say that, but I played a bit around with the Win8 Beta. The Ribbon UI can be hidden, then it looks like a blue manu bar.
    And I for myself, have to say that I kinda LIKE it. Not because I think the ribbons are kinda handy or pretty or something, its about the icons in the titlebar! THESE will come in handy.

  40. Jack

    Wow that looks terrible. I didn’t mind the ribbon too much in office but this is getting stupid. It feels much too simplistic and basic, like its trying to be some sort of ‘my first windows’.

  41. Mark

    My first thought (like others) at that screenshot was “Oh God, not the Ribbon again…”. I hate it in the new Office (which is why I still prefer to use Office 2003) and now Microsoft is making the dumb UI spread to Windows Explorer now? I really hope there’s an option to turn that shite off.

  42. Andy

    I can’t wait when Ribbon will be shown in loading screen. Also, imagine Ribbon in BSOD, ain’t that some s**t?

  43. Holger

    If MS continues this way manufacturers will have to come up with a new screen size.
    At present we have 16:9, but someday we might need 9:16.
    But according to the screenshots I saw on their Win8 blog it can be reduced.
    They should’ve come up with something like 2 panes or tabs for easier file management.
    Anyway, as I have Windows only as secondary system on my PC they are free to mess with UIs.
    They only make me even more committed to Linux.

  44. Rattlehead

    @rushfan54 why would you feel sorry for people that still use windows? I’m absolutely sure you use some form of windows yourself, whether it be WINE or some other windows emulator, if your using Linux, or crossover or some other windows emulator if your using Mac. Why bother to run either of those mediocre operating systems when you have to use emulators to do most of what your going to do, waste of time and hard drive space. Maybe windows isn’t the greatest OS but at least it doesn’t require you to run some form of Linux or Mac to run other software. If anything people that have been fooled to jump on the Linux/Mac bandwagon, you have to do 10 times the computing just to do anything. To use the comment that “there aren’t any virus or malware written for Linux” is foolish, it isn’t because it can’t be done, it’s because no on cares to do it, why bother with 2% of the OS market when you can mess up the other 98%

  45. Cat

    In my opinion, incorporating Microsoft’s ribbon into Windows Explorer is NOT an “improvement”. The ribbon is the most anti-productive, user-unfriendly feature Microsoft has ever forced on its customers. After upgrading to MS Office 2010, the ribbon was the main reason I reverted back to MS Office 2003. Thumbs down on this “improvement”.

  46. kell

    Dual panes would have been a step in the right direction. But that was too much to ask. MS sure does love that space-hogging ribbon. I avoid any application that comes with one and I will avoid Windows 8.

  47. Old_geek

    I really wish that MS would duplicate the Gnome file explorer. The ability to open dual panels and tabs makes file management simple.

    As for the redesigned Windows Explorer; the ribbon and enlarged icons will work nicely on tablets, but not on desktops/notebooks.

  48. Allen

    I can understand this layout being useful on a tablet, which is the *only* platform they should be aiming this OS to. No one is going to buy this for the PC.

  49. CeeBee

    Looks like I’m the only one who doesn’t mind the ribbon. I think it’s a given that most (if not all) posts here are from prople who are well above average using computers and the comments are very valid from many points of view.

    Bottom line is that most people who use computers don’t have that knowledge and from my experience in teaching others file management is one of the weakest points in that knowledge. Using the ribbon that a lot of users are familiar with from Office is a good way of addressing this – the ribbon is a great improvement (from the average users point of view) over the menu system

  50. oldglenn440

    You know all this gripeing about windows.seems they all think they are bill gates.If you dont like windows then write your own op. system. Simple problem solved.

  51. Roshnal

    That explorer UI was one of the things I liked about windows- minimalistic design.. But it appears that they messed up that one too..! S:(

    Just like ReynalodRiv said enough with IE6 toolbar nightmares!

    Can’t they just learn to give the user what he needs ONLY and not some freakin’ ribbon UI with crappy large buttons staring at them?

  52. gergn

    Why don’t they copy an idea from Ubuntu? There you can choose your own DE. If you do not like GNOME, you can use the frugal, XP-like LXDE (Light X.11 Desktop Environment). You can choose that on a session basis: logout and login to change it.

