Windows Explorer changes in the pipeline for Windows 8 beta

If one were to pick the top two aspects of Windows 8's user interface that have garnered the most discussion - or heated debate - the new Metro Start screen, plus the new Metro apps, would come up on top. What's number two? The new Ribbon-based Windows Explorer.

Let's backtrack to the summer, when Microsoft dropped a few tasty bits: an improved copy and paste UI that includes a copy speed graph, the ability to pause and resume transfers, and smarter file conflict resolution. The next reveal was a bit of a spicy bombshell, but not really a surprise given a leak back in April - Windows Explorer will get a makeover through the Ribbon, known as "Scenic" for Windows 7.

In responding to a mountain of feedback regarding the Explorer and a few selected wishlist items from the community, Microsoft makes it clear via today's Building Windows 8 blog post that the Ribbon in the Explorer is here to stay, despite the acknowledgement of criticism aimed at their decision:

... There is a set of people who have an entirely negative reaction to the affordance and have been telling us about it in no uncertain terms. Our view is that we do need to move the user interface forward and accept that a vocal set of customers are just not happy with the direction we're going.

With that out of the way, here are some nice little changes to look forward to when the beta arrives:

Option to ignore identical files when resolving conflicts: A checkbox will be provided at the bottom of the conflict resolution dialog, so that users don't have to bother with files that have the same file size, timestamp, and name.

Seamlessly speed up network file transfers with wire: Finding a file is taking too long over a wireless connection, but don't want to cancel what you already copied? Just connect an Ethernet cable to your computer, and assuming both computers are on the same network and running Windows 8, they'll seamlessly take advantage of the speed boost.

Explorer now respects the JPEG EXIF rotation tag: It's about time. You'll no longer have to manually rotate an image in Explorer, even though it has an EXIF rotation tag stored inside its metadata. In other words: lossless JPEG rotation is here.

Compare this in Windows 7:

... with the same photos, but a different result in Windows 8:

Ribbon is minimized by default: According to Microsoft, tests done on users showed that minimizing the Ribbon by default had little impact on casual and power users alike - casual users were able to carry out tasks just fine with a collapsed and minimal Ribbon, while power users could easily expand the Ribbon. In addition, both users alike can quickly learn common Explorer keyboard shortcuts by reading the tooltips on Ribbon buttons:

Syncing Explorer settings with Skydrive: Probably one of the few things on the classic desktop to be synced with the rest of the Metro stuff, but a nice change nevertheless: Skydrive will offer an option to sync Explorer customizations, in addition to mouse settings.

Pinning favourite folders and apps to the Start screen: Keep shortcuts to important documents and applications by simply clicking "Pin to Start" under  Explorer's "Easy access" menu.

Image Credit: Building Windows 8
 

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Windows Phone Marketplace adds ESRB ratings

Next Story

Samsung announces the Galaxy S Advance

79 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

They have removed the folder conflict for some stupid reason which means subfolders in a main folder you copy are silently merged. You only get prompted for the actual files. If a file doesn't exist in the destination folder but exists in the source folder, they will be silently merged It also means you cannot skip entire subfolders of files but merge files outside of subfolders.

Tuishimi said,
You know this from hands on experience?

Yes you can try this in the Developer Preview and also they mentioned this in one tiny line in their original Explorer posts.

I may not want to merge subfolders at all or only merge select subfolders during file copying when conflicts occur. In this example, the text files I was copying look to be located in the root of the drive but were actually located in two folders on the drive: http://i.imgur.com/P8o6e.png (image on the right is how I suggested them it should be if they don't want to introduce an additional prompt). It doesn't prompt about the folders themselves, only the files. Silently merging subfolders isn't right and will cause potential mix-up of data. I reported it as soon as the Developer Preview came out but apparently it isn't fixed.

Funny thing being said about the collapsed ribbon, and that "power users" can expand it. Aren't power users those who need it the least? Or are system administrators truly clicking on "Move" and "New folder" buttons?? "Properties" instead of the context menu?

I seriously hope that's not the final look of the ribbon UI. It just looks completely out of place. Definitely doesn't look like something I'd pay money for. I love the ribbon, but come on MS do better!


That's just a preview. The final thing would be much more elegant and usable.

Just like W7 beta. They didn't revealed much of the interface changes till the RTM.

FMH said,

That's just a preview. The final thing would be much more elegant and usable.

Just like W7 beta. They didn't revealed much of the interface changes till the RTM.


