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Files UWP - Preview: A stunning start to a UWP File Explorer on Windows 10

If you find Windows 10's built-in File Explorer to be clunky and outdated, you should check out this modern file explorer.

UWP Files Preview
(Image: © Windows Central)

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 (opens in new tab). 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 Icon

Files UWP - Preview Icon (Image credit: Files UWP)

Files UWP - Preview

Free (opens in new tab)

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.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous design
  • Supports tabs
  • Continues to add features
  • Fits right in on Windows 10

Cons:

  • 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

Uwp Files Preview Image Previews

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

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

UWP Files Vs File Explorer

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

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?

UWP Files Preview Tabs

Source: Window Central (Image credit: Source: Window Central)

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.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

35 Comments
  • This is awesome indeed. I still prefer XYplorer. It has many advanced features and you can define your own macros. I used to use macOS at work, I missed Fully integrated WSL, Windows Terminal, Notepad++, and XYplorer.
  • Coming to a PC near you soon TM
  • You can download it for free now.
  • I mean yes it's very good looking indeed, but I don't want to use third party utility for something so essential for the OS. Microsoft get your s**t together already or hire these guys.
  • MS is moving away from UWP. Skype UWP was killed off a few days ago, there's only the Win32 version now. :( The only Microsoft UWP app of any note now is Your Phone.
  • "The only Microsoft UWP app of any note now is Your Phone."
    Mail + Calendar OneNote Xbox app MSNews Weather Cortana Maps Movies and TV Surface Audio Surface Support Snip & Sketch Calculator Paint3D Photos But go on about how "MS is moving away from UWP" 🙄 Since your developer knowledge is so vast and authoritative, what is the primary app platform for HoloLens, Surface Hub, and Windows 10X? Hint: It's not win32. It is true to say Microsoft is expanding its developer toolset to reflect the way the modern world is going, e.g. cross-platform with Xamarin, WinForms, JS, Electron, WebView, etc. but these systems are being brought into the UWP, not replacing. Project Reunion is literally about bringing aspects of UWP to older systems like win32 to leverage Windows 10 e.g. battery optimization. You all need to stop acting like it's 2014. There is no single style/platform for app development anymore. UWP is one of many options developers have to target Windows, that is what has changed.
  • Interesting how only WC is keep drumming this about UWP, when everyone else writing about Microsoft admited long time ago UWP is just dead. Thurrott, MJF, Surur, Tom from The Verge, literally everyone.
    Windows 10X is not existent and at this point everyone is in doubt it will ever be released on actual hardware that we can buy.
    "You all need to stop acting like it's 2014. There is no single style/platform for app development anymore." - do you want to ask Apple?
    Now let's see the apps you listed: Mail + Calendar - absolute garbage
    OneNote - Microsoft said is moving to Win32 version
    Xbox app
    MSNews - who uses this?
    Weather - stuck in 2014
    Cortana - won't even comment on this one
    Maps - see Cortana
    Movies and TV
    Surface Audio - what?
    Surface Support - ???
    Snip & Sketch - this small utility "app" isn't even considered
    Calculator - lol OK
    Paint3D - who the hell uses this?
    Photos - slow as hell and full with bugs
  • "UWP is dead". This is a fairly complex subject. First, new consumer application development is *almost* dead on Windows. As such every new technology is dead for apps from the very start, but it is a bit unusual to talk about that technology as a problem rather than the fact above. Second, Windows is still developing and in every version more and more transitions to UWP. We're not talking about some crappy apps provided with it, but Windows itself and its major parts. Regarding this it has became so big that there is nothing that could stop this process even if someone wanted to. There is no turning back or alternative technology. So talking about "UWP is dead" is incorrect. As a technology UWP is a very alive. As an app platform it is very dead, but then it is so for every app platform on Windows. Apps are only maintained, there is no creation anymore on Windows, so no need to talk about UWP specifically.
  • Finally a great answer, thank you!
  • "MS is moving away from UWP.", I don't think this is entirely true, see my comment below. As for Skype it is being replaced by Teams anyway (MS is even thinking about using it to replace the consumer Skype version, possibly altered or named different though).
  • You do realize Windows 10 ís UWP? Apps are only a part of it.
  • Windows 10 has UWP, better put. It is certainly not UWP, or it would already be called Windows 10X.
