For a long time now, Windows Explorer (the process on Windows that controls everything from the desktop to folder browsing) has had a poor reputation for being a clunky, slow, and arguably useless file navigator. More recent versions of Windows (namely 7) have improved upon it, but there are still a few options and features that are missing.
Thanks to hobby programmers, there are a few options and tools that you can use to tweak or replace your Windows Explorer whether you want to add certain functionality or just streamline its speed.
Disable Thumbnail Preview
When the Thumbnail Preview feature is enabled, the folder and file icons in Windows Explorer will be thumbnails of what they represent. If it’s a video file, the thumbnail will be a frame from the video. If it’s a picture, it’ll be an actual thumbnail. If it’s a folder, the icon will change based on the folder’s contents.
Generating these previews takes processing cycles, which means it can slow down your Windows Explorer. Disabling this feature will not harm your system in any way.
- Double click on “Computer” on the desktop.
- Click “Organize” from the menu bar.
- Click “Folder and Search Options” from the dropdown menu.
- Click on the “View” tab.
- Enable the “Always show icons, never thumbnails” checkbox.
Add / Remove Columns
In a typical Windows Explorer window using the Details view mode, you’ll see the usual column types: Filename, File Type, Date Modified, etc. However, did you know that you can customize those columns? You can add different columns that aren’t there by default and you can take away the columns you don’t need.
First, if you aren’t already, you’ll need to switch to Details mode:
- Click “View” from the menu bar.
- Click “Details” to switch to Details view mode.
Now you can add new columns:
- Click “View” from the menu bar.
- Click “Choose Details…” at the bottom.
- Enable the checkboxes for the columns you want.
- Disable the checkboxes for the columns you don’t want.
Of course, there are a lot more things you can do to customize the columns in your Windows Explorer. Check out this article by Tina (How To Improve Windows Explorer By Adding New Columns) for more information.
If you’ve grown used to the tab interface of most modern browsers, you can add that same functionality to Windows Explorer using a free tool called Clover 2. The tabs let you view multiple folders using a single window, which can be great for freeing up clutter and improving efficiency.
If Clover 2 isn’t your cup of tea, check out this article (3 Tools To Add Tabbed Browsing To Windows Explorer) for a few alternatives that also add tab functionality to Windows Explorer.
With Windows 8 having been released just a couple of months ago, you may be wondering if you can get some of the new features on your Windows 7 installation. The answer is… Yes! BetterExplorer is a free tool that boosts the functionality of the Windows 7 navigator, adding features like:
- Ribbon interface to find and use commands without any hassle.
- Tabs to open multiple folders at once just like a web browser. Useful for when you need to switch back and forth between folders a lot.
- Enhanced search to quickly locate files and folders.
Once installed, this program replaces the traditional Windows Explorer. It’s fast and it’s functional, making its name quite fitting for what it does. If it looks good to you, you should definitely give it a try.
The Windows Explorer interface hasn’t really changed since its first introduction back in Windows 95. Sure, there’s more eye candy and some icons have moved around, but the fundamentals have stayed the same for decades. FileMind proposes a new way – a faster way – to navigate your files.
The address bar is now a “launch bar”: a place where all you have to do is start typing the name of whatever it is you want to open and it’ll take you there ASAP. There’s no need to go from folder to subfolder to subfolder anymore. Just type the name of the folder and go there instantly.
Or you can quickly search for files by using various filter tags. Need to find a particular .AVI? Maybe you misplaced your .DOCX? Or even if you don’t remember the extension, you can search for a file by its type or date.
Finding files on your computer has never been easier. It takes a bit of time to get used to using it, of course, but that’s to be expected with anything that’s revolutionary. If you can input the time to learn how to use FileMind, you won’t regret it.
These are by no means the only ways you can tweak and improve your Windows Explorer experience. If you like the traditional window, then go ahead and stick with it! If you crave more features, then try out some of the tweaks and tools listed here and let us know what you think.
If there are any other Windows Explorer tools or tweaks that you think belong on this list, share them with us in the comments!