Microsoft overhauls Windows Explorer in Windows 8

Windows 8 will include a beefed-up file management features aimed at more efficient file copying, deleting, and transfers.

Hold onto your socks Windows 8 fans, because Microsoft is adding some new enhancements to its file managmer application, Windows Explorer, in the next version of its popular operating system. And the first Explorer feature Microsoft wants to show off is (drumroll please): the new copy dialog. Huh?

I know, I know, copying functions may elicit yawns from many of you, but copying, moving, renaming and deleting files are the most oft-used features of Windows Explorer. Microsoft says these four basic functions account for 50 percent of all Explorer usage in Windows 7. That means there's a lot of file management going on for the average Windows 7 user every day.

So while these changes may not be as exciting as say, a brand new touch-centric overlay, improvements to the way Windows handles copying could improve your overall OS experience, as long as you're into copying multiple files that is.

This One's For The Multitaskers

Microsoft's copying overhaul doesn't really improve much for people who typically move around one file or folder at a time or are used to handling small text files. But if you find yourself moving around large amounts of data such as photos and videos, then Windows 8 aims to make your copying experience easier.

Microsoft says it had three goals for its new copy dialog: move all copy jobs into one window, simplify the UI and give you more control over any operations in progress. Here's what you have to look forward to when copying files in Windows 8.

Copy Central

Instead of having multiple windows open for each file, Windows 8 will automatically merge all copy jobs into one central window. The basic view shows you how many items are being copied in each job, their source and destination folders, and a progress bar. There are also pause and cancel buttons if you'd like to speed up one copy job by putting the other on hold or cancel one altogether. The source and destination folders are also clickable so you can open up those folders directly from the copy dialog.

If you want more details about your copy job, click on the "More details" disclosure button at the bottom of the window. Opening this up shows you a new real-time throughput graph, speed of data transfer, time remaining and how much data is left to transfer.

Microsoft also says it has improved its time estimates for how long it takes for a copy job to finish, but didn't go into detail about what those improvements are. The Windows maker did point out that getting a precise time estimate is nearly impossible. There are just too many variables to account for, according to Microsoft, such as whether you're anti-virus program will start scanning files on your hard drive halfway through the transfer.

Microsoft also warned that while the new copy dialog offers detailed information it was not designed to be a benchmarking tool.

Filename Collisions

Windows 7 Conflict Resolution Dialog

Windows 8 has a new way to handle alerts when you are about to copy a file with the same name as another file in your destination folder, a problem Microsoft calls a filename collision. This can happen if you maintain a separate folder for editing photos and don't bother to change the filename. Or, you receive a revised copy of a contract via email and dump it into your contracts folder.

Before Windows 8 lets you overwrite your old file, you'll be met with three choices that are somewhat similar to Windows 7: replace all the old files in the destination folder, skip copying the new files or choose the files to keep in the destination folder.

Windows 8 Conflict Resolution Dialog

If you choose the latter, a new dialog pops up showing you the files you want to copy in the left column and the files with the same name in the destination folder on the right. The dialog shows the file names, dates that each file was created, and each file's size. You can also hover over each file to see its location or you can double click on a file to open it. When you're ready to choose the files you want to keep, just click the check boxes next to the files, press "Continue" and you're done. If you don't click a check box next to one of your two colliding files, Windows 8 errs on the side of caution and keeps your old version intact.

New Windows 8 Start Icon?

Beyond the new copying features, online sleuths have been trying to glean other tidbits of information from Microsoft's new Windows 8 demo. UK-based blog My Microsoft Life believes it saw a new Windows start icon at the beginning of the video below, but it's hard to say for sure. Keep an eye on the screen behind Microsoft's Alex Simons and let us know what you think in the comments. Microsoft also has a larger version of the copy dialog video to get a better look at the screen.

Building Windows 8 Video #3:

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul ) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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Ian Paul

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