Really hard to make claims like that when we have no idea.

Ayepecks said,

Really hard to make claims like that when we have no idea.

Not really trying to make 'claims'. But that seemed pretty obvious to me, considering the current level of the interface. It seems very unpolished and incomplete.

FMH said,

That's just a preview. The final thing would be much more elegant and usable.

Just like W7 beta. They didn't revealed much of the interface changes till the RTM.

Most of the UI that you see in 7 today was in the Beta. It was MUCH more refined during that time, but I'll hold off judgement till the Windows 8 CP gets here.

FMH said,

Not really trying to make 'claims'. But that seemed pretty obvious to me, considering the current level of the interface. It seems very unpolished and incomplete.


I agree that it seems very unpolished and incomplete. But as stated above, the interface in previous beta/pre-release versions of Windows were pretty indicative of the final release look.

Wow, the Explorer and other non-Metro icons on the Start screen just look out of place to me, with the small icon and large text. This was the only thing I really found disconcerting about the DP build, was that start screen. But I can imagine that for desktops and laptops without touch, Microsoft will have some way of allowing users to switch to the more Windows 7-like desktop environment. Right?

devHead said,
Microsoft will have some way of allowing users to switch to the more Windows 7-like desktop environment. Right?

yes it's the "Desktop Tile".

As far as Desktop icons go, expect a new class of icon by the time Win8 RTMs. The new Icon will be used for expression in a Tile. This will of course be optional, with Metro using the classic icon on tile where the new style doesn't exist.

Then things won't look as out of place. This is the sort of last-minute art that we won't see until the build goes gold.

"while power users could easily expand the Ribbon."

Power users don't need huge buttons to faceroll on, they use short cuts and key combinations to perform activities quickly. Huge ribbon buttons are for Mac users that need visual clues on how to move a file, make a folder, find a power button, or to make sure the computer is plugged in.

Foolish stereotyping aside, consider this example. How do you invert selection of files on Windows Vista and 7? Hint: it's buried in the classic menus.

You could memorize the key combo but it's clumsy: ALT, E, I. And the toolbar jumps to temporarily show the old menu bar.

Or you can hit a button on the Ribbon.

Making things easier isn't always about catering to the lowest denominator.

Denis W said,
Foolish stereotyping aside, consider this example. How do you invert selection of files on Windows Vista and 7? Hint: it's buried in the classic menus.

You could memorize the key combo but it's clumsy: ALT, E, I. And the toolbar jumps to temporarily show the old menu bar.

Or you can hit a button on the Ribbon.

Making things easier isn't always about catering to the lowest denominator.

Absolutely. I don't see why there is so much hate for the ribbon. It's not in the way. It's collapsed by default...

Denis W said,
You could memorize the key combo but it's clumsy: ALT, E, I. And the toolbar jumps to temporarily show the old menu bar.

Or you can hit a button on the Ribbon.

Making things easier isn't always about catering to the lowest denominator.

I have memorized it.

Anyone who hasn't used the ribbon in other applications should know when you press ALT you get shortcuts for everything on the active tab on the ribbon as well as shortcuts to other tabs on the ribbon.

Invert selection is now a two key rather than three key operation!!!!
This makes this keyboard cowboy happy!

I love the look of Metro, but my goodness is the ribbon UI incredibly ugly. They have got to find a way to refine it. Seriously.

Ayepecks said,
I love the look of Metro, but my goodness is the ribbon UI incredibly ugly. They have got to find a way to refine it. Seriously.

I don't agree that the ribbon is ugly in its own right, but it is totally incompatible with Metro IMHO. So in this case... I agree it is ugly.

Fourjays said,

I don't agree that the ribbon is ugly in its own right, but it is totally incompatible with Metro IMHO. So in this case... I agree it is ugly.

I'm not saying the ribbon concept is ugly, I'm saying how it currently looks is ugly. Office has a better-looking ribbon than this.

While I do like where they are going with windows explorer I still can't help but feel that the explorer in XP was the best explorer of them all, tho not as stylish as 8.

All I really want are tabs!!! Why can't they just make a tabbed explorer! H3ll if they can bloat it up with a full ribbon compensate us with tabs for the lost screen reel-estate.

mesonto said,
All I really want are tabs!!! Why can't they just make a tabbed explorer! H3ll if they can bloat it up with a full ribbon compensate us with tabs for the lost screen reel-estate.

