Hands-on with Windows 10 File Explorer’s new touch UI and modern icons

A lot of things have changed on Windows 10, but File Explorer
has largely remained unchanged and it’s technically the same
for more than a decade now if you exclude the dark mode update.

The company has been cautious about making design tweaks to the
File Explorer, but this will change with the next update,
presumably the Sun Valley update, which will include additional
improvements for the default file manager.

Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 10 version 21H2 will come
with an improved File Explorer which ties in closely with the
company’s Fluent Design approach, and we’ve just got a glimpse
of that refreshed interface in the technical preview builds.

File Explorer, as we all know, allows you to browse through the
folders and files on your machine. By default, the layout of
the File Explorer is optimized for the desktops. If you use a
tablet, you need to switch to tablet mode to access the
touch-friendly interface with extra padding.

Old File Explorer UI
File Explorer with the old layout

Microsoft is now planning to enable touch-friendly UI for
everyone by default, even if you’re using a mouse.

As you can see in the screenshot below, this new default look
of Explorer adds additional padding between elements.

New File Explorer UI

This should allow users to easily navigate between different
pages of File Explorer when using a touch screen. The level of
padding is automatically adjusted when you change the
resolution of the device and it is designed for better
consistency with modern (XAML) experiences.

File Explorer transition
New to old File Explorer layout transition

Presumably, other UI elements that have padding around the
edges will also get optimized for the touch experience.

New File Explorer interface

The only problem with the new iconography is that folders do
not offer a preview of types of files stored in the folder.

If you prefer the old layout, you can switch back by enabling a
new toggle “Use compact mode” in the “View Options” window.

Modern icons in File Explorer

File Explorer dark

As you can see in the screenshots,
Microsoft is also working on new icons for nearly all File
Explorer-related folders and elements. This includes
downloads, documents, pictures, videos, music, and other
folders.

Microsoft is using different colours (rather than yellow and
blue look) and these changes are in line with Fluent Design.

New icons first look

The icons for Recycle, Windows Run, Settings, even floppy disk
have been modified as well, so they now have a touch of Fluent
Design iconography.

Microsoft is also expected to update the interface of all the
major elements of Windows 10, such as the Action Center and
Start Menu. Microsoft also plans to use rounded corners for
windows, menus, elements and panels too.

All this is coming with Sun Valley refresh, which is scheduled
for late 2021.

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