File Explorer is getting a big update on Windows 11 later this year, according to a new hint by Microsoft and sources familiar with the company’s internal plans. This would be the company’s first big effort to make the file manager more “modern”, bring it in line with Windows 11’s design, and integrate it further with Microsoft 365.
Earlier today, Microsoft quietly confirmed it’s working on a big update for File Explorer by moving it to WinAppSDK. This was teased in an hour-long WinUI community call (virtual conference to discuss developer-related concerns).
In today’s call, Microsoft confirmed that File Explorer is moving to Windows App SDK, which could open up many new possibilities, including better WinUI 3 integration, access to new APIs, and more.
Windows App SDK isn’t a new framework or replacement for existing Windows app types such as .NET (including Windows Forms and WPF) and desktop Win32 with C++. It won’t rewrite File Explorer in a new language. Instead, it’s more like a library, enabling support for standard APIs and WinUI 3.
In short, this could allow the File Explorer to access WinUI 3 features more easily, and it could result in a significant design revamp at some point in future. However, there are concerns that Windows App SDK could make File Explorer more buggy. It’s been observed that XAML and similar modern components are slower than the traditional Win32 UIs.
The new Windows App SDK-based File Explorer will begin rolling out to those in the Windows Insider Program in the coming weeks. As mentioned, Microsoft is not rewriting File Explorer, so there won’t be significant changes initially. Still, users will notice a “pizza” icon in the toolbar when they access the Windows App SDK version of Explorer.
Microsoft confirmed that “big updates” are coming to File Explorer during the same one-hour-long call with developers. Although the exact nature of these “big changes” wasn’t revealed, the Microsoft design team said they’re working closely with key File Explorer developers to take full advantage of the update.
It is worth noting that apps like Phone Link and PowerToys are also built around Microsoft’s WinAppSDK.
What to expect in File Explorer revamp
Thanks to the hidden features in Windows 11, we already know what File Explorer may look like. As per sources, File Explorer is getting a new homepage that brings the best of both – local file manager experience and Microsoft 365.
For example, the homepage of File Explorer will feature a “recommended” files feed which will present suggestions directly from Microsoft 365. The toolbar, buttons, context menus, properties window, and more pop-ups will get design changes according to references in the preview builds.
We don’t know when these changes will begin rolling out to testers, but it won’t happen anytime soon.