Windows File Explorer has evolved and expanded over the years, but the core functionality remains largely the same. And it’s still so awkward and ugly.
Microsoft plans to give File Explorer a bit of TLC in the next version of Windows 10X, but those who want a simplified – or just better – versionresearch – the option at the moment may turn to a third-party alternative, such as UWP files.
Fair warning: UWP Files is still in beta, so the usual caveats apply here; the app may not always perform as well as it should, some bugs may arise and some features are still in development. But even in its incomplete state, Files UWP has a lot to offer, especially as a free app.
Files UWP is streamlined and easy to use, but the first thing I noticed when I loaded it was how beautiful the app looks. It’s not so much that it’s flashy; it looks more like a native Windows 10 app. I would go so far as to say that it integrates better with the Windows 10 user interface than Microsoft’s File Explorer ever did. This helps to make the exchange of UWP files more natural.
Functionally, Files UWP looks like a cross between the Windows 10 system menus and Edge Chromium. The left menu contains a familiar list of folder shortcuts, including:
- Local readers
- And a “Home” screen with shortcuts to commonly used and recently opened items.
This home screen is what you’ll get when you open a new tab in UWP Files, which is the biggest difference compared to File Explorer. Files UWP lets you open multiple folders as tabs in a single app window, making it look more like a web browser than a file explorer. This gives a plus organized desktop (although I find a multi-window approach better for me, as someone who often juggles files in and out of multiple folders on a daily basis). That said, moving files between UWP Files tabs isn’t difficult at all, and works great for dragging items around quickly, even in an elegant way.
When it comes to basic file management, Files UWP does everything you’d expect, but some features appear in different places than you’re probably used to.
For example, right clicking allows you to move, copy, share, delete, rename, and view properties of files and folders, but you will need to click the button “+” at the top right of the application window to create new folders. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the button also includes shortcuts for creating new text documents or new image files, which is a nice addition.
There is also a “Layout Mode” button that allows you to quickly adjust the appearance and order of files in a folder. Frankly, the fact that Files UWP actually lists the contents of the Downloads folder in a logical way instead of the weird way File Explorer likes to list it (at least on my laptop and PC) was enough to convince me to keep the application installed. even though UWP files are limited in a way that takes some getting used to.
The one that really struck me is having to Shift + click or CTRL + click to select multiple files. You can’t click and drag like in File Explorer, although there is a “Select” shortcut menu that lets you quickly select everything, invert the selection, or clear selections. You also won’t find the built-in shortcuts or quick select options to open files in WinRar, Photoshop, etc. Oh, and UWP files load a bit slower and lack some of File Explorer’s more in-depth search features.
That said, Files UWP is already a sleeker, more aesthetic alternative to File Explorer, and it’s free. It might not immediately replace File Explorer for everyone, but the potential is there and is a solid complement as development continues. You can download it and try it for yourself from the Microsoft Store.