Windows 10's built-in File Explorer is like my grandparents' old car. It was reliable and lasted a long time, but it wasn't a looker. The File Explorer is a critical part of many people's workflows and is used for everything from file management to just browsing through things on your PC. While functional, the Windows 10 File Explorer is in dire need of a modern refresh. In comes Files UWP - Preview, a UWP-based file explorer that merges file management with modern design.
Files UWP - Preview rolled out to the public during Launch 2020. I've been in touch with its developer, Yair Aichenbaum, for ages and have seen the app come a long way. While Files UWP - Preview isn't finished, it's progressed enough to warrant a closer look.
Files UWP - Preview is free from the Microsoft Store. It's in preview at the moment, so some bugs and issues are expected. For this piece, I mainly focus on design and functionality and skip over a few bugs since I'm in a beta build of a preview app.
A universal file explorer
Files UWP - Preview
Bottom line: Files UWP - Preview is a gorgeous file explorer that should make Microsoft jealous. It's in its early stages now but is off to an excellent start.
- Gorgeous design
- Supports tabs
- Continues to add features
- Fits right in on Windows 10
- Lacks features from Windows 10's built-in File Explorer
- Can be slow at times
- Currently has some bugs while in preview
A gorgeous way to manage files
My first impression of Files UWP - Preview was how much it looked like it belongs on Windows 10. It utilizes Fluent Design, has light and dark modes, and has icons that match the rest of Windows 10. It looks like what I'd expect a file explorer to look like on Windows 10, rather than a dated app that looks like it's from over a decade ago.
But Files UWP - Preview isn't just pretty, it adds features and functionality that many have requested from Windows 10's built-in File Explorer. The biggest addition is tab support. You can open up new tabs to keep multiple folders and file locations open at the same time. Unfortunately, you can't drag and drop between these tabs at the moment, though I've been told by its developer that this is being worked on.
It's also much more touch-friendly than Windows 10's File Explorer. It has large touch targets that don't require a mouse and keyboard. That being said, the targets aren't so large that it's awkward to use with a mouse and keyboard. I've used it on my touchscreen laptop for quite some time and found both forms of input to work well.
Big shoes to fill
Files UWP - Preview has some massive shoes to fill. Windows 10's built-in File Explorer is a critical part of people's workflow, whether they're professional creators or casual users. Unlike some apps that are trying to create a unique experience, Files UWP - Preview is trying to replicate Windows 10's File Explorer while adding functionality and looking better. That's a tall order that Files UWP - Preview meets in many ways. It looks great, works pretty well, and has a lot of the functionality that you'd ask for in a file explorer, but it's not quite there yet as an everyday tool for me.
The app can take a bit to load file locations and folders at times. I can't say if that's because on a beta version of the software or not, but it can feel like it's hanging while it searches for files. These pauses have generally become slower and less frequent over time, and I hope that trend continues.
It shouldn't be too surprising that Files UWP - Preview isn't a full File Explorer replacement yet. The Windows 10 File Explorer is so complex and needs to be so good that Microsoft hasn't come out with a new one or a major revamp in years. We'll get one in Windows 10X, but at one point Windows 10X had three separate File Explorers, so it seems like a complicated app to replace.
It's an ambitious task to replace a built-in part of Windows 10, and I think Aichenbaum and Luke Blevins, who are both project leads of Files UWP Preview, do a good job. I'm also impressed with how the app's development has trended. I started using Files UWP - Preview months before it came out as part of Launch 2020, and it's grown a lot since then. Development also seems to have sped up since it became publicly available.
Should you try Files UWP - Preview?
Files UWP - Preview looks much better than the built-in Files Explorer of Windows 10. It's touch-friendly and mouse-friendly, meaning it works well on desktops, laptops, or tablets. The app also adds in some nifty functionality, such as tab support. It's fun to play around with and I think in some situations could be part of a workflow. I plan to keep on using it, and think I'd use it much more if I had a tablet rather than a touchscreen laptop.
Does that mean you can fully replace the built-in Files Explorer with Files UWP - Preview? No, at least not right now. Some features aren't there yet, and others need improving. The app is still in preview, so we'll have to see how it develops over time. If it keeps trending in the same direction, I could see it being some people's main file explorer in the future.
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