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