A major stumbling block for many during the transformation process from on premises to Microsoft 365 is the desire for Windows Explorer. It is understandable that people want to maintain the status quo and their current work processes, however want many don’t appreciate is that Windows Explorer like capability is built right into Microsoft Office desktop applications.
If we take a look a Word as an example, and then select Open from the menu on the left, we find an array of documents displayed that were recently opened as shown above. You’ll also notice that you can view recently accessed Folders from this same interface as well. There is even a Search option at the top of the page to help you locate items in this list.
You’ll see there is also the ability to ‘pin’ an item (file or folder) so that it will always appear as shown above.
A little further down you will find the cloud storage locations you are connected to as shown above, which are typically associated with your Microsoft 365 environment. If I select SharePoint here, I will then see a list of my SharePoint sites on the right.
If I then drill into a site, I will see all the Document Libraries it contains. If then drill into a Document Library I will see all the files and folders within, just like you do when using Windows Explorer.
If I right click on something like a folder, you see from the above, that I again have the ability to Pin to Recent list. This makes it easy to navigate back to that location later. It is always a good idea to do this for those locations you need to get to regularly.
I can move up and down the list of items as I could using Windows Explorer. This therefore, should be the familiarity that many are looking for when navigating file structures.
The file displays inside this application navigation are limited to files that can be opened or view by that application. For Word this would be things like DOC, DOCX, PDF, Text files and so on.
It would be nice if Microsoft (or anyone else) took this built-in Office desktop navigation and created a stand alone desktop application that could navigate all files at once. This would then be a direct replacement for the traditional version of Windows Explorer but for locations in Microsoft 365. How handy would that be?
As yet, I have not found an application that does this but hopefully some smart developer will look ate creating something as I reckon it would be a real winner. So, for the time being, remember that you do have a simplified version of the old familiar Windows Explorer built into Office desktop application that you can use to enhance your daily workflow with the common file types you work with in Microsoft 365.