  53. skinymikeofdoom

    Wow. Not one like. I think it’s a joke and will look completely different. Thats what I tell myself so that I , as a Microsoft fanboi, dont go insane

  54. James

    I have never understood how anyone can think of the ‘ribbon’ interface to be an improvement. I don’t run later Office versions just for that reason. It is unintuitive and slow to use and wastes a lot of screen real-estate to no purpose. Frankly I find it one big frustration. If this can’t be turned off in Windows 8, then I won’t be upgrading!

  55. skinymikeofdoom

    Never mind, 2 likes and the buttons are chunky because you’re supposed to be able to run it on ARM CPUs. Tablets are ruining windows.

  56. Vincent

    Microsoft is going the Vista way again. Will someone please point them in the right direction?

  57. Cori

    At first glance, I am not real thrilled with the look of the new Explorer, however, I will have to use it in order to make a final judgement. It seems to add usability, just as the Ribbon UI has done for Office. In the position of having to support a number of users, with varying degrees of computer knowledge, anything that makes my life easier is a good thing.

  58. Kevin

    I think the ribbon is a good idea as long as it gives us control to configure what is on it (perhaps make our own shortcut keys?). Seems to me that they are doing business as usual though and have not listened to the users once again! Where is the dual pane we have asked for, or the ability to customize the UI to suite our needs.

    How about a great little feature to allow pause with the copy and paste command? There are quite a few little things they could do to make our lives much easier but as the status quo goes Microcrap does just what they damn well please without listening to the users of their products. Although I doubt anything of any real value is added there will always be third party tools that do what Microcrap should have done in the first place.

  59. Ivydapple

    I already hated Win8. This just reminded me of that. Windows 7 forever! :D

  60. Tex

    Productivity will go down 20% due to everyone trying to figure out the new Ribbon interface. Lots of people are still confused about where the commands are in Office thanks to MS always changing the format. Instead of focusing on changing the look of Windows, make it more stable (less patches).

  61. rushfan54

    @Rattlehead ok, I’ll admit it. I have wine installed. That’s it. The last time I used wine was well over 6 months ago. LibreOffice works better than any version of MS Office ever will. IE just sucks. And Linux is just faster and easier to use.

  62. Nicklas
  63. Prasad Kumar

    Windows 8 UI looks completely like MS-Office 2010… Iam glad i have Linux(Primary OS) and Windows7(Secondary OS). It is better to stay away from Windows 8 for a while.

  64. Dr S K Sharan

    Why Microsoft is not concerned with stability and reliability? It is making mockery of OSs. What will I do with ribbon in explorer? It is burden in office also.

  65. dave

    Ribbon takes up way too much screen realestate.

  66. Morely the IT Guy

    @dima: “I’m surprised you’re all bashing the new explorer before even using it. Let’s wait til it comes out then we’ll see.”

    I’m already using it – it’s in MS Office, and it sucks rocks.

  67. Fodaro

    Up button: great. Ribbon: completely unnecessary, even if you can hide it.

  68. john3347

    The huge, HUGE one thing I want to see in Windows 8 would be to see the non-intuitive and mouse click maker ribbon GONE from everything related to a computer. It is the most idiotic move Microsoft has made in a long time. OUT WITH THE RIBBON, Microsoft!!!!!

  69. dm

    I vote AGAINST ribbons, I am still using Office 2003 also.

  70. Shawn M Clarady

    Put all this crap in a drop-down menu like the old days of clicking (File, Edit, View, Tools). Microsoft you need to Keep It Simple. If you want to do this then give the option to put it all in a menu bar like (File, Edit, View, Tools).

  71. Jerry aka The Kiltman

    I watched the test videos on YouTube and it appears that the pressure from Linux, Apple, and Google seems to be working as each design has elements of the other. Folks that use the products and wish to submit what
    they like best should get involved in the evolution of the product. Perhaps more positive input and less negative input would help those on the teams that design these products. I worked on designing an application that took ten years of my life and I must say that more input is better during the testing period and I mean REAL WORLD testing and usage.

  72. Jerry Helton

    Microsoft, You really should give thought to what a real PC user is. This is for newbies.

    At least offer a default setting Moron’s and Advanced and let us choose wisely.

    Advanced no dumb down icons,

    We already have enough idiots that can’t even run a cash register these days unless it has a picture of what you order on it. You are not doing society any favors with this one.

  73. Shaun

    I love the new interface it falls in line with Office and Sharepoint and looks good, probably adding heaps of new features. I think all you guys know how to do is whinge and moan. Go use another OS if you hate it that much and stop trolling!

