Windows 10 revisits 1990: Now you can run Windows 3.0's open-sourced File Manager

Microsoft open-sources its first graphical file management application for Windows.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

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Microsoft has open-sourced Windows File Manager, its first graphical interface for managing and accessing files, which debuted in its 1990 Windows 3.0 release.

Microsoft dropped File Manager after Windows NT 4.0 in favor of Windows Explorer, but Microsoft developer Craig Wittenberg has now dusted off the old file manager and updated it to run on Windows 10 machines. The source code for File Manager is available on Microsoft's GitHub page.

File Manager has a dual-pane view with various directory branches on the left and folder contents on the right. Instead of using MS-DOS command lines, it allowed users to move, copy, search, delete, and name files and folders.

Wittenberg copied File Manager from Windows NT 4.0 source in November 2007 and has made a "very limited set of modifications" to enable File Manager, also known as WinFile.exe, to run on Windows 10.

For Windows NT 4.0 Microsoft rewrote 16-bit File Manager as a 32-bit application, while Wittenberg's work enabled it to run on 64-bit Windows with Visual Studio (VS) 2015 and 2017 support. This version of the source code is referred to as "original_plus".

The current master or version 10 of File Manager contains a few tweaks that suited the way Wittenberg has been using File Manager over the past decade. However, he says he hasn't substantially changed the design or structure of it.

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For example, File Manager version 10 for Windows 10 has VS OLE drag-and-drop support, while Ctrl+C, Ctrl+ X, Ctrl+V map to today's shortcuts for copy, cut, and paste rather than the older Ctrl+C for changing drives.

Users can also specify a date range in File.Search to limit the files returned, which are ordered by date rather than name.

The source code is free to use under the fairly unrestrictive MIT License. Microsoft says anyone can contribute to the project so long as the person also grants Microsoft the right to use those contributions.


File Manager has a dual-pane view with various directory branches on the left and folder contents on the right.

Image: Microsoft/Wikimedia

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