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Rumored overhaul for Windows File Explorer would tie into OneDrive, Microsoft 365

A PC running Windows 11.
Enlarge / A PC running Windows 11.

Microsoft is working on an overhaul of the File Explorer app in Windows 11, according to a report from Windows Central. The new Explorer will reportedly feature redesigned and more touch-friendly navigation, better photo viewing with larger previews, keyword and color tagging for organizing files, and tighter integration with Microsoft 365 and OneDrive.

An internal mock-up of the new interface shows a new “recommended” section of files alongside the existing areas for pinned and recent files, with large previews of various documents and information about where the files are located (OneDrive, SharePoint, and the local Downloads folder are all listed) and about recent changes. The new look will also come with “more modern code” under the hood.

The report says Microsoft wants to release the new Explorer before the end of the year. It could be part of this year’s annual Windows update in the fall, but Microsoft has taken a “whenever they’re ready” approach to releasing new Windows features in the Windows 11 era—it could be released at any time, or never.

An alleged internal mock-up of the new Windows 11 Explorer design, with
Enlarge / An alleged internal mock-up of the new Windows 11 Explorer design, with “recommended” files front and center.

Explorer has been refreshed a couple of times since Windows 11 was released; Microsoft updated Explorer with a tabbed design along with a small batch of other additions shortly after releasing the Windows 11 2022 Update. And the app was also updated to match the rest of Windows 11’s new look in the original release of the OS, shedding the old Windows 8-era ribbon UI.

Microsoft’s push to integrate and bundle together its various services is still occasionally drawing the attention of government regulators, decades after the Internet Explorer antitrust case. Politico reported earlier this week that EU regulators are close to launching an antitrust investigation of the company because of how it has bundled Microsoft Teams with the suite of productivity apps formerly known as Office. A version of Explorer that likewise prioritizes and advertises OneDrive and Microsoft 365 could also draw the regulators’ ire.

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