How to Use the Quick Access Toolbar in Windows 8's File Explorer

File ExplorerWindows 8 has made a lot of changes, not only to the user interface, but to core features like the Task Manager. While these changes tend to add aesthetic appeal where once there was little, they serve more to improve the functionality of the operating system. One place where you'll notice a major change is the File Explorer. Windows 8 adds a lot of new features in this most basic of interfaces to give you easier access to core functions. One small touch that makes life a bit easier is the Quick Access toolbar and I would like to share the most important changes made by Microsoft.

How to Find the Quick Access Toolbar in File Explorer

To get started, you'll need to launch the File Explorer from the Desktop. If you're starting from the Start screen, click or tap the Desktop tile. Once on the Desktop, click or tap the folder icon from the taskbar.

File Explorer, Quick Access Bar, Windows 8

Obviously, this isn't the only way to launch it. You can also use Search and type the word file. The appropriate search results are displayed.

The Quick Access toolbar is small and unassuming and will likely be overlooked by a lot of users. That's a shame because it is a useful tool.

File Explorer, Quick Access Bar, Windows 8

Take a look in the top-left corner of the window to see it in all of its minimalistic glory.

How to Customize the Quick Access Toolbar in File Explorer

Initially you'll only have a few buttons to choose from. They'll be Properties, New Folder and Rename. If you click the down arrow next to these buttons, you'll see there are a few additional options you can select. Click the space to the left of one of the following options to add it to the bar:

  • Undo - Rolls back the last change you made to the active window.
    File Explorer, Quick Access Bar, Windows 8
  • Redo - Redoes the previously undone action.
  • Delete - Sends the selected file or folder to the Recycle Bin.
  • Properties - Opens the selected file or folder's Properties dialog.
  • New Folder - Creates a new folder in the active window.
  • Rename - Highlights the name of the selected file or folder allowing you to type a new name.

How to Change the Position of the Quick Access Toolbar

While the bar defaults to the extreme top-left corner of the File Explorer window, you can choose to move it below the ribbon if you like. To do this, click the Down arrow to the right of the Quick Access toolbar and click or tap "Show below the ribbon."

File Explorer, Quick Access Bar, Windows 8

The new position places it just under the ribbon on the left side of the window. There isn't a tremendous amount of flexibility as to the position of this toolbar but the two options make sense. You'll find the lower position is easier for mouse users who want to keep the bar close to the files to minimize the amount of mouse movement required between clicks.

File Explorer, Quick Access Bar, Windows 8

Touch screen users will likely opt for the higher location to keep it out of the way since their finger can tap either location without any difference in time or effort.

How to Minimize the Ribbon in the File Explorer

While you're moving the Quick Access toolbar above and below the ribbon, you might find that you'd rather simply hide the ribbon and keep the Quick Access toolbar in the open. This is easily accomplished by selecting "Minimize the ribbon" from the Quick Access toolbar's customization menu.

File Explorer, Quick Access Bar, Windows 8

The ribbon will recede into itself freeing up screen space.

File Explorer, Quick Access Bar, Windows 8

Don't worry about losing the ribbon's function though, you can still access it by selecting a tab. Click or tap a tab name to drop the ribbon and view the ribbon's tools.

File Explorer, Quick Access Bar, Windows 8

If you find you miss the ribbon interface staying open, you can maximize it again using the Quick Access toolbar's customization menu or by simply clicking or tapping the down arrow on the top-right corner of the File Explorer window.

File Explorer, Quick Access Bar, Windows 8

Conclusion

This Quick Access toolbar may not seem like a hugely important tool - indeed users with mastery over Windows' keyboard shortcuts won't find much use for it - but it does make things easier for everyone else. Mouse reliant users and touch screen users alike will find that this saves a lot of time over right-clicking or long-pressing a file, waiting for the context menu to load then selecting an option. It may only be a second or two of time savings, but that adds up for a user who spends a lot of time in the File Explorer.