As was revealed a handful of weeks ago, Microsoft is currently hard at work on a significant update to the File Explorer on Windows 11 that will update several core areas of the app with modern designs and new features that will better integrate the experience with OneDrive and Microsoft 365.
Microsoft is yet to announce this new File Explorer, but we already know that the updated app will feature a redesigned header with a modern file directory box, modern search box, and a new “home” button. The existing header buttons such as “new,” “copy,” and “paste,” will be moved into the file/folder view just below the header.
The home page itself is being updated with more integration with Microsoft 365. Along the top will be a feed of “recommended” files, which will be presented with larger thumbnails that will make it easier to see what files are being suggested to you.
Even the left-side navigation is being updated with more modern code, rounded highlight buttons, and more. The details pane is also getting a big update to bring it in line with the rest of File Explorer, including integration with Microsoft 365, and a more rich experience for seeing file details.
The deeper integration with Microsoft 365 means users will be able to see email threads and recent comments about files shared via the cloud across multiple colleagues or attached via email. This info will be visible at a glance on files that are being shared, or via the details pane.
Many of the updates to these areas of File Explorer will also aid in making it more friendly for touch users, I’m told.
Additionally, Microsoft is working on a more rich photo viewing experience for the File Explorer via a new “Gallery” area. Users should be able to mouse over to view larger previews of photos. I’ve also heard that Microsoft is toying with bringing “tagging” to the File Explorer, which would allow users to organize and categories specific files using keywords and colors, similar to what macOS offers in its Finder app.
If Microsoft is able to deliver its plans, these changes will result in the biggest update to the File Explorer since Windows 8, which shipped over 10 years ago. Microsoft’s goal is to have the new File Explorer remain familiar to users, while still updating all its surfaces with a fresh, consistent design and modern code.
I’m told Microsoft is aiming to get most of this rejuvenated File Explorer experience out to users before the end of 2023, meaning it will likely show up in an upcoming Moment update over the summer, or as part of the 23H2 release this fall.