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Add tabbed browsing to Windows Explorer with TabExplorer

13 August 2012, Mike Williams

Every new version of Windows sees Microsoft apply a few more tweaks to Windows Explorer, and if you’re like us you’ve probably hoped that tabbed navigation might one day appear on the list. But the reality is usually a disappointment, and Windows is the same old story: we’ve got the ribbon, instead.

If you really want tabs in Explorer, then, it’s probably best to forget about Microsoft and add them yourself. And the free TabExplorer is a quick and easy way to get started.

Launch the program, click “Enable Tab Explorer” on the wizard, and a tab should immediately appear top-left of any open Explorer window. Click the button to the right of the tab bar to open another, repeat the process as often as you like, and then each tab effectively gives you access to a separate Explorer view, so you can switch between commonly-used folders with a click.

If you’d like to take more control, then right-click any of the tabs for some handy options. You can clone, pin or rename tabs, say, close all but the current tab, or (especially usefully) reopen closed tabs.

Right-click any Explorer tab for a helpful context menu with more options

The right-click menu also includes a few configuration options which may be helpful. You’re able to set the Explorer window to be “always on top”, for instance. You can also set its transparency, or maximise the window horizontally or vertically.

And there’s even a degree of portability in the program’s ability to run from a USB key, although unfortunately it still needs to be launched with admin rights.

The way that TabExplorer is implemented does mean there are a few issues here, though.

Click and drag the Explorer window, for instance, and the tabs will disappear until you release the left mouse button. Which is a little disconcerting. The problem is that the tabs aren’t a part of Explorer, as far as Windows is concerned: they’re just added by TabExplorer itself.

More annoyingly, this also means you can’t drag and drop files directly onto a tab. You have to drag them to the tab, TabExplorer will display the appropriate folder below, and you have to drop your chosen files there.

The program may not be for everyone, then, but if you’re just looking for a basic tab implementation then TabExplorer is an interesting free option, and well worth a try.

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