Microsoft's implementation of Tabs in File Explorer is lacking severely

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 3, 2022
Windows 11 News

If you follow this site, you know that Microsoft plans to launch the first feature drop for Windows 11 later this month. Included in the package is the long-awaited tab support in File Explorer.

windows file explorer tabs

Designed to reduce clutter while using the default file browser of the Windows operating system, tabs in File Explorer look like a power user's dream come true on first glance.

The core feature works similarly to tabbed browsing in web browsers. There is a plus icon to create a new tab, and a close icon to terminate it. Microsoft added the same keyboard shortcuts that browsers use, meaning that you may use Ctrl-T to open a new tab and Ctrl-W to close the active tab. A right-click menu displays the same options to complement the feature set.

Internet users who use browsers that support tabs will feel right at home using the core tabbed browsing functionality.

The missing features

While you can create and close tabs in File Explorer once the feature lands, you may soon find out that the functionality is limited otherwise. The only other options right now are to drag tabs to reorder them, and to close all other tabs or tabs to the right using the context menu (no shortcuts for these, apparently).

Want to drag a tab to create a new File Explorer instance, or drag a tab from one File Explorer window to another? These features are not supported, which means that you can't perform these common operations right now. There is also no history to quickly reopen a tab that has been closed, or an option to add a tab to the Quick Access, sorry Home, menu for permanent access. Lastly, there is no option to push each tab to individual File Explorer instances and display them aligned on the screen.

Compared to free alternatives, some of which have been around for decades, Microsoft's implementation of tabs loses out. Programs like Explorer++ or XYplorer, or the "commander" applications, such as Free Commander, Altap Salamander, or Total Commander, offer richer sets of features.

Closing Words

File Explorer tabs, with all the current shortcomings, is still a work in progress. Microsoft could, in theory, launch the feature this month with the missing options to make it more useful. It seems more likely, however, that tabs will launch exactly the way they work right now in preview builds of Windows 11.

It is possible that Microsoft has plans to add missing features at a later point in time.

For now, tabs are still a nice-to-have feature to access multiple locations in a single File Explorer window.

Now You: what is your view on Microsoft's implementation of tabs in File Explorer?

Microsoft's implementation of Tabs in File Explorer is lacking severely
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Microsoft's implementation of Tabs in File Explorer is lacking severely
Find out why File Explorer's upcoming tabs feature in Windows 11 is not as useful as it could have been.
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  1. knownews said on October 28, 2022 at 6:28 am

    Complaining about “missing features” is moot, as it is what it is; a simple tool.

    All it adds is that “+” sign, and that “Open in new tab” option in the context menu. If you don’t like it, don’t use it, or remove it. Yes, it can be removed, but don’t expect ghacks to help you with that.

    Also, Martain failed to point out that you can simply drag/move files and/or folders from one tab to another, which is the most helpful feature beyond all that other stuff he thinks is “missing”.

    Also, you can change the default folder that opens with that + button.

  2. John said on October 8, 2022 at 9:46 am

    I have never used tabs in a File browser. I always drag and drop between two instances. Unless tabs offer a revolutionary new way to manage files (I doubt it), for me the best way to copy or move files around remains the Windows 7 drag and drop.

  3. Anonymous said on October 6, 2022 at 8:41 am

    Directory Opus and other file managers have had folder tabs for 15+ years with more functionality than this, and they’ve had to work within the existing API (which assumes one window per folder when testing whether to use an existing window or open a new one) which Microsoft was free to change.

    That this feature has taken so long, and been delayed so many times, and now is so bare bones, is typical Microsoft these days. The entire company has become a living joke.

  4. CrEdge said on October 5, 2022 at 10:06 pm

    Ctrl+Shift+T worked iirc.

  5. dmacleo said on October 4, 2022 at 7:35 pm

    I’ve been using QTTabbar for 2 or so years, cost me nothing. works well for me.been on Win10 and Win11

    1. soft kid said on October 5, 2022 at 4:00 am

      Yep QTTabbar for the win. Putting the tabs at the bottom is essential as this brings the taskbar closer and Shortens mouse movements. Love the double click on any tab to open a specified default location. You can even carry tabs between the altctrltab task switcher. Saved Tabgroups is also another timesaver. It has a few hiccups like the inconsistency in opening tabs in one window and merging other windows into one.

  6. Franck said on October 4, 2022 at 9:29 am

    Tablacus Explorer (open source + free) is absolutely amazing, you should check it out

    1. john said on October 4, 2022 at 10:58 am

      yeah! totally customizable: with addons it can do everything!
      and you can write your own addons in javascript, if you want even more customization.

  7. Anonymous said on October 4, 2022 at 1:58 am

    i was expecting microsoft’s file explorer tabs implementation to be half-baked uwp garbage and it looks like they’ve delivered, it’s great to be reminded that m$ has no interest in providing a functional default file manager in their os that over a billion people use and that literally any third-party alternative (dopus, xyplorer, totalcmd, etc.) is objectively superior. now if only those programs had linux support… :/

  8. John G. said on October 4, 2022 at 12:10 am

    I beg your pardon, however, what do you all would expect about Microsoft? Windows 11 is a massive disaster for productivity. Its start menu is a fiasco, the taskbar is the worst useless piece of crap ever done, and the explorer menu “more options” made the W11 the worst OS for working purposes. It’s for children only or for weird masochist experience. W11 even hasn’t an option to show always all icons at taskbar at a time. Sometimes the taskbar hanged itself, the explorer process needed to be killed and when it started working you find out that all the taskbar icons needed to be added one by one at taskbar configuration. One by one! And printing? The worst torture, I bought a second hand laptop to install Ubuntu 22 to be able to print at my college on the shared printer! Ubuntu 22 was able to detect the WiFi printer options in one second!

