Why did the Explore option disappear from the context menu of folders in the second column of the Start menu?

A customer noticed that when you right-click on Computer in the second column of the Start menu on Windows Vista, the first two options are Open and Explore. On the other hand, in Windows 7, the Explore option is gone, leaving just Open. The customer also noticed that in Windows Vista, the two commands had the same effect and wondered if Explore was removed because it was redundant.

The response from the product team was a very simple "Yes."

It's interesting when a customer notices a relatively insignificant UI change, figures out the likely reason for the change, and then asks for confirmation. It's not like the reason for the change affects anything. My guess is that the customer already paid for a support contract so they're just going to use it, even when the issue wouldn't normally be worth raising a support incident over.

Comments (19)
  1. rw says:

    Maybe the customer wanted to test the minimum support response time by asking a question with almost no investigation effort…

  2. Fabricio says:

    Maybe, maybe not. Just to reassure that is the normal behavior – in suspect of virus infection (or a malfunctioning shell extension), he detected the absense of 'Explore' command and didn't remember if it is a normal behavior or a side effect of his/her suspects…

  3. ERock says:

    Maybe it came up because their old end-user support documentation still has a reference to "Right click on the Start Button, select Explore" and some PHB wanted confirmation before they modify the documentation.

  4. Ivo says:

    The flip side of the question is "why are both Open and Explore present on Vista"? Was it an oversight, a compatibility thing, or something else?

  5. configurator says:

    I never understood why there are two options in the same menu that do the exact same thing in the first place.

    [Because they did different things in the first place. -Raymond]
  6. Corporate User says:

    We're still on Windows XP.  What does Open do in Windows 7?  Does it replicate the behavior of the old WinXP Open, or of the old WinXP Explore?  (I'm hoping Explore, because I never want the Open behavior.)

  7. MC says:

    @configurator: Because in XP the explorer was supporting showing only action pane or folder tree, not both. The action pane was replaced by toolbar in Vista, so folder tree is shown by default in all explorer windows. Later somebody discovered that, after this design change, both commands result in the same window, so they managed to remove one of them in Windows 7.

  8. David Paulo says:

    Normally, when you have a partition or a pendrive with an autorun within, the OPEN option will execute the autorun, and the EXPLORE option will call Windows Explorer. but autoruns can also change this behavior…

    In Windows XP, When you call Open on the "My Computer" icon, the default window for my computer is opened, but if you choose Explore, Windows Explorer open "My Computer" with a different window, one that you can browse the directory tree, which is shown on the left side of the window.

    But for directories, this option still appears because that's the default option menu. you can change the default option menu in Windows registries, through regedit.

  9. Peter Hughes says:

    Removing (or not upgrading) redundant options can still be disruptive. I still miss the "explore from here" functionality, which doesn't work right in Vista.

  10. sean says:

    Some people are genuinely curious.  Crazy isn't it?

  11. mikeb says:

    @sean: that was exactly my thought at first, but then remember that Raymond is apparently talking about an actual support incident.  Generally, idle curiosity doesn't rise to that level of action.

    Not that it's particularly surprising when it does, either.

  12. NB says:

    Somewhat related: Why is that in Vista/W7 it's no longer possible to open an Explorer window without the tree and just the contents of a folder? Or is it?

    I kind of miss that from XP.

    [Turn off the navigation pane and close the window. Next time you open it, there won't be a navigation pane. -Raymond]
  13. buzzingmosquito says:

    Well you know what? I want the ability to QUICKLY toggle the folder pane ON and OFF so Explore is not the same as Open. The Organize button way doesn't do it fast enough. Either give us a toggle button like XP had (and Windows 7 for preview pane) or at least a keyboard shortcut. Or at least a way to toggle it programmatically so I can write my own little app to do it. Why the shell team wants users to decide for once whether to use the navigation pane or not and not toggle it is beyond me. Plus it won't even save this setting per folder like XP did. I don't want the navigation pane for Printers or Administrative Tools. Please repair this in Windows 8 if anyone from the shell team cares about feedback.

  14. James Schend says:

    buzzing mosquito: Your name is very apt.

  15. Anonymous Coward says:

    Technically, the explore and open verbs are already pretty redundant in XP, since there's a toggle button that turns the folder tree on and off.

    P.S. Is it true that this button was removed in Vista? If so, why?

  16. Ian B. says:

    @Anonymous Coward: The task list that formerly filled that space in XP when the search or folder views weren't being displayed was made into a toolbar in Windows Vista and 7, so the folder view (and favorite places, if you're using Vista) are always displayed on the left unless you explicitly turn it off in the organize menu.

  17. David Matthew says:

    I want to believe that Buzzing Mosquito's comment is a joke, but I have a sinking sensation that it's not.

  18. BJ says:

    I actually miss explore and open, because I understand the difference.  Ahh well, I'll have to content myself with trying to remember how to find edit and replace in Office 2010, and complain about that changing instead.

  19. Clovis says:

    I have an iMac. I like it very much.

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