File Explorer Tabs Return in New Dev Channel Build

Posted on June 9, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 10 Comments

Microsoft has not given up on File Explorer tabs: this feature makes a return in the latest Windows Insider Dev channel build.

“Today we are releasing Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 25136 to the Dev Channel,” announcement post notes. “We have begun rolling out File Explorer tabs and navigation updates … [and] we have also begun rolling out an update for Widgets that will show dynamic content on the taskbar.”

Here’s what’s new in build 25136.

File Explorer tabs. Not much to say here, as Microsoft previously tested this feature with the Dev channel and then pulled it for reasons unknown. Its reappearance suggests that we’ll get this feature in Windows 11 version 23H2 or, if we’re lucky, in an interim update for 22H2.

File Explorer navigation pane layout refresh. Microsoft has already changed the layout of the File Explorer navigation pane in 22H2—basically by replacing Quick access with a “new” Home view—but there are bigger changes on the way. This build puts Home and OneDrive right at the top of the navigation pane, followed by a section with pinned folders (Quick access) and then a section with top-level file system locations like This PC and Network. Makes sense. Except that it’s being A/B tested. Which never makes sense in the Windows Insider Program. Never, never, never.

Dynamic widget content on the Taskbar. In addition to displaying the weather, the Widgets taskbar icon will now provide live updates for things like news alerts, sports, and finance, a sort of “at-a-glance” view, if you will. Microsoft notes that if you don’t interact with the content update, the Widgets icon will return to showing you the weather. This one isn’t being A/B tested per se, but it is rolling out slowly for whatever reason.

Beyond those functional changes, build 25136 also includes a long list of fixes, and it has a long list of known issues too. It also includes the Notepad and Media Player updates that were reported earlier.

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (10)

10 responses to “File Explorer Tabs Return in New Dev Channel Build”

  1. Alex Taylor


    File Explorer needs dual panes more than it needs tabs,and I still weep at the demise of Sets to provide tabs at the window-manager level.

    That approach works vastly better as it helps all applications (I state this with confidence as it was a feature of KDE 4).

  2. dftf

    Nice, but I'm not-sure why it's taken them so-long to add them?

    Back in the Internet Explorer 6 days, when they were spooked by Firefox's sudden success, they panicked and quickly-added "tabs" via the MSN Toolbar. All the "tabs" on the bar actually did was to switch between the various IE6 app windows, and bring the one that matched the tab to the foreground -- and I'd suspect in File Explorer, it'll be doing the same-thing. So... really, this long?

  3. rob_segal

    These two new features make File Explorer look better. It's nice to see it moving in the right direction.

  4. ralfred

    Why so much hate for a/b testing? Besides being annoying that you might not get to test a new feature?

    • navarac

      Because a non-insider is the "non-tester" and an Insider is the "tester". If they don't want stuff tested, don't have Dev/Beta builds let loose. A/B Testing was the main reason I gave up being an Insider - I was basically wasting my time as I was "not" testing anything in most builds.

      • dftf

        Yeah, totally agree: I really fail to see any-point in the whole A/B testing thing.

        If you choose to run an Beta or Dev version of Windows 11 you are essentially saying "I'm happy with new features appearing which may be buggy, or system instability, or risk of data-loss" in doing so. So why do the A/B thing to limit-impact for users who have already agreed to face the occasional impact?

        It's even more madder that they do this same A/B nonsense in Microsoft Edge, given that there you actually install the Beta or Dev releases separately on a system, and so if you encounter an issue, simply return to the other one, or the default "Edge stable" built-into Windows!

  5. rm

    I believe the A/B testing combined with telemetry tells them if the change is driving usage or productivity gains.

    Slow rollouts are done for changes that could have bugs that are more likely to cause big issues, such as taskbar issues when trying to display ads. If they can detect an issue quicker with less people effected that is much better.

    Basically too many people complain that there issues that shouldn't be there even though they are supposed to be testing the OS for issues that they are signed up to be testing for...

    So, this is somewhat pro-active on MS part, but also defensive because of people venting on web sites.

  6. yaddamaster

    i don't understand the problem statement that tabs are supposed to solve.

    I just launch multiple explorer windows and then tile them side by side if I need to drag-drop or do comparisons. How exactly are tabs supposed to help me with file management?

    • dftf

      I guess some-people just like being tidy and having everything related to an app contained within the same window -- maybe it's also a behaviour that has been solidified by the mobile and tablet world, where you usually only have one app on-screen at once, or one window for an app, respectively?

      But like with you, I just open multiple File Explorer windows, yes!

      (At some-point, tabs are also supposed to come to Microsoft Office, so all your Word documents can be switched-between within the one window; same for PowerPoint and the others. Nearest-equivalent for this to-date would be to use Office Online and open each document in a new browser-tab.)

    • rob_segal

      For some people, tabs are a simpler user experience than tiling windows. People are also used to tabs. They use it in a browser all the time. File Explorer should have gotten tabs years ago. Finder got tabs in 2013 with OS X Mavericks.