  • Can it be set as the default app for exploring? Or would you need to manually load it at times when "right-click show location" etc. may take you to the built-in explorer?
  • It can be set as the default app for exploring. See https://github.com/files-community/files-uwp/wiki/Replacing-File-Explore...
  • This is great. But I'm going to need a pane that shows the document tree + a quick access list, just like File Explorer. Really I just wish I could get KDE's Dolphin file system browser. That thing was awesome back when I used GNU/Linux.
  • Oh it's not from Microsoft. It's just an app. Who is asking for File Explorer to be migrated to UWP? File Explorer is a power tool and Win32 is more suitable. Besides MS is moving away from UWP. Skype UWP was killed off a few days ago, there's only the Win32 version now. :( The only Microsoft UWP app of any note now is Your Phone.
  • No, you're wrong
  • Not sure if MS is moving away from UWP especially for its own Windows stuff (part of it is UWP). UWP would be more modern (especially for touch support and looks) than Win32 version and UWP can still be a power tool if MS wants it to be. Besides in Visual Studio I still see that UWP is getting updates.
  • Skype moved from ReactNative to Electron. Both can and are UWP, as UWP is an API, and ReactNative and Electron are frameworks. And everybody is asking of an UWP version of file explorer as it has very little to do with power, and Windows needs to get rid of Win32. And don't worry, there will be a built-in UWP file explorer as well sooner or later, as it is already under development.
  • It looks good. How is it privacy wise? Their link to their privacy page gives an error and the app seems to have full access / full permissions which seems a bit weird.
  • thats needed to acces files it uses broadfilesystem capability, usually uwp apps can access files wihtout picker but this capability bypasses that. also its open source on github
  • Thanks for clarifying, the fact that it is open source is nice and broadFileSystemAccess usage is fair here. MS should better describe it I think, it now just looks as if the dev is asking for complete desktop permissions.
  • As great as this is, I'm really uncomfortable with using an app by a third party developer that has unlimited access to my system and files. Even if the developer is a good person (or people), it opens the door to a myriad of security vulnerabilities.
  • Apparently it is needed for broadFileSystemAccess permission (found here https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/uwp/packaging/app-capability-de...). It does seem fair in this case .
  • I completely understand that it's necessary, I just don't trust a third party with that kind of access. That's why I'm lamenting that a third party has done a better job of this than Microsoft.
  • It's open-source on GitHub so you can see exactly what the app is doing.
  • Also any Win32 app will have the same (and more) permissions.
  • You can see what's on Github. Not what compiled code you are running from a Store.
  • I hate it. Monochrome icons, Less information density, less functionality. File Explorer will always be better.
  • This is meant for touch I assume, which FE does not lend itself all that well for.
  • It still be a small thumb target to move a file to a folder of the left
  • I tried it,
    Pros: looks good, smooth ui, performance was good enough for me.
    Cons: requires 2 tabs to open folder or file, horizontal bar wastes valuable screen estate (especially when using it in portrait mode on a Surface/tablet), tiles view looks good but I would prefer it to be smaller since it can only show a few items on my Surface now.
    Suggestions: make the horizontal bar scalable just like in File Explorer, add a slider to scale the ui or tiles view and add a toggle like in File Explorer to 1 tap/click files and folders.
  • ""Currently has some bugs"" What are these bugs you speak off? Does it rename files or leave some when copying.. A file manager cannot have bugs ""has icons that match the rest of Windows 10. It looks like what I'd expect"" Which icons dont, the folder icons on the right? No. They are all windows 10. It would look really weak if everything is wireframe icon. That's why start is trasperant tile and not, now blue and not and black, and colour and not, mono.
  • Smooth and clean, with tabs, but that's about it.
    It takes forever to display icons, the ui is less dense (makes the clean look, but less effective), and mostly, it lacks a LOT of small customization and options.
    It's clearly not ready to replace the explorer. I'm not criticizing the developers, but can't help to notice that if MS had released that, even in beta, people would be trash talking them.
  • Stunning? What is "stunning" about it? It looks EXACTLY like every other UWP app. A light grey (or dark grey) list of things on the left side. Black (or white) background on the right side. If this is "stunning" then the settings app is also "stunning". And the calculator. Does UWP not allow colors? Why is everything monotone? It is ugly, boring and looks very "my first app". No professional design at all. The old File Explorer looks WAY better.