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Windows 8 to Add Ribbon to Explorer, Support Mounting ISO and VHD Files

With Microsoft's Build conference just a few weeks away, the company continues releasing new details about its upcoming Windows 8 OS. This week on the Building Windows 8 blog, Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky shared details about the new version of windows explorer and its support for mounting ISO and VHD files as if they were physical disks.

Windows explorer (aka Windows' built-in file manager) will undergo a number of changes, designed to allow users to discover more advanced features and get to those they use most frequently at a button's press. The most obvious addition to explorer is the ribbon UI we've come to know in Microsoft Office and in other Windows applications like Windows Paint or Windows Live Gallery.

The ribbon on explorer will feature File, Home, Share, and View tabs, along with contextual "Manage" tabs that deal with different types of content such as photos. According to Microsoft's telemetry data, the icons on the Home tab account for 84 percent of explorer actions. These are Copy, Paste, Cuat, Delete, Rename, New Folder, New Item, Properties, Open, Edit, and Search.

The Share tab allows you to set file permissions, zip files, or e-mail them while the View tab allows you to control the look and feel of the file icons (large thumbnail view vs detailed view). The new design has also been optimized for wider screens, fitting two more files on a typical 1366 x 768 resolution screen than Windows 7. 

Power users will also have the option to use one of more than 200 keyboard shortcuts or to minimize the ribbon and hide/show a quick access toolbar with their favorite commands.

ISO and VHD Support

Power users will also have the ability mount both ISO and VHD files and browse them as if they were external drives. Though ISO files are typically used to storage an image of that's later burned to a CDs or DVDs, the ability to view the data directly means that users who download these files will be able to extract data without burning to disc, a boon for anyone who doesn't have an optical drive. VHD files which typically serve as the C drive for virtual machines can also be accessed in this manor.