Tired of Windows File Explorer? This app makes it way easier to navigate everything on your PC

If you think that Windows 11’s File Explorer could be better, you’re not alone – and there’s a popular third party alternative, the Files app. The Files app (which despite its name, has no relation to Microsoft’s own File Explorer) just got an upgrade that makes it an even better tool for navigating your file systems, with the latest version of the app allowing users to navigate big folders more easily. 

The Files app update 3.2 brings user interface (UI) improvements like a list view layout for files and folders, the capability to edit album covers of media files via folder properties, and support for higher quality thumbnails. Along with UI improvements, users can also expect many fixes and general improvements.

According to Windows Central, the Files app’s occasional instability while handling large file folders was one of the biggest user complaints with it and this update addresses that, too. The app should now be more functional when users attempt to use it with bigger file folders.

A young woman is working on a laptop in a relaxed office space.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How the Files app measures up as a file explorer 

Windows Central does state that it doesn’t think the Files app is just ready to completely replace the default Windows Files Explorer, but that “it can be a powerful and useful companion app.” It offers unique features that File Explorer itself doesn’t offer and, to many users, it’s got a sleeker look. This app is available for both Windows 10 and Windows 11, but the app’s performance can vary from system to system. Window Central writes of its own investigation of the File app’s performance and it does report that the app has issues with performance and stability on some PCs. You can check the full change log of what Files version 3.2 delivers if you’d like to know more.

Many users would like to see Windows’ old File Explorer include many of the File app’s features, and maybe Microsoft is watching. It recently released its own proprietary PC Cleaner app, a system cleaner tool that offers lots of the tools of popular paid third-party system cleaners for free. Also, Microsoft’s been at the receiving end of some heat both from industry professionals and competitors, as well as regulators in the European Union with its recent introduction of the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Offering tools like PC Cleaner and a souped-up File Explorer could be a way for it to win back some user trust and goodwill. 

The existence of third-party apps like this is good for users two-fold because it can motivate first-party developers to improve their products faster, and it also gives users more choice over how they use their devices. The Files app looks like it sees regular updates and improvements, and definitely sounds like it could be worth users’ while given that it has no malware issues and if you get good performance upon installing it.

If you’d like to try out Files for yourself, bear in mind that it isn’t free: the app comes with a one-time charge of $ 8.99/£7.49, although thankfully there aren’t any subscription fees. You can download it directly from the Microsoft Store

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Windows 11 could finally make color management easier, and that’s great news for artists and gamers

Microsoft might be planning to release a new color management panel that’ll make picking the perfect color profile for your PC much easier. The perfect color settings make games pop out of the display more vividly, and if you’re a digital artist or photographer, the right color profile could make or break your next masterpiece. 

According to VideoCardz, the change was spotted in the Windows Insider program's latest Insider Preview Build 26052. This is a community of Windows enthusiasts and developers that get early access to potential new features and upgrades, and give feedback before the features are available to regular Windows 11 users. 

The new color management panel showcased in the build has been updated to the modern Windows 11 aesthetic and relocated to the main Settings menu, with easy-to-navigate options and a simpler layout. The old color management menu, which had to be accessed via the Windows Control Panel, has been effectively removed in Build 26052.

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Better control,hopefully … 

Most people who just use their PC for office work or school projects might never venture to this section of the Settings menu, but this could be great news for photographers, digital artists, video editors, and gamers who rely on getting the most out of their monitors. 

From the side-by-side screenshot comparison in the above tweet (sorry, 'X post'), you can see some new features too: the option to color-calibrate your monitor for specific profiles and enable automatic color balancing for compatible Windows apps. If you don’t want to manually color calibrate, you can either select the best option from the available profiles or create your own so you get the most accurate hues. 

While we're excited about this change, we do have to keep in mind that some features that are put into the Dev channel don’t always make it out to the public, so there is a chance we might never see it reach the public build.  We do however hope to see it come to Windows 11 soon because it’ll be a convenient way of managing your color preferences and profiles within the menu layout you’re already familiar with. 

If you want to give it a go, you’ll have to sign up to join the Windows Insider program first. Once you’ve done that you’ll be able to go straight to the ‘display’ section of your general settings and see the ‘Color Management’ option, where you can play around with different profiles and settings. 

