Windows 11 gets a new tabbed interface for File Explorer

Microsoft is testing a hidden feature that enables a new tabbed interface for Windows 11’s File Explorer, which has been in high demand for years.

File Explorer is one of the most commonly used built-in Windows features, allowing you to view a device’s file system, access folders, and manage files.

However, one of the most requested Windows features on the Microsoft Feedback Hub was the addition of a tabbed interface to File Explorer.

Although Microsoft briefly tested the feature in 2017 on Windows 10 Insider builds, it was removed shortly after from development builds.

As spotted for the first time by Windows developer Rafael Rivera, Microsoft has now added it as a hidden developer feature of Windows 11, allowing all insiders to test out File Explorer’s new tabbed interface.

Hands-on with Windows 11’s new tabbed File Explorer

When the feature is enabled, you can open different folders in the same File Explorer window, each with its own tabs.

For example, you may have only one File Explorer window, but open tabs for the Libraries collection, Desktop folder, Pictures folder, Users folder, and Documents folder, as shown below.

Windows 11 File Explorer Tabbed Interface
Windows 11 File Explorer Tabbed Interface
Source: BleepingComputer

To open a folder in a new tab, you can right-click on it and click on the context menu option “Open in new tab”.

Open a folder in a file explorer tab
Open a folder in a file explorer tab
Source: BleepingComputer

For the most part, the new tabbed interface works just fine.

The interface is quick and easy to use, and when you open many tabs, you’ll see left and right overflow arrows allowing you to scroll through all open tabs.

However, Microsoft is still working on the ability to rearrange tabs in File Explorer by dragging and dropping them, as shown below.

Unable to rearrange File Explorer tabs
Unable to rearrange File Explorer tabs
Source: BleepingComputer

Although there is still work to be done, it should be noted that this is a hidden development feature and therefore is not intended for use by Windows users at this time.

Also, as Microsoft always says, not all of the building features in Windows 11 Dev will even go to a public release.

However, when it comes to a tabbed interface in File Explorer, there is enough demand from Windows users that it is very surprising that Microsoft does not add this feature in the future.

How to Enable Tabbed File Explorer in Windows 11

If you want to try out the new tabbed task manager in Windows 11, you can join the Windows Insider programs and install the current version of Windows 11 (build 22572) or later.

To get this build, you will need to join the “Dev” channel of the Windows Insider program.

Once the latest insider build of Windows 11 is installed, please follow these steps to enable the new Task Manager:

  1. Download Vive Toolwhich enables hidden developer features in Windows 10 and Windows 11. Once downloaded, extract the zip file.
  2. Open an elevated command prompt and navigate to the folder you extracted ViveTool to.
  3. Now type and enter each of these commands. Not all are necessary, but all are part of this new feature.
    vivetool addconfig 34370472 2

    After entering each command, ViveTool will respond with “Feature configuration set correctly”, as shown below.

    Using ViveTool to Enable New Tabbed File Explorer
    Using ViveTool to Enable New Tabbed File Explorer
  4. After entering this command, BleepingComputer found that you had to restart Windows for tabs to work in File Explorer.

You can disable the new File Explorer functionality after testing is complete by running the following ViveTool commands from an elevated command prompt.

vivetool addconfig 34370472 0

Again, restart Windows 11 to return to normal File Explorer.

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