  74. Donna

    Forget ribbon Microsoft! Will be sticking with Win 7.

  75. Starlight

    You know just the other day I was playing a game with my 10 year old boy on his pc and he turned round to me and said

    “Dad can we play with something interesting like pencils and paper?

    It’s so much more fun than all this techno wizardry and it doesn’t give me a headache later either”

    His exact words not mine! So we played at drawing numbers and letters wierdly and in our own preferred way so he (as he put it) felt individual and unique without doing things the same way as everybody else does on their PCs etcetera.

    Pencil and paper a new alternative to Windows explorer and so much more real, tactile, a feast for the senses!

  76. Pottsy

    What’s with all the hate comments? I notice that only the people that don’t like are the ones that have made a comment.

    I have an answer for you all GO BACK TO XP if you don’t like it. No one is forcing you to buy Windows 8.

    I LIKE IT. It would be nice though if it offered dual explorer panes, but then again, it might be available under the ‘View’ tab. Just have to wait and see.

  77. Pottsy

    @Morely the IT Guy: “I’m already using it – it’s in MS Office, and it sucks rocks.”

    Go back to XP or Office 2003, or if you’ve got such a strong opinion against it – Design and write your own version of Windows and sell it. Microsoft is the leading company in PC operating systems, do you have something better to offer? If not, bite your tongue and be thankful you weren’t born in the 13th Century singing ring-a-ring o’roses.

  78. Wayne


    I’ll keep the cleaner interface in Windows 7 and I already ditched Office for alternatives. In fact, Windows is the only Microsoft product that I am using anymore. When I update my computer, I’ll go to Linux or OSX. Not going back to obsolete software like Windows XP or Office 2003 though.

  79. DLS

    Thumbs down, no doubt there.

  80. jer

    Nobody can ever find anything with that ribbon because it’s impossible to remember where what you want is buried. What was wrong with menus?

  81. John

    Wait… is this Microsoft Word?

    Oh well, on the bright side, the up button is back! You were sorely missed. Whose a good button? Yes you are, yes you are…


  82. ouman

    NOPE! – I’ll just stick with my “old faithful” ~ Christian Ghisler’s Total Commander, and it’s dual window setup.
    It is a great replacement for Peter Norton’s ‘Norton Commander’, and so very easy to customise and use.

  83. Bob1001

    I buy only what I need, and like. So far I don’t like, or need Windows 8. So Microsoft can keep it.

  84. jonny4580

    Looks Great if you like the ribbon the you can leave it if you don’t then im sure there will be an option in folder options to get rid of it and even if ther isnt that option theres the little arrow next to the help button to get rid of it, it will make a lot of peoples life’s alot easier including mine

  85. Windows Krasher

    Why all the gruff about the ribbon?
    It will probably work like the ribbon on 7’s Wordpad; Right-click on the bar below ribbon and check or uncheck option to Minimize the Ribbon.

    As far as everyone getting upset about eliminating the Caps Lock key.
    Mine is REALLY a lot more useful since I made it an Enter key. If I do need ALL CAPS I just use Ctrl+Shift+A to toggle back & forth.

    Why is everyone so happy about that Level Up arrow?
    I haven’t used that since learning in Vista all you need to do is click a folder in the address bar and it will open it. If you have 50 folders open and click folder 3, it will open folder 3. Without 47 clicks on that arrow or backspace button.

    I do agree explorer needs tabs.

  86. mozillaatbest

    Got the e-mail from the HTG and thought I’d come by to see what the next Windows OS’s file manager would like and have to offer. Have to give it to the boys at Microsoft for another useless contribution that their users would have no use for. Makes the decision I made some time ago to leave Microsoft look good because in their eyes I had not paid enough money to have a desktop environment to my liking, its been the best decision I’ve ever made that continually pays off with no headaches and yes even to contradict Rattlehead I don’t worry about viruses or anything like that because theres a huge community that uses, supports, and backs it products making it as close to bulletproof as an OS can be. As far as productivity is concerned take at look at what the command line of Linux brings to the table. Bottom line, I too feel sorry for the users of Microsoft, you pay all this money and yet you can get what you want or really need from the manufacturer simply because they don’t care. If you doubt it look back over their history and honestly evaluate what you spent your money on.

  87. cqaigy

    OMG they finally put the ribbon to good use. I love it.!!