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The iTunes app in Windows 11 has been replaced with four new apps that’ll make life a whole lot easier for iPhone users with Windows PCs

The iTunes for Windows app has just received a sweeping overhaul. The app has now been split into four different entities: an iCloud app, Apple Music, Apple TV and a new Devices app. These new apps offer a refreshed onboarding and set-up experience, aesthetic improvements and a more intuitive syncing process that’ll make downloading your iCloud content to your PC much easier.

Even now, after all these years, iTunes in Windows 11 hasn’t improved in a sufficient way to win me over. For a long time, it’s remained clunky and slow and honestly just not that helpful. Using the app in Windows feels like navigating a twenty-year-old bit of software. 

Thankfully, it seems like Apple has finally gotten the hint and has decided to dissect it and offer four separate apps that concentrate on specific features and use cases, rather than being a jack-of-all-trades as iTunes often felt like. This move could hint at the swift death of iTunes altogether, as the app is now even more redundant.

So, what's new?

iCloud Photos gets a big boost that brings the Windows 11 app on par with the preinstalled apps you find on Apple Macs, offering the ability to create Shared Albums on your PC, and access and remove photos and videos from your cloud storage directly from your PC. Perhaps my favourite new feature is that you can now view your photos directly from the default Microsoft Photos app in Windows 11.

Being able to view all your photos, both from your PC and from your phone in one place in the Windows Photos app is an incredibly convenient change. If you need something for work or you just want to send a few photos in an email to someone, you now don’t have to use different apps and trawl folders to find what you need, now you can just open the default photo app on your Windows 11 PC and have all your photos in one place – making the process a lot more seamless – and more like the experience iCloud users on Apple devices are used to. 

Apple TV for Windows

(Image credit: Apple )

The new iCloud Drive app will now let you share files with friends, family and colleagues straight from File Explorer, which again is such a time-saving integration that makes your Apple device feel more at home with your Windows PC. Not every iPhone user will own a Mac or MacBook, and it’s great to finally see Apple implement changes that mean iPhone users with Windows 11 laptops and PCs don’t feel like second-class citizens.

Password management across your iPhone and your PC will be a lot smoother as well, so if you happen to forget any of your passwords you can just view them in the iCloud Passwords app on your Windows PC without having to pick up your iPhone or iPad. Your passwords will also be saved and synced across not just your Apple devices but to your PC as well via the Chrome and Edge web browsers with an iCloud Passwords extension. Again, this is great news for people who use PCs and need to quickly log into their accounts without having to fumble with their personal devices.

Finally, your Apple Calendars, Bookmarks and contacts will be synced up on your PC as well, so you’ll be able to view your iCloud Calendar in Microsoft Outlook. This applies to both the free version that comes with your PC and the paid version for Microsoft 365 subscribers. 

Apple Music for Windows

(Image credit: Apple )

The Apple Music app has also received a refresh to its user interface as well as time-synced lyrics and 4K music videos, which is a feature in the iOS and iPad versions of the app. The Apple TV app for Windows is a new addition that aims to bring your viewing library to your desktop, which is great news for those of us who like to have a show or a movie in the background while you work on personal projects. I love binge-watching TV shows while playing games on my PC, and this is great news because it means I won’t have to prop my iPhone up by my display just to watch something at the same time.

The fourth app being introduced to Windows is called 'Devices' and offers a straightforward way for you to keep track of what devices are connected to your iCloud account, as well as allowing you to sync, update and backup your Apple devices right from your desktop. This means the iTunes app will be left with Podcasts and Audiobooks for now, with all the other features split between these four apps. So, you won’t lose any of your favourite bits of audio content. 

The implementation of these new apps adds a more contemporary feel to the Apple experience on Windows. All these positives combined will hopefully make it feel less like you’re using an ancient app that’s been ignored for several years.

Overall, this is a positive move from Apple that finally brings some much-needed improvements to PC users who want to sync up their iPhones to their devices.  This way you get the best out of the Apple ecosystem file-sharing experience without having to own an actual Mac. 

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Microsoft is adding a Windows 11 feature that makes accessing your phone’s photos even easier

A new feature is coming to Windows 11 that will make transferring screenshots from your phone to your PC much easier. Thanks to testing being done by Microsoft, you should soon have the ability to access and edit your screenshots from your phone directly on your PC.

