New in 22H2: File Explorer

The initial release of Windows 11 arrived with a visually refreshed version of File Explorer, the venerable file management application, with a simpler command bar replacing the old ribbon-based interface and some new icon treatments and other visual changes. But like the rest of Windows 11, the changes were only skin-deep: the application itself was unchanged, as was its core functionality and sub-interfaces like Folder Options.

For Windows 11 version 22H2, Microsoft is again evolving the visuals, but it is also bringing some functional improvements to File Explorer.

On the visual front, folder icons again display thumbnail previews, giving you a hint of the folder’s contents.

But the functional improvements are more interesting.

As you may recall, Microsoft changed the default view in File Explorer to something called Quick access in Windows 10, and it replicated the folders in this view at the top of the File Explorer navigation pane. Quick access continued forward in Windows 11, it’s a document-centric interface that dynamically displays your recently and frequently accessed files and folders, so it changes over time as you create and edit documents and other files. And those who preferred the old way of doing things could configure File Explorer to use the classic This PC view as the default instead.

In Windows 11 22H2, Microsoft is evolving Quick access and has renamed it to Home. And where it used to display Frequent folders and Recent files sections, it now has Quick access, Favorites, and Recent sections by default.

Quick access works like Frequent folders did before, and as before, you will see the folders in this section replicated at the top of the File Explorer navigation pane (in a section called Home, not Quick access). And Recent works as Recent files did before. (At least by default: using File Explorer’s Folder Options interface, you can disable the display of recently used files and frequently used folders if you’d like.)

But Favorites is different: here, you will see shortcuts to files that you have manually pinned by right-clicking them and choosing “Add to Favorites,” similar to how a web browser works.

And where File Explorer previously offered two default views—Quick access and This PC—the 22H2 version of File Explorer offers three: Home, This PC, and OneDrive. That latter option configures File Explorer to open to the root of your OneDrive by default.

There is also a third option in Folder Options under Privacy—alongside “Show recently used files” and “Show frequently used folders”—called “Show files from” All three are enabled by default, but you can—and probably should—disable “Show files from” unless you are a heavy user of the or OneDrive web interfaces; this functionality was enabled by default in Windows 10 and 11 previously, and it’s what helps the Start menu and search locate web-based documents you may have recently accessed. It also causes documents you’ve opened from the or OneDrive web interfaces to appear in the Recent section in the Home view in File Explorer.

File Explorer also improves OneDrive integration in Windows 11 version 22H2. Now, when you navigate to OneDrive in File Explorer, you will see a “Cloud storage information” icon in the upper right of the application window.

You can click this icon to view your sync status, how much OneDrive storage you have and are using, plus options to manage your OneDrive storage (from the web), access the OneDrive Recycle bin (from the web), open in your web browser, or open OneDrive settings (locally).

There is even a new keyboard shortcut: to copy the path to a selected file, just type Ctrl + Shift + C.

Finally, though Microsoft had tested a tabs interface for File Explorer in the past year, this feature didn’t make it into the final release. But that could be changing: the most recent Dev channel build as of this writing has brought the tabs interface back, so it’s possible that Microsoft could still add it to 22H2, perhaps as part of a coming cumulative update. We’ll see.

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Conversation 15 comments

  • rmlounsbury

    Premium Member
    10 June, 2022 - 2:44 pm

    <p>I’m generally happy with all the changes outlined here. I need to move my laptop back to the insider builds because I absolutely want this.</p>

  • dkrowe

    Premium Member
    10 June, 2022 - 2:54 pm

    <p>Noticed the file listing got a lot "Roomy"-er, to borrow a term from Outlook settings, as compared to the view in Windows 10. Checking the Options&gt;View in File Explorer, there is a new item: "Decrease space between items (compact view)" and checking that restores the look from Windows 10 (and before).</p>

  • michael

    Premium Member
    10 June, 2022 - 4:13 pm

    <p>Definitely some improvements. But the one thing I have been wishing for is a keyword search that does not take an hour to complete and which actually works.</p>

  • mikegalos

    10 June, 2022 - 8:57 pm

    <p>Paul.</p><p><br></p><p>I know all the cool kids use Dark Mode but it really is a lot harder to see details that way in screen captures.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      11 June, 2022 - 9:55 am

      <p>That’s rather insulting given that I use dark mode because of eye sensitivity issues. </p>

      • videosavant

        11 June, 2022 - 4:17 pm

        <p>Like so many other things today, insults aren’t what they used to be.</p><p><br></p><p>Skin density would be another.</p>

      • mikegalos

        12 June, 2022 - 2:28 am

        <p>And I use a larger font to help with vision issues but when I do screen captures for the public I use the default settings so the product looks like it does out of the box and so it’s optimized for THEIR needs not just mine.</p><p><br></p><p>Feel free to use whatever you like for your own use but this is a product you’re selling so the customer is where the optimization goes. And you know that or you’d have the whole site set up with dark colors.</p>

    • darkgrayknight

      Premium Member
      13 June, 2022 - 5:34 pm

      <p>I prefer dark mode, even here, as it is better for my eyes and I see the details just fine. So to each their own. Visual Studio Code displays changes/updates in a variety of color modes rather than any one mode. Why? because most devs probably have a mode they prefer light or dark with differences in color.</p><p>As for which is better? Depends on where it is viewed. Dark mode (dark background-light text) is significantly better for projected screens for viewing and better for most screens (mobile or desktop) — as well as better on energy consumption since white light costs more. Light mode is most like paper: newspapers, letters, flyers, etc. (though flyers usually have multiple colors and designs) or eInk screens like Kindle, that use external light to view the page — using external light means white is cheap and black is more expensive (ink).</p>

  • Thr2017

    Premium Member
    10 June, 2022 - 10:31 pm

    <p>Hopefully the new File Explorer will fully support long path/file names rather than being limited to ~255. By now it should be able to support NTFS’s limit of 65K.</p>

    • MikeCerm

      11 June, 2022 - 6:25 am

      <p>Since Windows 10, it has been possible to remove the limit with a simple registry tweak. Even though it’s not a limit that most people would ever encounter, Microsoft should probably remove the limit by default.</p>

      • Yogi76

        13 June, 2022 - 10:51 am

        <p>Setting the LongPathsEnabled registry key in Windows 10 only works for applications with a compatible Application Manifest. Unfortunately, File Explorer isn’t one of them. </p>

  • rbwatson0

    Premium Member
    10 June, 2022 - 11:14 pm

    <p>In paragraph 11, it should say Windows 11, not 10.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      11 June, 2022 - 9:54 am


  • johnlavey

    Premium Member
    11 June, 2022 - 10:16 am

    <p>I am a Windows Insider and I have tried to use the new File Explorer. The tools appear briefly at the top, but then collapse and are hidden. Is this just my machine, or have other had this problem?</p>

  • javial

    Premium Member
    12 June, 2022 - 6:36 am

    <p>In Windows 11 22H2, Windows File Explorer can’t open if you enable the Windows 10 taskbar. </p>


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