Windows 11 File Explorer tabs

Tabs have finally arrived for Windows 11 – but not Windows 10

Tabs in File Explorer are like tabs in a browser. They allow you to have several “views” (different drives and folders,) open at the same time. At the click of a mouse you can move between the tabs to see the different views.

If you are still running Windows 10, you can’t have tabs built into Windows. There are, however, third party alternatives that you can use. See How To Geek for more information.

Fig1 - File Explorer tabs
Fig 1 – tabs are displayed at the top of the window

So, back to Windows 11. Figure 1 shows part of a File Explorer window in which I have three tabs open – “This PC”, “drive D:\”, and “drive P:\”. To move between the tabs, you just click on the tab itself. To create a new tab, just click on the “+” sign to the right of the existing tabs. If you have so many tabs open that they won’t all fit on the screen then scroll buttons appear to enable you to move left or right between the tabs.

Scroll button
Scroll buttons appear when there are too many tabs to see all at once
This whole enhancement is clearly just at the infant stage. One way in which this is obvious is that creating a new tab always has as its starting point the “This PC” view. It seems to me that it would be more useful if its starting point was the same as the view on the tab that was current just prior to creating the new one.

Another frustration is that you can only see the contents of one tab at a time. If I’m doing a lot of messy copying or moving of files and folders then I like to be able to see both the source and the destination folders at the same time and to drag and drop content between them.

And my final big criticism (let’s get them all out of the way at once) is that there is no way (yet) of saving a series of tabs. How much more useful would tabs be if you could easily re-open the same set all at once. At the very least, it would be nice to be able to open File Explorer with the same set of tabs that you most recently had open. I can imagine several different sets of tabs that would make my regular routines easier. So, let’s just hope that they are going to continue to develop the idea.

Tab - cant drop the file here
The file has been dragged to the tab into which it will be dropped – but it can’t be dropped from here.
In the meantime, what good are tabs at the moment? Well, apart from clicking on the tab to see its contents, you can actually move/copy stuff between tabs quite easily (once you realise how – it took me a while to work this one out). If you want to move something from one tab to another you just drag it to the top of the window onto the destination tab itself. The view then changes to the tab you’ve just moved to. Then just move the cursor down into the file/folder window of that tab and let go (drop).

Tab - drop file here
The file has now been dragged down into the window of the destination tab and can be dropped here
I can also see tabs as being useful – even in the current rudimentary stage of development – for situations in which you just need to be able to see (and maintain) a clear idea of a complicated situation in which you need, literally, to keep tabs on several places in your storage structure at the same time.

With its current, limited, functionality, I can imagine a lot of people having a quick look at tabs and then promptly forgetting all about them. That’s a shame. Let’s just hope Microsoft keep developing the idea.