The Windows Insider Program for Developers is a channel that receives experimental builds of Windows 11 that represent any upcoming updates or new features that Microsoft plans to implement in the near future, in order to gather feedback before pushing features to the public version. 

When enabled in the Dev Channel, the Windows 11 Build 23619 now has a ‘Cross-Device Experience Host update’ that will replace the existing Phone Link feature, using this new feature instead to connect your phone and your PC.

Once your phone is connected, every time you take a screenshot on your phone a little pop-up will appear in your desktop notifications. You’ll then have to option to view, edit or share your screenshot straight from your PC.

Simple and smooth sharing 

I’m pretty excited for the feature to officially arrive in the public build of Windows 11, as it takes the hassle out of sending your photos to your PC via either a cable, messaging service or cloud storage service in order to edit them. At least once a week, I have to email myself screenshots from my phone to open on my computer, so it’ll be incredibly time-saving to simply have a little notification pop up on my desktop instead that I can choose to ignore or open and get to work. 

This feature will also be really good for those of us who might not be as technologically adept or are just in a hurry to transfer a new photo. It’s much easier to explain to someone who might need help that if you connect your phone to your PC using this feature you can simply take the screenshot and the pop-up will automatically appear, rather than explaining a lengthier step-by-step process to them.

It’s always good to see Microsoft continually working to improve Windows 11 – especially given some people’s unwillingness to upgrade from Windows 10. This update also came with some useful fixes, such as squashing a bug that caused crashes when you change voices in Narrator in Settings, and more work to improve the performance of File Explorer.

Via Betanews

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Strava gets a handy direct messaging feature to make organizing rides easier

Strava already has a lot of social features built in, so you can share your cycles, runs and walks with friends and family, but it's now adding a major new feature to make contacting fellow users even easier: direct messaging.

As per the official blog post (via Velo), the Strava apps for Android and iOS are being updated now with messaging capabilities. Both one-to-one and group chats are supported, as well as options to share activities and routes in conversations, and you don't need to pay for a subscription to use the feature. 

When it comes to group chats, you're able to set specific names for them, and message reactions, GIFs, and replies to individual messages are all supported. What doesn't seem to be live yet, according to 9to5Mac, is photo sharing – but that's due in early 2024.

Perhaps the easiest way to start messaging someone you're connected to on Strava is to head to their profile and then tap the new Message button. You can also find your conversation list by tapping the speech bubble on the Home or Groups tabs.

Safety and privacy

Strava says that it's adding direct messages after so long because “athletes perform better together”, while the press release talks about messaging “enabling seamless coordination, connectivity, and celebration of accomplishments and progress”.

In other words, you can cheer your friends on, brag about your accomplishments, and meet up for activities more easily without having to resort to another messaging app. That said, if you've already got a group chat established somewhere else, this new feature might not have enough about it to tempt you to switch over.

There is a safety and privacy aspect to this, too: you need to have entered your date of birth in the app to use messaging, so Strava can monitor for “suspicious, underage, or unsafe activity” through the new chatting mechanism.

And you can limit who is able to message you, if you're worried about people sliding into your DMs. Via messaging settings (the cog icon on the conversation list), you can choose from Following (people who follow you), Mutuals (people who follow you that you also follow back), and No one (no one can message you first, but you can still start chats).

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Google Maps just made it a lot easier to plan holiday trips with better travel tools

With the holiday season just over the horizon, Google Maps is receiving an update to make planning and traveling around these hectic times more manageable.

The patch consists of three new features. First, the app will gain updated “transit directions” that’ll tell you “the best route to your destination based on key factors”. This includes the overall length of the trip, estimated time of arrival, plus the number of transfers you’ll have to take in order to get there. It’ll even be possible to customize the route using filters telling Google Maps to focus on a specific type of transit, like subways, or if you want one with minimal walking. 

Additionally, the app will tell where you can find the entrances and exits to stations “in over 80 cities around the world,” including Boston, London, New York City, Sydney, and Toronto. It'll point out “what side of the street they're on” as well as if there is a “clear walking route”.

