Windows 10 Tip: Unlock the UWP File Explorer

Posted on May 6, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 51 Comments

Windows 10 Tip: Unlock the UWP File Explorer

If you’re running Windows 10 version 1703 (Creators Update) or newer, here’s a nice surprise: You can unlock a hidden UWP version of File Explorer!

Note: Tip of the hat to Pravin Vibhute for finding this. I discovered it via Neowin which, in turn, found out about it from OnMSFT.

To enable the UWP (Universal Windows Platform) File Explorer, create a new shortcut (on your desktop, typically).

Then, enter the following into the Create Shortcut window that appears:

explorer shell:AppsFolder\c5e2524a-ea46-4f67-841f-6a9465d9d515_cw5n1h2txyewy!App

Then, name as desired and you’re good to go: You can launch the app from there, or pin it to your taskbar and Start menu.

As to Microsoft’s intentions here, we can only guess. This File Explorer app has been shipping in Windows 10 Mobile for some time, but of course, so few people use that platform that I assume most readers are unfamiliar with it. But the app makes a lot more sense in Windows 10 for PCs, and seems to work well.

That said, it is a simple app. I haven’t figured out how to launch multiple instances for multitasking, for example. Nor can you drag and drop files or folders to/from this app.


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Comments (51)

51 responses to “Windows 10 Tip: Unlock the UWP File Explorer”

  1. StephenCWLL

    How does it make more sense in PCs? There's no other way on mobile to do file adminstration without that app on mobile.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to StephenCWLL: PCs are historically designed with exposed file systems, so a file manager makes sense. Phone OSs have traditionally not exposed their file systems, so a file manager is less needed. Also the intent of Windows S to only use store apps. Would be nice if it wasn't chock full of regular x86 apps like File Manager, Word Pad, NotePad, etc. Need to get after building UWP versions of a lot of accessory apps so it is clear you don't need x86 anymore. If MS doesn't do it, why should any one else.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to SvenJ:

        Picky: per Brad Sams, Windows 10 S will come with several of the standard desktop applets, e.g., Notepad. Hopefully also File Explorer.

        OTOH, I absolutely agree that if MSFT can't be bothered to come up with a UWP Notepad, why should Oracle or Intuit come up with any UWP apps? If MSFT itself shows a lack of urgency, why shouldn't ISVs believe they have years to go before UWP becomes useful.

        • jimchamplin

          In reply to hrlngrv:

          I totally agree with this sentiment. I want a fully-modern bunch of built-in software. Maybe they should focus on replacing everything and transferring everything from Control Panel to Settings.

          Just get the core stuff finished before we get any more "feature updates."

          • hrlngrv

            In reply to jimchamplin:

            How difficult would it be to implement Notepad, Font Viewer and CharMap as UWP apps? I understand they're not a priority, but I would have figured a summer intern could have managed all 3 last year IF UWP is really so easy to program.

            ADDED: Then again, maybe the UWP File Manager is indicative. Maybe it's not simple at all for multiple instances of UWP apps to be running at the same time. Maybe there couldn't be multiple instances of UWP Notepad open at the same time without A LOT of additional nontrivial coding. Just a wild guess, probably wrong, but it may explain MSFT's, er, reticence.

        • siko

          In reply to hrlngrv:

          Edge, Skype, OneNote/Office Mobile/Personal, Maps, Groove ... Sure, more is better.

          But what bothers me most about ISV's, is that they are lazy.

          Instead of just packaging their current app into the Store, they blame MS for not doing enough... It's really simple to get yourapp.exe into the store. And with windows 10 s and you still think the youth is important, you better get off yar lazy ass (directing ISV's ;) )

          • hrlngrv

            In reply to siko:

            Not lazy, cheap. It may not take much to package desktop/Win32 software for the Windows Store, but it takes some work and some testing, so some cost. OTOH, Windows 10 non-S PCs can install 3rd party software using the same .MSI or .EXE installers older Windows versions can.

            And not just cheap, not stupid. ISVs actually selling software don't want MSFT getting any of their software revenues. MSFT lusts after a 30% cut of all Windows software revenues, but it's just not going to happen.

            As for Windows 10 S, I believe most machines sold with it in 2017 will be converted quickly to Windows 10 Pro. I think US schools already using Chromebooks aren't going to switch to Windows 10 S for the 2017-8 school year. I think other schools (US ones not using Chromebooks and outside the US) probably have substantial investments in licenses for desktop software which won't run in Windows 10 S, so they also won't move to Windows 10 S for 2017-8. I believe MSFT is putting Windows 10 S on its Surface laptops as their latest attempt to con developers into believing UWP has any chance. I believe MSFT will publicize Surface laptop unit sales and Windows 10 S activations while remaining absolutely silent on the conversion rate from S to Pro. Be very clear: every conversion from S to Pro is a vote by users against UWP being adequate for their needs.

        • SvenJ

          In reply to hrlngrv: Wasn't suggesting it wouldn't, just suggesting it shouldn't. If we are 'stuck' with Store/UWP, so should MS be. They don't have everything x86 that normally ships with windows ported/translated/wrapped/re-written, so there will certainly be some. They ought to minimize it though, to adopt their own vision. IMHO, that was part of the messaging problem with RT. With the desktop and all the 'usual' apps, including Office, it screamed Windows, until you tried to install something.

