Tabs are definitely one of the best additions especially for web browsers. By having tabs, it saves your workspace by opening multiple locations at one window instead of multiple windows. Of course opening too many tabs on one window can start to get a bit confusing and messy which is why you can move it to a new window or even merge it to another window with the help of a third party extension such as Tab Mix Plus. Other than web browsers, some third party software such as the popular Notepad++ also support tabs. Even though tabs are proven to be useful but weirdly it is not being implemented in Windows Explorer even in the upcoming Windows 8. Fortunately there 3 free extensions that brings tabbed browsing to Explorer. Do take note that we will only be looking at “extensions” that adds tab function to the built-in Windows Explorer and not an Explorer replacement program such as Q-Dir, xplorer², Free Commander, Directory Opus and many more.
QTTabBar is one of the longest running projects that enables tabs in Windows Explorer. Although it seems to be a simple extension that only adds tab to Explorer, it also adds a very useful toolbar that allows you to access your recently closed or favorite folders and applications, tabs management, and copying of folder path, name and even MD5 hashes.
You can access QTTabBar’s configuration by right clicking on the QTTabBar toolbar and select Options. From there you are able to configure the default location when open a new Explorer window, tab locations, appearance, applications, plugins, shortcut keys and miscellaneous settings. QTTabBar works on Windows XP, Vista, 7 and even successfully tested only Windows 8.
2. Clover 2
If you are a fan of Google Chrome, you are going to love this extension. Clover 2 adds tab to your Windows Explorer in Google Chrome style and even the shortcut keys (such as Ctrl+T to open new tab, Ctrl+W to close tab) are the same. Other than that, it also supports folder bookmarks where you can press Ctrl+D and it will add the current folder to the bookmarks for easy future access. If you want a clean and lean tabs extension for Explorer, Clover 2 is your choice because it does not come with additional options and features.
After installation, you will need to manually enable the tab function by ticking the checkbox. There is an eye-candy feature to make the tabs colorful by enabling the rainbow tab option.
TabExplorer adds tab to Explorer but in a slightly different method compared to QTTabBar and Clover 2. Instead of integrating nicely to Explorer, it simply adds a button on top of the explorer and clicking on it will bring up the explorer window. You can find additional functions by right clicking on the tabs where you can open a command prompt window on the folder, copy folder path and names and setting the window always on top.
Do take note that the TabExplorer program needs to be running in order to have the tabs. Works in Windows 2000 to Windows 7.
Editor’s Note: After testing all 3 extensions to enable tabs in Windows Explorer, we really liked Clover 2 because of the simplicity that resembles Chrome and QTTabBar for integrating nicely and offering additional useful features where advanced users is able to tweak it to the way they want it to be.