Newfound collaboration

Next, the collaborative list tool will allow invited users to vote on an activity via emoji reactions. You can choose between a heart, a smiley face, a flame, or a flying stack of cash if you’re interested in going. For those who aren’t, a thumbs-down icon will be available.

Speaking of which, people can also react to publicly posted photographs on Google Maps with an emoji. The company states that “in some cases” you’ll be given the opportunity to use mashup reactions via Emoji Kitchen. The emoji mashup selections seem to depend on what the app’s AI sees in an image. For example, if it detects a bagel, the mashup will include the food item, and potentially, the yummy face. These custom-made icons will automatically be generated.

Everything you see here will be rolling out globally to Android and iOS devices starting today. The rest of the announcement consists of the tech giant shouting out certain Google Maps tools that you can use to help “navigate the holidays” like finding nearby charging stations for electric vehicles or purchasing train tickets right on the app.

If you’re interested in what else it can do, check out TechRadar’s list of the 10 things you didn’t know Google Maps could do

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Google Photos just made it much easier to tidy up your library – here’s how

Google Photos is introducing a pair of AI-powered features to help you organize all the family pictures and screenshots in your messy profile.

Moving forward, the service will be able to identify photographs “that were taken close together” and then group them together into what Google calls Photo Stacks. It appears the AI operates by selecting images that have visual similarities to each other. The software is not going to pick out pictures with a different composition or subjects in them. Once the selections have been made, Google Photos will choose one of them to be the lead image. Of course, you do have the option to manually pick the lead, “modify the stacks, or turn off” the feature entirely. 

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Tidying-up screenshots

Google Photos will be doing something similar for “screenshots and documents in your gallery” by automatically categorizing them “into more helpful albums”. There will be an album for images of your ID card, and receipts, plus one for “event information” like an upcoming concert or festival. The goal here is to make it easier to locate “what you need when you need it without having” to dig through a mess of photographs. 

The AI will also allow you to set reminders on your phone calendar using the information from a screenshot of a ticket or “flyer for an upcoming event.” As an example, let’s say you took a screenshot of a ticket for a concert scheduled for December 2. You will see a “Set Reminder” option at the bottom of the picture in Google Photos. Tapping it causes a calendar entry to show up where you can enter more information or edit it. The company explains you can choose to “automatically archive your screenshots… after 30 days” which will hide them from the main gallery. They can still, however, be found in their respective albums.

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The announcement states the Google Photos update is currently rolling out to Android and iOS. Be sure to keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives. No word if there will be a desktop version, although we did ask Google for more information. This story will be updated if we hear back.

While we have you, be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best photo storage and sharing sites in 2023.

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ChatGPT Plus gets big upgrade that makes it more powerful and easier to use

ChatGPT is undoubtedly one of the best artificial intelligence (AI) tools you can use right now, but a new update could make it even better by increasing the range of file types it can work with, as well as making it a little more independent when it comes to switching modes.

The changes are currently being tested in beta and are expected to come to ChatGPT Plus, the paid-for version of OpenAI’s chatbot that costs $ 20 / £16 / AU$ 28 a month. As detailed by ChatGPT user luokai on Threads (via The Verge), these changes could make a big difference to how you use the AI tool.

Specifically, ChatGPT Plus members are now able to upload various files that the chatbot can use to generate results. For instance, luokai demonstrated how ChatGPT can analyze a PDF that a user uploads, then answer a question based on the contents of that PDF.

Elsewhere, the beta version of ChatGPT can create images based on a picture uploaded by a user. That could make the chatbot much more able to generate the type of content you’re after, without just having to solely rely on your prompt or description.

Automatic mode switching

ChatGPT responding to the prompt 'is there life after death?'

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ascannio)

That’s not all this beta update brings with it. As well as file analysis, ChatGPT could soon be able to switch modes without any user input, in a move that might make the tool much less cumbersome to use.

Right now, you need to tell ChatGPT exactly what mode you want to use, such as Browse with Bing. In the current beta, though, ChatGPT is able to determine the mode automatically based on your conversation with the chatbot.

That can extend to generating Python code or opting to use Dall-E to generate an image too, meaning you should be able to get results much closer to what you wanted without having to make an educated guess as to the best mode to use.

All of these changes could make OpenAI’s chatbot much easier to use if you’re a ChatGPT Plus subscriber. There’s no word yet on when the features will be fully rolled out, so stay tuned for more news on that front.

