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8/25/2011
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Windows 8: Four New File Management Features Emerge

Efficiently corralling and copying files has never been one of Windows' strong suits, but the next version could offer big improvements.

Top Features Absent From Windows 7
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Slideshow: Top Features Absent From Windows 7
Copying, moving, renaming, and deleting files has never been particularly easy or elegant in Windows, particularly in cases where dozens or even hundreds of files need to be managed, such as in professional publishing environments. Folders can be difficult to find, naming conflicts arise, gratuitous dialog boxes often interrupt the process, and keeping track of all such "copy jobs" can be frustrating.

The problem is becoming worse as more and more users rely on PCs as a base in which to store images, videos, documents, and other large files imported from external devices like smartphones and video cameras. Enter Windows 8.

Microsoft has revealed that the newest version of its operating system will feature several new tools designed to make file management easier, more efficient, and less stress inducing.

"Copying, moving, renaming, and deleting are far and away the most heavily used features within Windows Explorer," said Alex Simon, director of program management on Microsoft's Windows Engineering team, in a post on the Building Windows 8 blog. "Prior versions of Windows can handle these kinds of jobs, but Explorer isn't optimized for high-volume jobs or for executing multiple jobs concurrently."

Simon said Microsoft has introduced four new features into Windows 8 that should ease file management:

1. Consolidated copy experience. A new UI box gives users a combined view of all concurrently running copy jobs. The box shows which jobs are running, lists the file source and destination for each job, and shows what percentage of each job is complete. "We've consolidated the copy experience. You can now review and control all the Explorer copy jobs currently executing in one combined UI," said Simon.

2. Independent job management. Another new tool gives users the ability to manage each job separately. Any copy job underway can be paused, resumed, or cancelled independent of the others. "This gives you control over which copy jobs will complete first," Simon noted. With the same tool, users can also select and open any of the source or destination folders while the job is underway.

3. Avoiding "name collisions". Files that bear the same name have long been a recipe for trouble in Windows. Confusion often arises over which file is to be copied, retained, or discarded. To reduce those headaches, Windows 8 will sport a tool that visually displays side-by-side information about conflicting files to make it easier for users to determine which is which. Hovering the mouse over a file's thumbnail image displays its file path, while double-clicking provides a content preview. "Our new design is much more clear, concise, and efficient," said Simon.

4. Less chatty interface. It's nowhere near as bad as Windows Vista on this front, but Windows 7 still has a penchant for repeatedly asking annoyingly obvious questions, such as, "Are you sure you want to move this file to the recycle bin?" Windows 8 promises to cut down on the chatter by virtue of the fact that Microsoft has done "a thorough scrub and removed many of the confirmation dialogs that you've told us are annoying or feel redundant," said Simon.

Microsoft is hoping the changes, along with other details about its new OS that will be revealed over the coming weeks, will be enough to keep the desktop software competitive in an age when more and more computing is being done on tablets and smartphones. The company plans to give developers their first, in-depth look at Windows 8 next month at its BUILD conference, which starts Sept. 12 in Anaheim, Calif.

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