Introducing Files - The File Manager for Windows Phone 8.1

Considering the large number of users requesting a file manager for Windows Phone, Microsoft decided to develop and launch the Files app. It is a simple yet efficient file management tool, which will allow you to perform common file management tasks on your Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone. In this article we will provide an overview of this app's interface, its features and limitations. Read on to learn more.

The Files App & Its Main Features

You can download the Files app from here.

Here's what you can do with it in Windows Phone 8.1:

  • View the available space on your smartphone's internal storage and that of the SD card (if one is available).
  • Access the files stored on your Windows Phone and on your SD card (if one is available).
  • Create, rename and delete folders.
  • Browse and search for files.
  • Sort files by name, time or size.
  • Copy, rename and delete files.
  • Share single or multiple files with others.

This list speaks for itself: Files is a useful application for your Windows Phone. It has an easy to use interface and good integration with the operating system and its features. However, there are some limitations so let's dive in and find out more.

The Interface Tour

First, let's do a brief interface tour of the Files app:

When you start the app, you are presented with a space usage report which covers both your smartphone's internal storage and the SD card storage (where applicable). Here you will notice the bar(s) with the used and free storage values. On the bottom, if you tap the chevron (the three dots) you will view all available options for the home screen: the search button (1), the refresh(2), send feedback (3) and about (4) options.

The refresh button is very important throughout the entire application, because the file system does not automatically refresh the files and folders lists when you make a change, such as adding a file to a folder via a copy or move operation.

The send feedback option will display a form where you can report the issues you are encountering while using the app. Using the dropdown (1), you can select between launching files, browsing folders, copying or moving content, sharing content, deleting or renaming content, searching or doing something else. You can add a rating (2) and comments (3). You can also attach the app logs (4) if you are reporting a more serious issue, for example. The form has two action buttons: send (5) and cancel (6), which are pretty self explanatory.

Finally, the about option will simply display the application version.

When browsing a file and/or folder list, and no selection is made in the list, the bottom menu contains the following options: new folder (1), select (2), sort (3) and search (4). Obviously, you can select, sort and search both files and folders.

Let's see what changes on the app bar when you select a file or a folder in the list. The available options are changed dynamically, when a file or folder is selected. If you select a file, the available buttons change to the following: delete (1), move to (2), copy to (3), and share (4). Pressing the three-dots chevron (also known as the more button) (5) will reveal a menu with two additional commands: select all files (6) and rename (7).

When multiple files are selected, buttons 1-5 remain identical and you get access to the clear all (6) option that is used for toggling off the selected files. Rename (7) becomes inactive in this scenario, meaning that you cannot rename more than one file at a time.

Let's compare what happens when you select one folder and then select another folder. Selecting a single folder in a list will display the following active commands: delete (1), share (2), select all files (3) and rename (4). The buttons for moving and copying folders are inactive, meaning that moving or copying folders to another location is not possible.

When you select two or more folders, the rename option is deactivated, as you can see below.

But what happens if a mixed selection is made? If you select one or more files and one or more folders, the same buttons are deactivated as when selecting multiple folders.

Summing up, we've noticed some limitations and we've got some feedback for Microsoft that they can use to further improve this app.

The Limitations of the Files App for Windows Phone

Here are the limitations that we discovered in our testing:

  • The Files app is available only for Windows Phone 8.1 users.
  • You cannot copy or move folders to another location, which makes mass file management a bit complicated, but we need to remember we are using a mobile device and most of the time we won't need that.
  • You cannot share over 100 files at once. This is understandable, as sharing large amounts of files from a mobile device is seldom necessary.
  • The filesystem is not always automatically refreshed. We have tested this on two Lumia smartphones and found the same situation on both of them.
  • If you use the Files app while the smartphone is connected to a Windows PC via USB, the copied/moved/renamed files and folders are not refreshed in File Explorer. It is best to use this app while not browsing your smartphone from a Windows PC.
  • You cannot create a new folder during a file copy/move operation
  • You cannot rename multiple files or folders at once.
  • The breadcrumb navigation uses very small text and a very small icon for going Home (the file system root), making it difficult to use for people with thick fingers like myself.
  • You can view the properties of folders but you cannot view the properties of files.
  • The Files app is not integrated with OneDrive, meaning that you cannot use it browse the contents of your OneDrive. We hope to see the two applications joined in a near future, making the Windows Phone file management experience seamless and complete while removing some app clutter.

Conclusion

In this article we did a basic feature and interface overview for the Files app. Now that you are familiar with how it looks, what it can and what it can't do, let us know what you think about it. Have you tried? How well does it work for you? What limitations have you discovered? We can't wait to hear your side of the story, so please feel free to share using the comments form below.