  2. Dan1986ist

    Does or doesn't Microsoft use the UWP File Explorer in their Surface Hub in place of Win32 explorer.exe?

  3. SherlockHolmes

    Why does MSFT bother with a UWP File Explorer when UWP has failed on all accounts?

  4. Andrey Medvedev

    Wow, that looks terrible. After so many years, I still don't see any competitive advantage to UWP. Every "legacy" program that has a UWP alternative is way, WAY better than it's stillborn UWP cousin.

    • MrYves707

      In reply to Andrey Medvedev:

      so, you really think that this is the final version of uwp file explorer that will ship with restone 3? and you dont think that there is a reason why this uwp file explorer is hidden and didnt show any sign of progress in the last months?

      • PeteB

        In reply to MrYves707:

        "but but but it's beta"

        I remember apologists swearing the ugly FischerPrice Metro tiles were "not the final version" when the first previews of Windows 8 appeared.

        Then of course it shipped _exactly_ like the previews.

        So, yes, knowing MS, this ugly explorer is exactly how it'll ship.

      • Andrey Medvedev

        In reply to MrYves707:

        No, as I clearly indicated in my post, I think ALL UWP apps are simplistic and primitive. I have yet to see one app that is better than its x32/x64 counterpart. The "legacy" programs are so much richer, better, more full featured and offer way, WAY more settings, options and parameters you can change. Most UWP apps are straight up embarassing - most of them offer 2-3 settings options.

  5. madthinus

    A glorious illustration of how shit UWP really is. Don't waste you time.

  6. leonzandman

    This app is also present (not hidden) on Xbox One. So, I guess this is more of a testament to the fact that they all share the same Windows core.

  7. karlinhigh

    No multitasking. Can't drag and drop files or folders.

    RIGHT THERE is one of my biggest problems with mobile software. Most apps are reduced-functionality compared to desktop versions. (The app producer will say, "The desktop version was way more than most people needed anyhow." While simultaneously adding social-networking features to everything in sight, whether people need/want it or not.) And each cut-down app exists in its own little world, usually oblivious to anything going on elsewhere.

    Depending on someone's perspective, this is either the future, or the return of the pre-multitasking systems from the 1980s.

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to karlinhigh:

      You are spot on - developers think a feature is a software program today. The problem is not the technology but rather the inability of developers to build it out properly. Great software is exceptionally hard to create and we have been left with applications that have no manuals anymore and exceptional poor help contextually. The opportunities are ripe for so many developers in all industries but they truly do not understand it.

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to karlinhigh:

      In relation to this app you have to be fair that is hidden and either not meant for a desktop user or it is still in development. Hard to criticize something that we are not really supposed to be playing with.

  8. Waethorn

    No drag-and-drop? More like grope-and-gripe.

    I guess "OLE" is taboo, what with "cultural appropriation" being a thing now, for some reason.

  9. Trofase

    It's the file explorer used in Windows Phone.

  10. Patrick Fischer

    Quick comparison with the File Explorer we all know and love: On my display the UWP version takes 3x the real estate to display less information. Somewhat underwhelming.

  11. ianhead

    This was known since early builds in the 1703 cycle. It's nifty, but it's also very, VERY obvious why it's hidden at the moment.

  12. woelfel

    Also the same app on Xbox One.

  13. hrlngrv

    UWP File Manager for PCs has been around for several months. My shortcut for it was created last October, but it must have been available for at least a month by then.

    It's feature poor. We're not talking UWP File Explorer:desktop File Explorer::Notepad:Notepad++, it's more like UWP File Explorer:desktop File Explorer::EDLIN:Notepad++.

    From my perspective, probably biased, UWP File Explorer in its current state shows just how bad UWP alternatives to desktop software can be. Friends shouldn't let friends use UWP File Explorer just yet.

  14. prettyconfusd

    I've never understood why this hasn't been available since the app debuted on Windows 10 mobile nearly two years ago. Sure, when using Surface as a PC the regular file explorer is better right now, but as a tablet the UWA would be useful.

    Hopefully we will see some major work done on it over the next year though, File explorer does need modernising and just keeping it the same and adding tabs isn't enough. But admittedly I'm sure a lot of us would settle for tabs. ;)

  15. navarac

    Picture thumbnails come up quite good - at least a better size than in the photo app.

  16. SvenJ

    I find it a bit amusing that the original OneDrive app on Mobile allowed access to local files. That was removed and a File Explorer was added. Why couldn't the OneDrive app just have continued to support access to all my files, both local and cloud?

  17. ldsands

    No details view. I might switch over if that add that at some point.

  18. Shel Dyck

    it was posted on nearly a week ago

  19. Echo64

    Yeah I've replaced my Explorer shortcut with this, moving and copying files is kind of a pain since there is no drag and drop but it is so clean and fast, plus it uses my black theme.

  20. rameshthanikodi

    The future is Win32 evolved. I think UWP is getting nowhere. I have yet to see a truly robust UWP app

  21. Mohammad Ismam Huda

    Here's a good idea. When I switch to tablet mode, the PC should force to using the uwp file explorer

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