No thanks. I don't want to have to bounce between tabs... Especially when the new Taskbar (As of Windows 7) completely eliminates any inconvenience to having a ton of windows open... Tabs would be a usability nightmare.

"According to Microsoft, tests done on users showed..." and "Our view is that we do need to move the user interface forward and accept..." riiiight. Nice way of covering a screwup while appeasing both crowds at the same time.

Getting better MSFT, now stop being so pigheaded over Metro and do the same thing you did with the Ribbon, cut it back heavily (minimised) for the desktop but allow it to be "restored".

There is absolutely no rational justification for why you need to horrendously jarr workflow by going fullscreen when the user just wants to do a brief search.

Roxkis said,
AND STILL NO TABS!!!! WTF!?

Why would you need tabs when Windows 7 already has docking windows? Tabs are inconvenient for file manager such as Explorer.

RealFduch said,

Why would you need tabs when Windows 7 already has docking windows? Tabs are inconvenient for file manager such as Explorer.

Agreed. Not sure what you would want tabs on here... :?

I at all "do not know" why anyone cannot like the Ribbon if it is hidden and out of view. If you can't see it, how are you able to dislike it. If you don't have any intentions of using it, then don't expand it.

&

The one point I like about the "Explorer.exe" is the fact that when memory is straining to transfer something and then explorer will be grayed out or show that its non-responsive; it doesn't happen with Windows 8 as it would with the previous Windows Operating Systems. I've compared Windows 8 and Windows 7 with a transfer stress test using a fresh installment of them both and same hardware specs; which I might add were the top of the line and found out that when Windows 7 was reaching a peak in transferring a Windows 7 installation setup folder from the Desktop to a Common USB 2.0 Flash Drive to be used as boot-able Flash Drive, there was a period when the .wim file would take long and the Windows Explorer would be non responsive and you couldn't click into the transferring folders to see what is inside.

Windows 8 on the other hand handled the transfer like a Champ and I've click in and out of each folder without it acting slow.

So if the interface is a definite turn off which a handful or more would insist on, then take into consideration that Microsoft have made this soon to be final OS slice through frozen ice cream as if it were butter in relations to performance.

Flippinwindows said,
I at all "do not know" why anyone cannot like the Ribbon if it is hidden and out of view. If you can't see it, how are you able to dislike it. If you don't have any intentions of using it, then don't expand it.

Because there are people which think that it will remove every productivity shortcut you had up there. Having icons pinned it's uncomfortable to the user to click that little space (If you have the ribbon minimized and are using the pinned icons on top).

On the other hand, in my opinion, they should add labels to those icons on top. Because then, you can somewhat bring back the old UI by placing those icons below the ribbon.

P.S: I'm still neutral about the Ribbon add.

Hm, even XP seemed to use the Exif rotate flag from my camera, wonder why it didn't do for others? I also have a Canon camera, like in the screenshot.

I think most people struggle with the Ribbon because they don't try long enough to use it. It takes awhile to learn all the options available in it. I still struggled with it, but I have to use Office 2003 at work, so go back and forth sometimes.
I think it is more helpful for the newer users out there than the more experience computer users.

I hate the way explorer looks now, it is very cluttered.

Could it be that the ribbon is needed when using Windows on a tablet?

Files should have a secure hash key in the file system. Even if the date or file name is different, duplicate stripping should be automatic in a file copy.

Dead_Monkey said,
Files should have a secure hash key in the file system. Even if the date or file name is different, duplicate stripping should be automatic in a file copy.

Do you want to recalculate that cache after every file modification?
Dorry, but no.

I just hope they do something about the ancient style icons on the Metro tiles. Looks out of place to have both.

Enron said,
I just hope they do something about the ancient style icons on the Metro tiles. Looks out of place to have both.

yeah, but I doubt it, especially at this stage of development

For everyone complaining about the ribbon.

There are a lot of reasons for inconsistent ribbon implementations, most of it is petty in-fighting between different product groups within Microsoft.

The information is out there.

Not being apologetic, just trying to inform.

I like the status bar... and hate the Office 2010 ribbon. I'd much prefer everything stick to the office 2007 style.

But on the other side, this ribbon crap is getting carried away. We didn't need it in Windows 7, and now we have it in Windows 8? Is Microsoft just trying to push people onto larger monitors for no reason other than to drive the economy?

Kelxin said,
Is Microsoft just trying to push people onto larger monitors for no reason other than to drive the economy?

It sure feels that way.

Coi said,
Why are they pushing people onto larger monitors according to you?