  88. jon_hill987

    @RandyN: I don’t think the ribbon UI is even good in office, it is far slower switching between ribbons than it ever was using the file/edit/view menus.

  89. Adam Leite

    Everyone hates ribbon. Why do they insist on it?
    Already, there are paid programs that make Office operate like it always has so we don’t have to be browsing through the buttons of the ribbon like chickens without heads.

  90. plebism

    Just looks waaaay to complex :(

  91. GA_Wolf

    CubicExplorer FTW. Why doesn’t Explorer have Tabs yet? It’s just plain silly.

    I can see how people that are uncomfortable in computers might find it good to have. At this point though, I want a question box after logging in: “Do you know what you’re doing?” If yes, auto-hide every ribbon, then never ask again.

    I use Windows at work, since I don’t have a choice, but given how slow the office tends to be in upgrading computers, it may be Windows 9 before I see an update. :)

  92. dlgn

    Makes me think of Ubuntu and Unity…except Unity isn’t ugly. And you can still use Gnome. Please, Microsoft, stop trying to use every idea you have for Windows 8 just because you haven’t got any good ones!

  93. Kooberfacer

    LOL!The ribbon has been a cool feature of Office for years, and is quite effective.Have any of you used Blender?Good luck with trying to figure those interfaces out.The bottom line is this- users dont want to be a computer programmer to use an operating system.They just want it to work for what they need it to do.Since any improvements come from windoze users its kind of pointless to listen to a ubuntu or linux user.

    I use both OS’s but i prefer Windoze.Why?Because most people still use it so i have to know it inside out.Linux/ubuntu ?Not so much.

  94. Brian

    NO Dual panes. Not much of an improvement?

  95. Pode

    I find this expansion of the use of the ribbon completely liberating. The loss of the functionality I use and the loss of screen real estate will make switching away from MS very easy. Office is just one app suite but now the pain would be front me at every turn. Thank you for making this easy. Buh bye.

  96. sploosh

    GJ Microsoft. You actually made explorer sleek and functional in Windows 7, and then destroyed any improvement you made with this ribbon in explorer crap.
    I actually like the ribbon in applications like Office and AutoCAD, but this looks like a cluttered mess.
    This design helps neither PC or tablet users and only serves to confuse them.
    The only people who like this are fanboy idiots like Pottsy and Shaun.

  97. iphoness

    Thanks for the Tip, I didn’t tested Windows 8 yet. need to check it.

  98. masternerdguy

    What’s with all the crappy interface designs lately?

    We had Gnome 3 which made me switch to KDE4 because the workflow in Gnome was so messed up.

    We also had Unity, which is quite useless in a desktop environment.

    Now M$ is jumping on the failwaggon by plastering ribbons on everything and trying to switch over to that Metro thing.

    Menu items should be delivered in a concise, efficient, manner UPON REQUEST, not constantly displayed so that there is always a copy button available.

    Fortunately, there are nerds hard at work on windows shell replacements. Maybe this will expedite their development.

  99. Pirahnya

    OMG! It looks like that sucky MS Office! WTF are these guys thinking? Don’t they have to take piss tests or something? Or are mind-numbing/altering substances freely available in the cafeteria? I’ve seen for years that “your input is valuable to us.” Is the result of not giving them input?

    One thing that gets me, and some people may know what I’m talking about… but ages of Windows Explorers ago, you could click, pause and click again in the RIGHT pane where the directories are and rename a directory. I used it with XP (there was a trick to get it to work and I cannot find it anymore) and I’m kinda sad I upgraded to Windows 7. I really liked that feature. Now everybody’s answer is click it, hit F2 and rename it. Say La Vee!

    Anyway, how could this be a design improvement? Streamlined it’s not. And this Libraries thing jest seems so Macintoshy. Hell, why doesn’t Mac and Mic just merge and get it over with!

    Just my opinion and I’m welcome to it.

  100. A-man

    Personally, I think this is stupid. The windows 7 explorer is nice and simple, and works perfectly. There really is no reason to clutter the top half of the window with buttons that are not that useful. OKay, I can see how the ribbon UI might be helpful to the less computer savy, but still. To much.

  101. Djochiem

    win 8 for 80 year olds…. Cant they make a Win 8 Teen , Win 8 Experienced & a Win 8 Senior (windows nt with a win8 desktop) ???

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