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Windows 11 gets a nifty change to make logging onto Wi-Fi easier

Windows 11 has a new preview version that makes a few marked improvements on the wireless front, including a feature that makes it dead easy for visitors to log on to your Wi-Fi network at home.

Preview build 25977 is out in the Canary channel (the earliest test version of Windows 11) and comes with the ability to let someone join your Wi-Fi just by scanning a QR code.

How it works is you head to Wi-Fi properties, and when looking at the Wi-Fi password, a QR code is now displayed. All guests need to do to log on to the Wi-Fi network is scan that QR code with their device’s camera, and it’s done.

So, there’s no need to manually enter the password for your Wi-Fi router or to have to dive into Settings and the Network and Sharing Center and fiddle around in those submenus either. It’s a much more convenient method, in short.

Another Wi-Fi-related change is happening in this preview build, this time pertaining to privacy.

Microsoft has introduced functionality to let you manage the apps that have access to the list of Wi-Fi networks in your local area (as those networks could be used to pinpoint where you are in the real world). If you don’t want an application to have that power, you can simply block it (this ability lives under Settings > Privacy & security > Location).

There’s more on the wireless front, but this time with Bluetooth, as this Windows 11 preview has ushered in support for using Bluetooth Low Energy Audio hearing aids.

If you own such a device, you can now directly pair it with your PC in order to stream audio, take calls, and so on, which is very cool. You’ll need to own a Windows 11 device that supports Bluetooth Low Energy Audio, though.

For the full list of changes and small tweaks here and there, there’s the usual lengthy blog post provided by Microsoft.


Analysis: A new spin on the globe, too

Some of those extra tweaks include a small but pretty useful one which is also worth noting. You know the internet connection icon in the system tray, on the far right-hand side of the taskbar?

Currently, if there’s no connection, it’s a disconnected globe icon, but the slight change is that if the PC is in the process of connecting – but isn’t yet connected – you’ll see an animation to indicate this. In other words, the globe will only appear if you’re definitely offline and no connection is present, or in the process of coming into being.

There’s some useful work on the network side of things here, then, particularly the addition of quick logins for Wi-Fi with that QR code (something that has been available on Android for some time now, as you may be aware).

While we’re picking up on smaller details, it’s worth mentioning that for testers actually intending to grab this Canary build, there’s a big issue on the gaming front. Microsoft observes that “some popular games may not work correctly” with build 25977 (and indeed possibly recent builds just before it).

We aren’t told which of the best PC games these might be, but it’s certainly something to be aware of if you indulge in a spot of gaming on your rig.

Via Windows Latest

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Microsoft wants to make it easier to manage your apps in Windows 11

Windows 11 is getting a new System Components hub in order to manage system-related apps and other elements in one place, or at least this is in testing right now.

Windows Latest spotted the incoming change in preview which is set to be part of the Windows 11 23H2 update, and may also eventually be brought to those who remain on 22H2.

The System Components hub is located in Settings (in the System menu, unsurprisingly). It provides easy access to all system apps (default applications installed with Windows 11, like Calculator, Photos or Notepad for example), plus it also lists the likes of extensions and codecs that are system-related.

For example, the installed codecs needed to play certain video formats are listed under System Components.

Note that working with everyday (non-system) apps continues as normal (in the Apps & Features panel). What the new hub provides is a way to access anything system-related to see those pieces of the puzzle easily (and related extensions and so forth, as mentioned).


Analysis: A drive to provide more clarity with apps

In other words, this is an extra addition to Windows 11’s interface, rather than replacing anything in Settings to do with app management.

It’s also worth noting that in the pursuit of greater clarity for default apps and system components in Windows 11, they will be clearly labeled as such in the Start menu (and Microsoft Store).

That’s another change currently in test builds, so any system app will have a ‘system component’ slapped next to it, to make it crystal clear which entries in the Start menu are system-related.

All this is just in testing, and there’s never any guarantee that what’s in preview will make the cut for release – but this seems a good bet to get through to the finished version of Windows 11. Especially as the 23H2 update is expected to begin rolling out soon (though it won’t have much in the way of major changes, seeing as the recent Moment 4 update brought much of the big stuff in, such as the Copilot AI most notably).

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