Windows 8: Does the New Explorer Interface Make Sense?

Nikhil Pradhan 13 Sep 2011

Microsoft is planning to extend a variation of its ribbon interface from Office 2007 to the explorer window in its upcoming Windows 8 OS, which is being planned for a 2012 launch.  However, this planned interface has come under instant criticism from bloggers and others.

Recently, Microsoft published a blog post on MSDN that explained the reasons for the planned change in the UI and how the ribbon interface would make sure that the most commonly used commands would be visible under one tab i.e. the "Home" tab. So, as a result, commands like "Copy", "Paste", "File Properties" and "Delete" would be given more real estate and be more visible as can be seen below:

A percentage break-up of most used commands in Explorer (image from MSDN blogs).

The most potent criticism that can be directed at the new interface, which has also been rightly pointed out by blogger Laurie Voss, is that the remaining constituents of the "Home" tab seem to be commands that show minimal (if any) usage patterns. Besides, they also occupy as much real estate in the "Home" tab as the most commonly used commands.

Also, the reason Microsoft has opted to give the ribbon interface more real estate is that users don't seem to use the menu bar but instead rely on hotkeys or context (right-click) menus and Microsoft wants to provide a new interface that users would like to use. Now, I don't think that you really need to be a so-called "power user" to get comfortable with hotkeys and context menus in Windows Explorer so the only people who could probably want to use the new tabbed interface are people not familiar with Windows or not happy with using hotkeys and context menus, which seems like a small population.

How users input commands in Windows Explorer (image from MSDN blogs).

Microsoft has responded to the criticisms in another blog post by saying that although the new interface was not minimalistic, they didn't want to approach minimalism at the cost of reducing functionality.

The pre-release version of Windows 8 for developers will be released at Microsoft's BUILD conference which starts from today and will end on the 16th of September.

Other stories of interest:

Intel's Windows 8 based Tablets & Ultrabooks To Be Shown at IDF & BUILD
Steve Ballmer: Microsoft Windows 8 Will Release in 2012
Windows 8 Focuses on Touch Input
Windows 8 Facial Recognition Moves Closer To Reality