    The joke is that I installed Ubuntu to just be able to print and when I take care I was working with Ubuntu mostly the 90% of the time. Last weekend I went back to Windows 10 and it has been the best choice for me in one whole year of pain. No way for W11 again, I will wait to W12 at least. Thanks for the article!

  9. Anonymous said on October 3, 2022 at 11:56 pm

    The first GUI OS that had drag-n-drop for me was Amiga Workbench.
    “Oh, thats a neat gimmick”.
    Got DOPUS and never looked back.
    For DOS it was ElfTree.
    For Windows, WinCMD/TotalCMD
    Did not have GEOS for the Vic20/C=64.
    In 40+ years of computing I have used drag-n-drop/cut-paste less than a dozen times.

    The built-in file manegment of a GUI is like a plastic spork, only usefull if you have nothing else.

    “Git yur explorer off mah lawn!” /s

    1. Anonymous said on October 6, 2022 at 8:42 am

      DOpus is on Windows too. :)

  10. Sérgio said on October 3, 2022 at 10:55 pm
    1. Albert said on October 5, 2022 at 3:09 am

      That looks interesting. Fast install. Opens quickly. Tabs. Going to a folder with over 5,000 JPGs and it scrolls quickly.

      I will give it a good look. Already pinned to the Taskbar.

      Thanks for the tip.

  11. Anonymous said on October 3, 2022 at 10:40 pm

    Not needed. Not wanted. How do I turn it off!

  12. Juraj M. said on October 3, 2022 at 8:00 pm

    Q-dir is also great!

  13. Coriy said on October 3, 2022 at 7:14 pm

    Did Microsoft, at least, include the ability to drag and drop files between tabbed folders?

  14. assurbani said on October 3, 2022 at 6:59 pm

    this function which was supposed to be added 10/15 years ago, is still not seen.

  15. akg said on October 3, 2022 at 5:53 pm

    clover file explorer is working fine in windows 7. it have bookmarks, pin , tab scrolling, reopen closed tab and many other features. the best thing about clover is replacing windows explorer by itself.

  16. Henk said on October 3, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    How nice to see some fellow xplorer² users here! Been using just that for many years. And even the free version offers far, far more options and versatility than what most people may need — unlike the default File Explorer, which always falls short. Whenever I need to work with someone else’s computer that has only File Explorer, it feels so terribly clumsy, like missing arms and legs.

    And as with so many below-par default Windows components, I simply cannot imagine why anyone would keep that wretched File Explorer as their primary file manager: it’s like a black-painted pair of glasses that are just pretending they will function as sunglasses. If you just look around, you’ll find so many much better alternatives available for free!

    1. clas said on October 4, 2022 at 2:55 pm

      Exactly!! Too many really good alternatives to work with mediocrity.

  17. Tabless Being said on October 3, 2022 at 5:13 pm

    Why would I want to pin a tab to quick access????? I can pin the folder that I have opened in a tab. I think you hoped for way more than you should have, this is microsoft we are talking about.. Tabs are just a way to open a thousand folders within one file browser window so that’s what it does and nothing more. What else do you “need”, tab syncing to the cloud? Virtual tabs for placeholders? Tab grouping with autoresume on restart? Come oooooooon. Let’s be real here, tabs in file explorer are hardly an important feature to anyone other than some weirdo who for some reason needs 98 folders opened at all times. I don’t use file explorer tabs on linux and won’t on windows either.

  18. kalmly said on October 3, 2022 at 4:48 pm

    xplorer² and XYplorer all the way. No use for MS messes.

    1. Netizen99 said on October 7, 2022 at 10:39 pm

      Qttabbar deserves a mention… alongside tons of features with customizing options it offers tabs for explorer…

  19. steve99 said on October 3, 2022 at 4:14 pm

    A typical MS no effort at mediocrity, the one characteristic MS does well. For a tabbed explorer app, I’ve been using xplorer² for over a decade and couldn’t live without it (bought a perpetual license, but they have a free version). Features like saved custom sort groups and saved tab groups alone make it worth the price for anyone who has complex computer task to perform. For instance, if you maintain a programs with thousands of files, you can create a custom sort group that places the solution & project files at the very top; then sorted by, source code files, resources, etc… This way, when you have to maintain that project, which might contain 20+ top level directories spread out over 7 computers, all those dirs can be instantly opened – with the solution dir in the first tab and the solution & project files at the very top. It has allot of other features such as macros, date stamping, comments, color coding, etc… It is small, under 4mb and runs on everything from XP on up. This is the one app that keeps me from every going over the Linux fulltime because lets face it, Linux file browsers are as lame as MS’.


    1. Anonymous said on October 3, 2022 at 11:00 pm

      The reason for non-inclusion may be that zabkat is payware.

  20. Paul(us) said on October 3, 2022 at 3:46 pm

    Windows 11 was introduced on june 24 2021 and now 466 days later I still waiting for it to work, as a stable system.

    Details like the severelty of the file explorer tabs could be the cherry on the pie but the pie itself is still made out of soap.

    1. Anonymous said on October 3, 2022 at 6:14 pm

      I use Windows 11 since official rollout 364 days ago and have absolutely no stability problem. Some features I liked on Windows 10 are still missing, but the overall stability of 11 is robust as can.

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