Windows® 8: Explore files with RibbonsBy Bidz ,Thursday, April 12th, 2012
Love it or hate it, those seem to be the only two options when it comes to Microsoft’s new ribbon interface introduced in Office 2007. And it was OK till now, if you didn’t really use Microsoft Office; you could just pass judgement from a distance. But things just got a lot more personal, “The Ribbon” has attacked on your very home turf, Windows Explorer.
Windows Explorer is that unsung bit of software which helps you browse the files on your computer, and copy stuff from one place to another. Every time you open My Computer, or your Documents folder, what you are seeing is a software called Windows Explorer. And yeah, it’s about to get ribbonised.
A Ribbon Too Far
For a complex software such as those that make up the Microsoft Office suite, it might perhaps be beneficial to have a fancy ribbon with different tabs for different feature-sets. What, however, is the point of having it on something as simple as Windows Explorer. Turns out, it does have a lot of features. Over 200 commands, if Microsoft is to be believed about it — and why shouldn’t they be, they built the damn thing. So Microsoft developers have spent a lot of time and effort adding in all these features, which turns out, few people use because they can’t even find them!
Enter the Ribbon
The ribbon lets Microsoft prominently display all the popular, important commands that they feel will be useful for users. The ribbon divides itself into three tabs – Home, Share, and View. Here the Home tab contains the most popularly-used commands such as Copy, Paste, Rename, Delete, etc.
Did you know that Windows can actually keep a history of the changes you make to your files? You spend a long night typing up that 5000-word document, only to fall asleep on the keyboard with all the stuff you typed nowhere to be seen — it has happened to us all. It was poorly highlighted, but even Windows 7 could get back your previous file in such situations, as it would keep multiple backups automatically on your Windows drive. Now that useful option is visible in the home tab as ‘History’.
The ‘Share’ tab is for sharing operations, such as sharing files with other people in your network, sending emails, or even printing / faxing files. Oddly zipping files is included in this tab, probably because it is a common thing to do before sending a folder by mail. The ‘View’ tab controls how your files are displayed, sorted and grouped, so you can move quickly from a Tile display to an iconic display to a details view. What’s really great about the Ribbon view though are the context-sensitive tabs.
A More Sensitive Explorer — Context-wise
If you use Word 2007 or 2010, you know what these are. Every time you click on a picture in a document, or edit content in a table, Word shows a new differently-colored tab. These tabs have options specific to that type of editing; for images it shows options such as cropping, brightness, and contrast, while for tables it shows row and column manipulation tools, border controls, etc.
Explorer will have some of the same kind of magic. When you select a photo or photos, you will see options to rotate the image, view a slideshow or set it as a wallpaper. Stuff like ejecting your disk-drive, cleaning junk files or defragging the disk will appear in a ‘Disk Tools’ tab when you click on a drive.
A Ribbon or Nothing
If you don’t like the ribbon, sadly you have no alternative option in Windows 8. With the more touch-friendly interface it’s going for now, the ribbon fits in much better anyway.
If you think it just takes up too much space, that at least is one thing you needn’t worry about. Along with the addition on the ribbon, the interface has been optimized for space in other areas such that in Windows 8, with the ribbon showing you will see more of your files than before. That whole extended bottom area of Windows Explorer that would show details about the selected file(s) has not been removed in favor of a much more useful details pane.
Otherwise, you can just hide the ribbon to save space — in fact it will be hidden by default. Like it or hate it, this is where Windows is going now, so you’ll have to live with it. Fortunately the ribbon doesn’t seem to be too obnoxious an intrusion in Explorer. If you already hate it though, we aren’t convincing you, are we? We can feel sorry for you though and we will, if required.