is an application that is part of modern versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system
that provides a graphical user interface
for accessing the file systems
. In brief, this is the component of the operating system that is displayed on the monitor
and enables the user to control the computer. It is sometimes referred to as the Windows shell
because it is the component that is visible to the user and allows the manipulation of functions that are ultimately executed by the kernel
of the operating system.
Windows Explorer, which originally was completely distinct from the Internet Explorer web browser
, debuted in Windows 95
as a replacement to the older Windows file manager
. In addition to file management, Windows Explorer deals with functions tied to the Windows "Start" menu (Run, Settings, Documents, Programs). Windows Explorer also controls the Windows searching function and File Type associations (based on filename extensions
With the release of Windows 98
, Windows Explorer became based on Internet Explorer technology, most notably with the addition of navigation arrows (back and forward) for moving between recently visited directories. Many see this as another example of Microsoft's anti-competitive tactics of tying their software applications into the operating system. Still, it has proven to be a useful feature that has been emulated by other file browsing systems.
An interesting Explorer feature that was based on Internet Explorer technology was customized folders. Such folders contained a hidden web page that control the way the Windows Explorer displayed the contents of the folder. This feature proved to have security vulnerabilities due to its reliance on ActiveX
objects and scripting
, and was later removed.
In Windows XP
, Windows Explorer is significantly different than in previous Windows versions; by default, the Luna interface is used but can be turned off if desired.
Windows Explorer has the option to provide thumbshots
of graphic files, and of the rendering of HTML-files including graphic files and other HTML-files referred to.
This can be done
ne-by-one, in a detail panel showing details about a selected file; in Windows 98 a HTML-file can be edited to customize the detail panel, e.g. the size of the thumbshot of all files in a folder, with the view-miniatures setting within a folder pictogram, of up to four files in that folder