I love tabs. I can’t imagine a moment when I don’t have more than two dozen tabs open on a handful of Google Chrome browser windows. As it turns out, Microsoft had been testing out tabbed browsing since the early days of Windows 95, way before they became popular in web browsers.
This video by Windows on Windows (spotted by Hardware Info) shows footage of tabs featured in Windows Explorer (now File Explorer) in what appears to be an early Windows 95 development build from 1993, according to Windows on Windows. As you see from the video, the tabs acted as quick links to recent folders.
Tabbed browsing in Windows showed up when it released Internet Explorer 7 in 2006 on Windows XP and Windows Vista in the same year. However, Mozilla had already introduced tabs on its Firefox browser in 2003.
Jump forward another 10 years, and Microsoft tested out a feature called ‘Sets,’ which let you group a bunch of apps into one window, or a ‘set.’ That feature made it to Windows Insider builds in 2018, but vanished from future builds.
In October 2022, Microsoft officially released File Explorer tabs and some other irrelevant non-tab-related features in Windows 11 version 22H2. This update added a new File Explorer homepage and the ability to add tabs of multiple folder windows into one place.
Why did Microsoft wait so long to introduce tabs to the file explorer? Perhaps it was a feature too ahead of its time, and the general public wasn’t ready for that level of productivity. Perhaps the raw processing power required to tab between several folders of jpgs was just too great. I guess we’ll never know.
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