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Improve Explorer with QT TabBar and Toolbar

March 4, 2009 3 comments

It’s still a fairly short while since Microsoft added tabs to their Internet Explorer browser, but since then tabs have become an integral part of just about everyone’s browsing experience, even the least techy of users. The easy process of being able to quickly and simply open up new pages and links whilst browsing the Internet has become standard. However, the program we use to browse our files in Windows is still lacking in this feature. Indeed, it’s a good, simple way of viewing, organising and searching for files, but it could be improved. This is where QT’s TabBar and toolbar come in.

This small, easy-to-install application allows you to add two new toolbars to Windows Explorer. Once installed (please see here for install instructions – note that you will need to right click and run as administrator in Vista), log off and on again to restart Explorer. You can then enable either one or both of the toolbars. The first of which is a tab-bar. Simply enable this by right-clicking on an empty area of your current toolbars and clicking ‘QT TabBar’. You should then see a new tab-bar pop up. You can then unlock your toolbars and drag them around to gain a comfortable layout. This is really quite a snazzy product. Rather than opening up a separate window for different

folders, you can have multiple locations open within the same window, and just like in a web browser, middle-clicking on a folder will open it in a new tab. You can drag files around between these tabs, as well as customising various options – just right-click an empty area of the tab-bar and have a wander through the plethora of choices to make it work in the best way possible for you.

The second of the provided toolbars is slightly less exciting, but no less useful. You’ll notice the change more in Vista, where Microsoft made Windows Explorer much simpler, removing all but the backwards and forwards buttons. This is fine if the only need is simplicity, but if you’re anything like me, you may miss a few of the old functions from XP. Enabling the ‘QT Tab Standard Buttons’ toolbar will pop up some familar buttons from XP. You can right click on this toolbar to add or remove buttons, or even change the image on each if you’re not happy with the provided icons.

Showcasing a few of QT's features

Showcasing a few of QT's features

Other small but nifty and time-saving features are also added. Hovering over a folder will show a small arrow to the right, clicking this pops up a drop-down list which allows you to quickly navigate to other folders or files, without having to poddle through the directories. You can also hover over an image file to see a thumbnail appear, also containing basic informaiton about the image. Another feature of the toolbar is the small search-box. Whilst you’ll already have Microsoft’s version of this if you use Vista, QT Tab’s works differently: it searches in a different way: only searching the currently open directory of folders and files. This is often helpful if you just want to quickly find a file or folder out of the current list, rather than searching your whole computer in a strange, somewhat cumbersome manner. In addition, you can also add lists of your favourite applications or files which can then be accessed quickly and easily from the ‘Applications’ drop-down, saving you a trip to the Start Menu.

I did seem to notice a slight performance decrease when browsing files after the install, but this was temporary; Explorer now appears to perform the same as it did prior to the install. I would also suggest that the productivity increase you are likely to see will outweigh any minor speed decrease you may experience. Either way, it’s easy to remove the toolbars if you encounter any issues.

If you decide that neither of these features are for you, simple disable the toolbars again. You can also fully remove it by running the quick install wizard again, this time opting to remove it. Unfortunately the next version of Windows, Windows 7, isn’t set to include tabbed file browsing, so it looks like we’ll need this again if upgrading! I hope you’ll agree that these tools save a lot of time, making simple tasks easier and simpler. Give it a whirl and see what you think by downloading from www.qttabbar.com, and for help with installing, please see this article.

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