Microsoft hopes to avoid the mistakes of its past with Windows 11 File Explorer redesign

A preview of a new layoout for Windows 11 File Explorer
(Image credit: Microsoft)

We got a brief tease this week of a new layout for Windows 11 File Explorer, courtesy of Microsoft's Build event.

The new redesign for File Explorer appeared in a sizzle reel that Microsoft unveiled on Twitter to show off how it had integrated its AI driven Copilot features into various Windows 11 apps and systems.

Microsoft has been messing around with its File Explorer interface for a while now, since much of it is still held over from the Windows 10 era, beyond the updated header UI that Microsoft introduced in 2021. As Windows Central notes, the changes are part of WinUI 3 to optimize the interface for both mouse and touchscreen input, with rounder interface objects and additional blur effects that allow it to line up more neatly with the rest of the OS.

The Details pane and the folder view itself both look like they'll be getting improvements, including an updated gallery view for photos. There will be an update to the search bar, and all action buttons look like they'll be moving up to the header bar as well.

Can Microsoft avoid the sins of its File Explorer updates past?

Microsoft hasn't always had good luck with its File Explorer updates, with major issues around memory leaks and other performance issues really hampering past updates.

The biggest problem here is mostly that File Explorer is one of the most used features of Windows 11, so any issues there are going to be both pernicious and noticeable.

But Microsoft has been making steady improvements to File Explorer that are generally excellent, such as the inclusion of folder tabs and a better details view, and the reintroduction of folder previews (which is something that shows Microsoft is at least listening to its user base).

There's no reason why a new Windows 11 File Explorer has to be an issue. However, Windows 11 problems are pretty ubiquitous and remain so, even though there has been steady improvement over the past two years.

And Microsoft's insistence on begging you to use Microsoft Edge not withstanding, I really don't have too many complaints about the OS anymore. I think Microsoft is probably on the right track with its new File Explorer redesign, and I'm looking forward to what Microsoft comes up with once the new UI rolls out to the public at large.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.

Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).