Dude, Where’s My Tabs?

You know what grinds my gears? Windows/File Explorer, that’s what. For the longest time, people have been saying that Microsoft just doesn’t get it and that they don’t listen to their customers. Whether you agree with this or not is completely irrelevant. However, I’m sure that the majority of us have stumbled upon an issue at one point or another that just drives us crazy not because it doesn’t work but more so because of how it works. You see, for most of us, we like to be organized. We dump our files in directories and organize them so we know where everything is. Sure, everyone works differently but no matter the case, we all create folders to help us more easily locate our files and whatnot. Well that is exactly the problem. We create many folders and directories but File Explorer has always functioned more or less the same throughout its iterations. One much requested feature is for the ability to open new directories in a new tab within the same File Explorer window much like how we can now open up a new webpage under a new tab within our favorite browsers. As we need a way to manage multiple websites under a single browser, we also have a need to work with multiple directories under a single Explorer window. Why can’t Microsoft just give us this feature?! Luckily we don’t have to rely solely on Microsoft to implement this feature because an excellent third-party plugin gives us just exactly what we want, and then some.

The Problem

File Explorer as of right now, meaning the version in Windows 8, leaves a lot to be desired. Sure they’ve given us the nice pretty ribbon interface which in my honest opinion I like a lot. It does take some time to get used to, provided that you even give it a chance in the first place. But the ribbon interface I can do without. Many users including myself no doubt would have preferred for Microsoft to give us a tabbed interface instead. As it stands, working with File Explorer feels like working with Internet Explorer 6 when you’re used to working with Chrome, Firefox and even Internet Explorer 7+.

The biggest issue is when you want to work with many different directories at once. You’d have to open up each directory in its own window. This is exactly how past Internet Explorer browsers have worked. Each new website you opened resulted in a new window of its own. Yes, it worked but it was hardly the most efficient way to multitask. I remember Firefox and Opera being the browser of choice for many because working with 10 tabs was so much more easier to deal with than 10 separate windows. Got a small monitor? Well, good luck.

What About Jumplists?

A pretty neat feature added to Explorer since Windows 7 is the Jumplist feature. To sum it up, you’re basically allowed to pin some of your most favorite and most often used folder locations within the Explorer icon located on your taskbar. Whenever you want to jump to that directory, you simply right click on the Explorer icon and you’ll be able to access your Jumplist. This does wonders if you want to have a clean desktop but still allow you to easily and quickly access your favorite folders. However, the problem still persists in that each folder opened via the Jumplist feature still results in an entire new Explorer window popping up on your screen.

So, What Gives?

Up until now, all I did was give you a rant about one of the biggest issue when dealing with File Explorer within Windows. I guess the whole point I’m trying to make is that rather than having to juggle and “manage” multiple windows on your screen, doesn’t it make more sense for you to be “managing” your data instead? Isn’t that the whole point of opening multiple directories? Having 10 separate windows on your screen at the same time during work hours does make you look like you’re hard at work when your boss glances over to see what you’re up to but other than that, it’s hardly the most efficient way to work.

Therefore, our solution is simple. If Microsoft doesn’t want to listen, then we’ll just have to get things done ourselves! Luckily, a Chinese developer has made an excellent plugin/extension for File Explorer that aims to “drag Explorer into the modern era” by finally giving us the ability to create tabs. Best of all? It’s completely free and the amount of time/hassle this simple feature will save you definitely warrants a donation of some kind. I usually don’t push too hard when it comes to encouraging others to donate money to freeware developers but I gotta say, this guy definitely deserves some beer money from you.

Clover 3

Enter Clover 3. If you love the Google Chrome browser, you will absolutely love Clover 3 because it aims to bring the tabbed interface of Chrome right into File Explorer. This includes everything from the visual interface to the keyboard shortcuts you’re so familiar with in Chrome. If you’re not a Chrome user, then that’s okay as well because the developer did a good job in integrating the plugin right into File Explorer in Windows that you’d swear it was actually a part of the operating system itself!

