Windows 8 Explorer Adds Ribbon, Returns Up Button

Windows 8 Explorer Adds Ribbon, Returns Up Button

One of the most common complaints about the Explorer interface in Windows 7 was that it dumped the ‘up’ button used to move up in the directory structure. The good news is that it’s returning in Windows 8. The perhaps more controversial news is that Microsoft will achieve that by using the often controversial Ribbon interface.

The Building Windows 8 blog offers a detailed look at how Explorer will be updated in Windows 8. It’s a lengthy post but well worth the read if you’re a regular Explorer user. The key changes that will be coming include:

  • Adding the Ribbon in order to make the most common commands more easily accessible. (Remarkably, of the 10 most commonly used features in Explorer, just two are visible in the current interface.) The three tabs on the Ribbon will be Home, Share and View (all seen above).
  • Showing the Details information for folders at the right rather than the bottom. That minimises the impact on vertical space of adding the ribbon and takes advantage of widescreen laptops, which are now the most common option.)
  • As in Office, incorporating a Quick Access Toolbar so you can add commonly used commands to the interface.
  • And as we’ve already mentioned, the Up button is being returned to the interface.

Those changes won’t necessarily address all the features which Explorer replacements can handle, but as we noted in a recent post about the Windows 8 copy experience, only a small percentage of Windows users actually install that kind of software (though I suspect the number is higher amongst Lifehacker readers). Third-party software developers will continue to be able to add options to right-click menus, but won’t be able to access the Ribbon interface.

Ribbon addition aside, the most interesting thing I learnt from that post was that the most popular way of accessing features in Explorer is via a right-click menu, followed by keyboard shortcuts. On the latter point, it’s also good to have it confirmed that existing shortcuts will continue to work in Windows 8, while there will be ribbon-based shortcuts for everything else. Ribbon shortcuts are a lot less effective than single-key shortcuts, but still good to have around if, like me, you’re a keyboard junkie.

What changes would you like to see in Explorer? Tell us in the comments.

Improvements in Windows Explorer [Building Windows 8]


  • sweet mother of jesus. it reminds me of that bit in christmas vacation when clark cant get the christmas lights on the roof working. a complete mess.

  • WTF man..! I didn’t see anything on the jump page that says anything about dual pane exploring…, are they just plain stupid, dual pane is one of the most sought after updates required for a file browser! #[

  • This just looks cluttered to me.

    MS, don’t try and make Windows “easy” to use, all you’re doing is making it LOOK difficult when really people should just be learning some basic shortcuts.

  • I’m not too concerned in that explorer usually has a great deal of customization out of the box. I am sure you will be able to hide and show what you want. I can see it being somewhat useful if it is a toggle away like like the alt button in win7 explorer. I would hate to have to look at those buttons by default :\

    • All ribbons in all Microsoft applications can be hidden by right-clicking on them and clicking Minimise the Ribbon. This will only show each tab instead. I know that’s how I prefer to work with them.

  • So the majority use right click and shortcut keys, yep, lets make the bits nobody use take up more screen real estate! /sarcasm

    Seriously though, the people that the ribbon is aimed at (ie. beginners) probably never venture into explorer anyway (I’ve seen many older people try to manage their files via the apps that actually make the files – eg. Word), so this seems like a big downside for little gain.

  • I appreciate that the Ribbon makes it more obvious to novices that Explorer can do more than they thought it could.So long as they keep my keyboard shortcuts, I’ll be happy.

  • That’s a debacle. It’s bad enough trying to use that ridiculous ribbon layout in Office 2010, let alone having it permeate the entire operating system.

    When Mac OS X is surging in popularity due to its refined simplicity, Microsoft counters by making Windows look even more complex……brilliant thinking Microsoft .

  • I’d like to choose between dual-panes and a tabbed interface.

    Sometimes I don’t want to have multiple instances of Explorer open, other times I do.

    Also, I’d like an easy way of hiding the Favorites & Libraries tree lists on the left pane, since I don’t use them.

    • this is exactly what i thought when i started reading.

      that and why take up valuable real estate for menus that dont get used that often, and they even stated most use keyboard shortcuts or right clicking.

    • Yeah, but then you have to keep moving your mouse to the left. To me, that’s extremely annoying.

      Chances are you’ll be able to hide the button if you don’t want. But as it is in Win7, if you do want the button, there isn’t a way to get it back.

  • Looks rather busy to be honest.. They should make Ribbon an optional UI addition… Except for the lack of an “up” button (which isn’t even really an issue), Win7 has it right imo.

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