Add tabs to Windows Explorer

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 13, 2012
Updated • Aug 13, 2012
Software, Windows, Windows software

Tabs have been an integral part of web browsers for a long time. Before that, users had to open a new browser window when they wanted to open multiple sites at once on their system. When you look at Windows Explorer, Widnows' default file management tool, you come to wonder why Microsoft never bothered to improve the file manager with features that third party applications like Total Commander, QTabBar or Q-Dir offer. Probably the two biggest features missing are an interface supporting tabs and an option to display multiple folder contents next to each other in one window.

Tab Explorer is a free program for Windows that adds tabs to Windows Explorer. It does so in an unobtrusive way by merging all open Explorer windows into a single window of the file browser. Each open window is represented by a tab that the software attaches to the top of the single Explorer window.

The tab bar lists all open folders by their name on top of the program window. The position makes sure that it does not interfere with any existing toolbars or processes which is different from the way programs like QTabBar handle it (the latter adds a tab toolbar to Windows Explorer that sits between the top and bottom toolbars.

You can easily switch between tabs with a single click, and the transition is more or less instant. The arrow at the top left corner of the toolbar displays a list of all tabs which can be handy if you have lots of Explorer folders open on the system. The program reduces the width and font size of each tab automatically to avoid horizontal scrolling. You will eventually notice that folder names get cut off, and that's where the down arrow comes in handy. Eventually though you will see scroll options. A button on the right of the tabbar creates a new tab when clicked on.

tab explorer

The program hides the tabs when you move the Explorer window on the system, and displays them again once you stop moving the window around.

You may ask yourself what is happening when you maximize the window? The tabs are displayed in the title bar then so that they stay accessible but do not reduce the contents that are displayed in the window.

If there is one thing that I think is missing, it is an option to copy or move files by drag and drop on tabs. There is also no option in the window controls to close all open windows at once.

The program is not a Windows Explorer add-on, which means that it needs to be started before the tabs are shown in Windows Explorer. The options let you add the program to the system startup. (via Dottech)


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  1. Newton said on August 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    XYplorer has tabs AND dual pane for years. Ripe technology. Compare:

  2. edeemc said on August 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm
    1. Teiji said on August 17, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      Does it support drag & drop copy?

  3. Omar said on August 15, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    first i tried “Tab Explorer” then i tried “Clover 2.0” and its much better!
    @ ilev, thanks for the link

  4. ilev said on August 14, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Clover 2.0 :

    Clover is an extension of the Windows Explorer Explorer, to add multi-tab functionality similar to Google Chrome browser.

  5. Victor said on August 14, 2012 at 8:08 am

    They need to build this into Windows.

    Best file manager out there IMO.

  6. jmjsquared said on August 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Nice find but I’ll stick with a recommendation you made a couple years back, namely QTTabBar. Version 1.5 Beta 2 offers the ability to put both its “QTTabBar” and “QTTab Standard Buttons” toolbars in-line with Windows Menu Bar. So now, like today’s find, no extra real estate is used.

    I have not installed Tab Explorer. Do you have a preference?

  7. pgg said on August 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Yeah, I’m wondering why this isn’t part of Windows yet. Any ideas?

    1. ilev said on August 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      There is nothing to expect from 3rd grade OS and applications with less than mediocre
      programmers, project managers and management. The worse ever anti-virus, snail speed file copy, laughable defrage, crap backup and restore, horrible file management….. all are done much better with free / open source / linux….. applications.

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