Previously there were displayed 5 options in a quick SMALL drop down menu, with everything easily accessible by tapping the alt key. Now in that screen shot there are HUGE gaudy images for moving files, new folders etc. All extremely unnecessary and unproductive for the amount of screen space it consumes.

Kelxin said,
Is Microsoft just trying to push people onto larger monitors for no reason other than to drive the economy?

It's probably more the fact that most people have larger resolutions now, rather than the other way around.

I also love how the "status bar" was dead in vista... and MS wanted to completely kill the status bar, they just do it in IE now, in Win 8 the status bar is back as a standard UI element

Win7 certainly has a 'status bar', the blue bar across the bottom, containing the same kind of info ... it's just presented and styled a bit differently.

I still don't get why they are using the Office 2007 style ribbon mixed with 2010 style.... why can't we just go full out 2010 style and have it incorporated into the glass the same way

neufuse said,
I still don't get why they are using the Office 2007 style ribbon mixed with 2010 style.... why can't we just go full out 2010 style and have it incorporated into the glass the same way

This isn't the Office 2007 ribbon - that was far rounder for starters. This in the "Windows" style ribbon, as used in Paint & WordPad in Windows 7.

neufuse said,
I still don't get why they are using the Office 2007 style ribbon mixed with 2010 style.... why can't we just go full out 2010 style and have it incorporated into the glass the same way

This is the Scenic-Ribbon, that's part of Windows. The main problem in terms of inconsistencies is that Office is using it's own windowing toolkit for ages and it doesn't fit Windows exactly.

One should mention that the Office team has at some times introduced new UI elements that were later adopted in Windows…

~Johnny said,

This isn't the Office 2007 ribbon - that was far rounder for starters. This in the "Windows" style ribbon, as used in Paint & WordPad in Windows 7.

Either way it looks worse than the Office '10 ribbon. They should change the default windows ribbon to look more like the Office '10 ribbon (tab's in the glass window border, background using a flatter muted gradient).

If there's one thing I'm torn on Windows 8, it's the Ribbon UI in Explorer. I wanna like it, but the way it is now, feels, and looks cluttered. I wish Microsoft could find a way to streamline it a bit more.

Dot Matrix said,
If there's one thing I'm torn on Windows 8, it's the Ribbon UI in Explorer. I wanna like it, but the way it is now, feels, and looks cluttered. I wish Microsoft could find a way to streamline it a bit more.

Hey, article says minimized by default. All your old shortcuts work. now with more real estate.

dotf said,

Hey, article says minimized by default. All your old shortcuts work. now with more real estate.

I was thinking in terms of ergonomics. I'd love to have something nicer, more attractive to look at.

I'm fine with the ribbon being in the explorer, even though I'm probably not going to use it that much if/when I upgrade to windows 8. I just hope they make it look more seamless, because right now the explorer (windows 8) looks like some kind of legacy application. If they made the ribbon look the way it does in office 2010, then it would look great. Also, I don't understand why MS decided to move back to the status bar as a means of providing general file information. It seems like it'll provide much less info than the details pane in windows 7's explorer.

Dot Matrix said,
If there's one thing I'm torn on Windows 8, it's the Ribbon UI in Explorer. I wanna like it, but the way it is now, feels, and looks cluttered. I wish Microsoft could find a way to streamline it a bit more.

I'm running the WDP now and actually quite like the Ribbon in terms of a usability standpoint, but I can see where your coming from on it not looking good. Then again, it doesn't look horrible to me

I agree.

I think the reason it feels cluttered is because the elements don't adhere to a strict grid layout. Also, I think the icons are too busy and make it feel like there's too much going on.

I think if the incorporated more metro by using simpler icons and a more rigid grid it would look and feel better.

Dot Matrix said,
If there's one thing I'm torn on Windows 8, it's the Ribbon UI in Explorer. I wanna like it, but the way it is now, feels, and looks cluttered. I wish Microsoft could find a way to streamline it a bit more.

They're probably keeping a restyled Ribbon for the beta. Then it'll look okay.

geoken said,
I agree.

I think the reason it feels cluttered is because the elements don't adhere to a strict grid layout. Also, I think the icons are too busy and make it feel like there's too much going on.

I think if the incorporated more metro by using simpler icons and a more rigid grid it would look and feel better.

If you knew how many MILLIONs of spent and how many THOUSANDS of hours of testing that when into the design model of the Ribbon, going back to its origins in the 1990s, you might come to a different conclusion that YOU understand layout and design and usability better than Microsoft.

