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The command ribbon on Windows Explorer in Windows 8. Credit: Microsoft (Click to enlarge)

Microsoft today gave another sneak peek of Windows 8 — showing a new approach to Windows Explorer, the place where users search for and interact with files in the operating system. The change will be familiar to many Microsoft customers, because it’s styled as a “ribbon” of commands very similar to the interface used in recent versions of Microsoft Office programs.

“We evaluated several different UI command affordances including expanded versions of the Vista/Windows 7 command bar, Windows 95/Windows XP style toolbars and menus, several entirely new UI approaches, and the Office style ribbon,” writes Alex Simons of Microsoft’s Windows team in a post explaining the changes. “Of these, the ribbon approach offered benefits in line with our goals.”

Those goals included making the most important commands more prominent, increasing predictability, boosting consistency across Microsoft’s product lines, and bringing commands out from their current hiding places in various Windows menus.

Also see this Microsoft video outlining the changes.

The new approach is drawing a mixed reaction from Windows users in the comments on Simons’ post.

On the surface, the ribbon looks inconsistent with the tile-based, Windows Phone-style design and fonts that Microsoft has adopted for the default Start screen in Windows 8. Microsoft will be giving more details on Windows 8 next month, and it will be interesting to see how the company bridges the new and old elements of the overall Windows interface.

Microsoft last week also showed a new approach to file copying in Windows 8.

The new operating system is expected out next year.

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