File Explorer in Windows 8.1

Before you start

Objectives: Learn about new features in File Explorer in Windows 8.1

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: file explorer, ribbon, tools, sections, file list

File Explorer Sections

We use File Explorer to work with files on folders on our local computer and network locations. In Windows 8.1 the Windows Explorer is now called the File Explorer. To open File Explorer from the Start Screen, we can simply click on the Desktop tile. From the desktop we can click on the File Explorer icon (folder icon) in the Taskbar.


File Explorer Icon (folder icon)

We can also find File Explorer in the list of all apps, or we can simply search for it by entering “file explorer” in the search box on the Start screen.

File Explorer contains different sections. The first section that we should mention is the Left pane (navigation pane). In the Left pane we can quickly navigate to different locations (folders) on our PC, OneDrive, devices connected to our PC, and other locations on our network.

 9 Left Pane

Left Pane

The Back, Forward and Up buttons help us to navigate in Windows. The Back button will take us to the last location we were viewing. The Forward button will return us to the next location. The Up button will take us to the location where the folder we are viewing is saved.

 10 Navigation Buttons

Navigation Buttons

Address bar is used to enter or select a location. We can click any part of the path to go to that level.

 11 Address Bar

Address Bar

Notice that the file and folder list can contains column headings. In Details view we can use the column heading to change how files are organized or sorted. For example, if we click on the Name column, files will be sorted by name.

 12 Columns

File List Columns

We can search for files and folders in current folder by using Search box. The search begins as soon as we start typing. Not only it will try to find the file names, but will also search the contents of the files.

 13 Seach Box

Search Box

We can also turn on the Details pane. To do that we can go to the View tab, and then click on the Details pane. Details pane will show us the common properties of the selected file.

 14 Details Pane Info

Details Pane Example

On the bottom of the File Explorer we can quickly see the total number of items in the location, the total size of selected items, etc.

Ribbons in File Explorer

The biggest difference compared to previous versions of Windows versions is the new Ribbon interface in File Explorer in Windows 8.1. When we open File Explorer, it will take us to the Desktop and show us the “This PC” (the My Computer location is now called “This PC”). Folders that used to appear under “Libraries”, are now located under “This PC” (Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos folders).

 2 This PC

This PC

As you can see the Ribbon now contains many useful tools that we can utilize. Depending on the location or file selection, we will see different tools. On the picture below we have browsed to the Desktop folder and selected some file.

 Home Ribbon

Home Ribbon

 In the upper left corner we will see the Properties and New Folder buttons. Notice that you can customize this list (add or remove tools). This toolbar is called the Quick Access Toolbar.

 Quick Access Toolbar

Quick Access Toolbar

The different available tabs are Home, Share, and View. We should also check the File menu. The File menu contains File commands.

FIle Menu

File Menu

From the File menu we can open new File Explorer, open Command Prompt, open PowerShell, delete history, and close the File Explorer.

The Home tab contains many usual tools that we are accustomed to. This includes the Copy, Copy Path, Cut, Paste and Paste Shortcut tools. Going further, we also have options to move files delete them, rename them, select them, etc. Many of these options are not available until we select some file or folder.

If we go to the Share tab, we will see new options.

 6 Share Ribbon

Share Ribbon

On the Share tab, we can quickly Zip selected files or folders, burn them to disk, print or fax them, or quickly configure sharing with Homegroup or with specific people. We can also stop sharing our files here. We also have a shortcut for advanced security options as well.

On the View tab we can configure how we want our files and folders to appear in File Explorer.

 View Ribbon

View Ribbon

We can select the location of the navigation pane, choose the layout of our file icons and their size, choose sorting and grouping options, choose to show or hide certain files or folders.

For some specific file types, we will also see additional ribbons. For example, if we select a picture, we will see the Manage tab with Picture Tools.

 Picture Tools

Picture Tools

In this example with the picture selected, we will see options related for some common picture tasks. If we select a mp3 file, we will see Music Tools. If we select a video file, we will get Video Tools ribbon. As we can see, File Explorer is now much more content sensitive.