The Ribbon is 'old school' in adhering to very very old tradition publishing rules and readability designs that literally go back to the late 1800s.

There is a reason why it is like it is, and it is 'easier' and provides dynamic interaction, and is less cluttered and easier for users than a series of MENUS and DIALOG boxes which it replaces. (Taking the user out of the App/Document to display a dialog is confusing, and a waste of time for example.) Also Menus are a pre-Graphical UI design model to provide a vast list of functions as character based word lists. Menus should have died in the late 1970s, and instead of finding a 'graphical' model to replace them, Apple made them more popular than ever for 'graphical' interfaces, and it is time they finally die, 30 years late. (looking through or memorizing a list of words for functions and command scores horribly on usability. Menus is why the majority of Word and Excel users didn't use 90% of the product, as they were buried in Menus and Dialogs, and after moving the SAME users to the Ribbon UI, the same users were able to find the features and started using over 60% of the product features. (Office 2007 was predicted to be hated and fail, and over 98% of users ended up liking it better, and it was both the 'high end productive' users and the novice users that found new cool things that had been in Word for 20 years and they never realize they could do these things until the Ribbon presented them.

The same with Explorer... Power Users will be able to do more faster, and Novice users will realize they can change the Icon sizes and turn on previews, and rotate images from Explorer, etc...

And with it minimized, and showing, as the user clicks the tab, and disappearing automatically, it doesn't consume anything on the screen for all this functionality.

thenetavenger said,

If you knew how many MILLIONs of spent and how many THOUSANDS of hours of testing that when into the design model of the Ribbon, going back to its origins in the 1990s, you might come to a different conclusion that YOU understand layout and design and usability better than Microsoft.

The Ribbon is 'old school' in adhering to very very old tradition publishing rules and readability designs that literally go back to the late 1800s.

There is a reason why it is like it is, and it is 'easier' and provides dynamic interaction, and is less cluttered and easier for users than a series of MENUS and DIALOG boxes which it replaces. (Taking the user out of the App/Document to display a dialog is confusing, and a waste of time for example.) Also Menus are a pre-Graphical UI design model to provide a vast list of functions as character based word lists. Menus should have died in the late 1970s, and instead of finding a 'graphical' model to replace them, Apple made them more popular than ever for 'graphical' interfaces, and it is time they finally die, 30 years late. (looking through or memorizing a list of words for functions and command scores horribly on usability. Menus is why the majority of Word and Excel users didn't use 90% of the product, as they were buried in Menus and Dialogs, and after moving the SAME users to the Ribbon UI, the same users were able to find the features and started using over 60% of the product features. (Office 2007 was predicted to be hated and fail, and over 98% of users ended up liking it better, and it was both the 'high end productive' users and the novice users that found new cool things that had been in Word for 20 years and they never realize they could do these things until the Ribbon presented them.

The same with Explorer... Power Users will be able to do more faster, and Novice users will realize they can change the Icon sizes and turn on previews, and rotate images from Explorer, etc...

And with it minimized, and showing, as the user clicks the tab, and disappearing automatically, it doesn't consume anything on the screen for all this functionality.

+1

thenetavenger said,
If you knew how many MILLIONs of spent and how many THOUSANDS of hours of testing that when into the design model of the Ribbon, going back to its origins in the 1990s, you might come to a different conclusion that YOU understand layout and design and usability better than Microsoft.

Like x 1million!

I was just explaining this at coffee with a collegue this morning.

Possession said,
Also forgot about now folders can be pinned to the start screen. I'm happy about that feature.

Me too. Though honestly I hope they make the icon a bit bigger in final. People rely on icons to find their programs more than the name... I support both being there, but the icon is REALLY way too small.

M_Lyons10 said,

Me too. Though honestly I hope they make the icon a bit bigger in final. People rely on icons to find their programs more than the name... I support both being there, but the icon is REALLY way too small.

Agree, they need to match the metro tiles more. Big icon, small text.

M_Lyons10 said,

Me too. Though honestly I hope they make the icon a bit bigger in final. People rely on icons to find their programs more than the name... I support both being there, but the icon is REALLY way too small.

^^ this .... the icon should definitely be bigger; as you said users rely on seeing the icon as well as the text to quickly assess what the tile is

dotf said,
About time!

These are welcome changes.

bet that last picture is what windows phone 8 will look like a bit.. changable background, higher resolution