Windows 8 builds show new welcome screen, Ribbon UI in Explorer

Microsoft's ribbon interface was considered a pretty drastic change when it debuted as part of Office 2007 five years ago. Its inclusion helped to bring more of the program's features into the forefront however, many of which users apparently didn't even know existed.

This same concept is about to make it into the Windows 8 Explorer interface, according to pre-beta builds seen by Windows bloggers Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera. The ribbon appears set to become a Windows UI staple if Microsoft decides to move forward.

Of course, with pre-beta releases ideas are often tested for several major builds, then yanked with little if any warning. Thus judging Microsoft's user interface plans from what is being seen here may be a bit perilous.

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The ribbon's inclusion in Explorer seems aimed at making data manipulation easier, with functions that change depending on file type. For example with an image selected, menu options most useful for working with images would appear, and so forth.

The two bloggers seemed none too impressed with the changes though, saying it looked to have "dubious value."

"If Microsoft goes through with this change, the Ribbon will replace the menu and toolbar in today's Explorer windows, and as in Office, it will make many more features visibly discoverable, albeit at the expense of onscreen real estate and, we think, attractiveness," the two wrote in a blog post.

For those that might agree with Rivera and Thurrott, an option is available to turn the ribbon off and revert to the standard Windows file menus if desired.

Microsoft also seems to be following a similar path to Apple in that features from its mobile operating system are making their way to the desktop OS. Likely this has a lot to do with the dramatic rise of tablets, which require platforms that can be interfaced like a mobile device (i.e. touch), yet perform like a desktop.

One of these changes is a new Welcome screen. Thurrott and Rivera said the screen looks much like the Welcome screen of Windows Phone, which displays the date and time prominently on a background image.

Only power management functions can be accessed from this screen right now, but the two have surmised other functionality would soon appear. On tablets there is said to be a pattern unlock similar to that of Android, and music playback controls similar to what iOS does to allow playback of music on a locked machine are also included.

More details on Windows 8 should continue to leak out: both Thurrott and Rivera said they plan to continue to post on new functionality in the coming weeks and months.

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