Windows 11’s revamp of File Explorer spotted with a surprising hidden feature

Windows 11 Image Gallery File Explorer
(Image credit: Microsoft / Albacore)

Windows 11 could get a photo gallery built right into File Explorer, or at least this feature is in testing right now, albeit hidden in the latest preview build of the OS.

Tom’s Hardware (opens in new tab) reports that Albacore, a well-known leaker on the subject of Windows, flagged the new gallery in build 25300. Although as mentioned it’s hidden away, and you need to dive into the Registry and do some tweaking, plus use ViVeTool (a Windows configuration tool) to enable it.

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While you can see your photos inside your folders right now in the current File Explorer (at least as icons, depending on what your folder’s View options are set to), this is different – it’s a full-blown gallery to browse your pictures in a much-improved way than simply looking at small thumbnails.

The gallery offers additional functionality such as the ability to scroll through your pictures with a timeline. By default it shows the images in your Pictures folder, but you can customize this and add further folders with photos in them as needed.


Analysis: A glimpse of the future

Currently this is only in pre-testing, of course, so the feature will be wonky, and indeed it works with the new Windows App SDK-based File Explorer, which itself is unstable – so those who enable it should expect to see crashes and so forth. Albacore points out that overall performance is sluggish, reminding us that this feature is hidden for a reason – it’s not nearly finished yet.

The new photo gallery has a built-in search facility, though there’s no image-based search, although that might be coming down the line. By the time this integrated photo gallery for File Explorer arrives, it might be considerably more fleshed out, and offer plenty of perks and abilities to better search through and organize your photos. Maybe some clever AI tricks might come into play here, as that area of development is a major focus for Microsoft at the moment (and everyone else for that matter).

Keep your eyes peeled on future preview builds for this photo gallery coming into play, then, likely when the all-new File Explorer is pushed live in testing. That’s going to be quite a large hunk of work for Microsoft, though, so we don’t anticipate it happening anytime soon.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).