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November 14, 2012

More Reasons to Love Windows 8: New File Explorer

By Windows 8 Metro

Shortly after Windows 8 RTM became available I made the plunge and installed it on my everyday laptop and. If you read my first impression of Win 8 Metro you know that I am a big fan.

Well it’s been two months later and I have even more reasons to love it. Since my last article I have installed Windows 8 on my desktop at home, bought a new laptop and installed it there, and created several virtual client PC’s in my current SharePoint environment. I fully immersed myself in the new OS, almost. Currently my work PC still uses Win 7 and during the course of my normal work day I find myself missing the new features of Windows 8 that I have come to love, and being very annoyed when I have to do things the “old way” in Windows 7.

So today I am going to share a few of my favorite features from the File Explorer in Windows 8, most of which do exist in earlier versions but are a little harder are to find.

The Ribbon

Windows 8 has finally adopted The Ribbon for File Explorer and it’s about time. I’ve been a fan of The Ribbon since it was introduced in Office 2007; I’ve always felt it was much easier to find commands there than searching through endless drop down menus.

Win 8 Ribbon

Move and Copy

I think my absolute favorite new feature in the File Explorer is the addition of the Move to and Copy to buttons. They are located on the Home tab, in the Organize group.

Win 8 - Move and Copy

How many times have you opened two File Explorer windows side by side to drag items from one folder to the next, and then deleted the ones in the original folder if they were no longer needed there? If I had a dollar every time I’ve had to do that I’d own Microsoft. Well now it’s a whole lot easier. Now all you need to do is select your item or items and choose either Move to or Copy to, depending on which operation you want. A list of your libraries and other places you’ve recently accessed will appear, simply choose from the list to send the item to its destination.

Win 8 - Move and Copy 2

If the place you want isn’t on the list, at the bottom you will find the option to Choose location, click there to find your computer’s directory tree and navigate to the proper place.

Win 8 - Move and Copy 3

The Home tab also has several other great options like a delete button, properties, and some favorites from Office.

File and Folder Options

The Ribbon gives easy access to many file and folder options that were previously tucked away in the folder options menu which wasn’t always easy to find, and often difficult to navigate. One of my favorite options is the Hidden items, which will reveal hidden files and folders in a slightly washed out look. You can find this option on the View tab, in the Show/Hide group.

Win 8 File and Folder Options

I also want to point out that to hide an item you simply need to select it and click the Hide selected items button also on the View tab, in the Show/Hide group.

Win 8 File and Folder Options 2

Contextual Tabs

One of the great things about The Ribbon in Office has always been that it changes based on what type of item has been selected giving us access to many different contextual tabs with specific types of tools and the new File Explorer is no different. When you select a library, such as the Documents Library, you will find a contextual tab called Library Tools which when selected will give you tools to manage your library.

Win 8 Contextual Tabs

The same is true for other libraries as well and depending on the type of library you may have additional tabs. When selecting the Music or Video libraries you will see a tab for Music or Video Tools which will have options, such as play, play all, or add to playlist.

Win 8 Contextual Tabs 2

Win 8 Contextual Tabs 3

Selecting the pictures library will also give you some simple picture tools as well.

Win 8 Contextual Tabs 4

However in my opinion, some of the most useful tools on The Ribbon become available when you select Computer in the File Explorer. Some options you’ll have available include Map a network drive, Add a network location, Open the control panel, or my favorite, Manage, which will open your computer’s Management Console.

Win 8 Contextual Tabs 5

Once you’ve selected Computer from your navigation pane, then select a drive such as your Local Disk C, you’ll have access to Drive Tools like Optimize, Cleanup and Format.

Win 8 Contextual Tabs 6

When selecting a DVD Drive you may have options to burn, erase or format a disk as well.

Now as I said most of these features have been available in previous versions of Windows in one form or another, but were not so obvious or easy to access, often being buried deep in an obscure menu. With Windows 8 all these great features plus many more are much easier to find and use, mostly with just one or two simple mouse clicks. Remember that Windows 8 has been designed for easy use with a touch screen whether it’s a touch monitor, laptop, or tablet, but reducing the number of actions also benefits mouse users as well.

Giving me quicker access to the tools I use frequently makes me a more efficient Windows user, no matter how it’s done.

The more I use Windows 8 the better I like it. Every day I find more features that just make sense and save me time and effort. So many tasks that I’ve done the same way for years now seem slow, outdated and clunky on my Win 7 PC. Windows 8 is a big change from what we’ve been used to but for me I thinks it’s a good one. Now if I can just convince my IT Manager to let me install Windows 8 on my work PC.

About the Author

(MCT, CIW, MOS Master Certified) has worked as a web and graphic designer for over 6 years and has enjoyed teaching the Adobe/Macromedia Creative Suite since 2004. Although graphics classes are his favorite, he is also an award-winning Microsoft Office Instructor in Chicago. His fun and easy going teaching style is engaging and allows for easy assimilation of new skills. When not recording the Best Computer Training on the Planet, Bill can be found at the opera or tending to his backyard pond.


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