You can download Clover 3 from here.

Installation is simple. Download, install, enjoy! The install proceeded so quickly that I didn’t even have time to process a screenshot. Once finished though, a new window will be presented and you’ll quickly realize that you’re looking at a File Explorer window and not a tab within Google Chrome!

Default Clover Tabs

Notice the familiar wrench icon? You can access a small amount of Clover’s settings through here. For the most part, they can be left alone.

Clover 3's Settings

One of the awesome things about using Clover is its ability to give you bookmarks! You can favorite your most frequently accessed folder locations right at the top so that they are just a click away.


One of my personal favorite is having the ability to middle-click a folder! Once again, Clover 3 not only looks like Chrome but acts like it as well. I simply cannot live without the middle click button of my mouse to open new tabs within my browser and I’m sure neither could you. Here, middle-clicking a new folder will immediately open it within its own tab in the same File Explorer window. This is definitely something that will used on a daily basis when I have to manage multiple folders. But what about managing my data? How does Clover 3 help in that regard? Well, Clover 3 supports drag and drop between tabs. So, you can easily move files from one tab to another simply by dragging it from the source folder, hovering it over the destination tab for about a second or two and then releasing the file inside the directory. Although Clover gives an indication that this will be a copy operation, it’s actually moving it (cut/paste). In the below example, I’m simply moving a PDF file from a folder to my Desktop. This feature once again proves how useful having tabs within File Explorer can be! It definitely can save you a lot of time.

Moving Data Between Tabs

If you open a lot of folder tabs due to the structure of your work, there are bound to be some that you use more frequently than others. While bookmarks help you open them faster, it doesn’t help with tab management. Just like with Chrome, you can actually pin your most used folders to the left area. This simple feature allows you to quickly access your most important folders without having to hunt for them. Well, sort of, unless of course you actually pin a lot of folders! The bad news is that you cannot use the drag-and-drop feature to move files from a regular tabbed directory to one that is pinned.

Pinned Tabs

Without a doubt, you should by now have noticed how useful Clover can be. In fact, just by having tabs alone in File Explorer should make you that much more productive with your work because it’s no longer about managing your folder windows on screen. There is one File Explorer window to rule them all! With that being said though, it will take time getting used to due to the many years of not having the ability to use tabs within the Explorer interface. If Microsoft doesn’t bring tabs to the Explorer interface in Windows 9, I’m not entirely sure they ever will. It obviously will bring some confusion to many of the casual users but at this stage where the desktop is losing its dominance, something just have to change and I don’t know of a bigger change in boosting a user’s productivity level than having a tabbed interface in File Explorer.

As a last reminder, if you find that using Clover 3 definitely helps in your every day usage of the Windows operating system, I highly encourage you to donate some funds to the developer of this great project!

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  1. Simon, does this program give you the option of tabs on the bottom (below the address bar)?

    • Hey Rusty. I don’t think there is an option for that. The settings are pretty slim and I don’t see an option for it. If you want the most customization options, take a look at XYExplorer as Bill mentioned below.

  2. You also might want to take a look at XYplorer – http://www.xyplorer.com – as a replacement for Windows Explorer. This looks like a nice extension but Explorer should be so much more: tabs and multiple panes are just a start. Ititially XYplorer looks much more complex than it is: just ignore what you don’t need and everything else works pretty intuitively.

    • Clarification: XYplorerFree is a reduced feature (but still powerful) version of XYplorer (Pro) that is free for commercial and personal use.

      • Hey Bill. Thanks for the suggestion! I think I may have tried XYplorer a long time ago and have tried it but never liked it. So far, I’m liking Clover Tabs a whole lot but I’ll see if I have time to try it again sometime in the future!

  3. Nice add-on. Downloading it.
    Hopefully it dont have much impact on boot.

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