Computers Replace File Explorer With This Free Windows App
Windows’ File Explorer has evolved and expanded over those years, but the core functionality remains largely the same. And it’s just as clunky and ugly as ever. Microsoft is planning to give File Explorer some TLC in the upcoming Windows 10X release, but those who want a streamlined—or just better-looking—option right now can turn to…
June 26, 2020
Windows’ File Explorer has evolved and expanded over those years, but the core functionality remains largely the same. And it’s just as clunky and ugly as ever.
Microsoft is planning to give File Explorer some TLC in the upcoming Windows 10X release, but those who want a streamlined—or just better-looking—option right now can turn to a third-party alternative, such as
. Files UWP
Fair warning: Files UWP is still in beta, so the usual warnings apply here; the app might not always work as well as it should, some bugs may occur, and some features are still in development. But even in its incomplete state, Files UWP has a lot to offer, especially as a free app.
Screenshot: Brendan Hesse
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Files UWP is streamlined and easy to use, but the first thing I noticed when I loaded it up was how good the app looks. It’s not so much that it’s flashy; rather, it looks like a native Windows 10 app. I’d go as far as to say it melds into the Windows 10 UI better than Microsoft’s Files Explorer ever has. That helps make swapping to Files UWP feel more natural.
Functionally, Files UWP looks like a mix between Windows 10’s system menus and Edge Chromium. The left-side menu contains a familiar list of folder shortcuts, including:
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Screenshot: Brendan Hesse
And a “Home” screen with shortcuts to commonly-used and recently-opened items.
That home screen is what you’ll get when you open a new tab in Files UWP, which is the biggest difference compared to File Explorer. Files UWP lets you open multiple folders as tabs in a single app window, making it feel more like a web browser than Files Explorer ever did. This makes for a more organized desktop (even though I find a multi-window approach better for me, as someone who often juggles files in and out of multiple folders daily). That said, moving files between Files UWP tabs isn’t hard at all and works fine for dragging stuff around quickly, if inelegantly.
When it comes to basic file management, Files UWP does everything you’d expect, but some functions appear in different locations than what you’re probably used to.
For example, right-clicking lets you move, copy, share, delete, rename, and view properties for files and folders, but you’ll need to click the
“+” in the upper right of the app window to create new folders. It takes a little getting used to, but the button also includes shortcuts for making new text documents or new image files, which is a neat addition.
Files UWP’s right-click menu Screenshot: Brendan Hesse
There’s also a “Layout Mode” button that lets you quickly adjust the look and order of files in a folder. Frankly, the fact that Files UWP actually lists the contents of the Downloads folder in a logical way instead of the weird way File Explorer likes to list it (at least on my laptop and PC) was enough to convince me to keep the app installed—even if files UWP is limited in ways that take some getting used to.
One that really stuck out to me is having to shift+click or CTRL+click to select multiple files. You can’t click-and-drag like in File Explorer, though there is a shortcut “Selection” menu that lets you quickly select all, invert the selection, or clear selections. You also won’t find the built-in shortcuts or quick-select options for opening files in WinRar, Photoshop, etc. Oh, and Files UWP loads a little slower and lacks some of File Explorer’s deeper search functions.
That said, Files UWP is already a sleeker and better-looking alternative to Files Explorer—and it’s free. It might not replace File Explorer immediately for everyone, but the potential is there and is a solid complement while development continues. You can download it and try it out for yourself
. from the Microsoft Store
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