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From Windows 3.0 to Windows 10, File Manager Is Reborn

Microsoft has revived and open sourced the original File Manager first introduced with Windows 3.0 in 1990, tweaking it so it runs on Windows 10.

File Manager at its debut was a huge improvement over the MS-DOS command-line interface (CLI) used to copy, move, open, delete, search and so on, but basically died with the introduction of Windows Explorer in Windows 95.

That is, until it was reborn last Friday in the "Original Windows File Manager (winfile) with enhancements" open source project hosted on GitHub, maintained by Microsoft's Craig Wittenberg.

Here's a portion of the project's README.md file:

The Windows File Manager lives again and runs on all currently supported version of Windows, including Windows 10. I welcome your thoughts, comments and suggestions. There are two primary versions of the source code in the master branch:
  1. original_plus tag: refers to the source for WinFile as of Windows NT4 with minimal changes so that it compiles with Visual Studio and runs on current Windows.
  2. current master: contains my personal changes / additions to WinFile.

While File Manager was introduced with Windows 3.0, Wittenberg said his source code was copied from the November 2007 Windows NT 4 source tree.

Wittenberg had to tweak that original source code to get it to run on more modern Windows OSes, with changes including converting it to a Visual Studio solution that works on VS 2015 and VS 2017.

Many more tweaks were needed since 2007 -- incorporated in the master branch -- to get File Manager to run on Windows 10.

"The changes have been solely determined by my needs and personal use," Wittenberg said. "Some of the changes have limitations that fit the way I use the tool. For example, the path index which supports the new goto command only contains information for the c: drive." He noted he hadn't redesigned or restructured WinFile in any major way.

He also said he would consider bug fixes and minor changes for the master branch, but won't be making any such changes to the original_plus branch. "You are welcome do that on your own," he said.

The entire history of File Manager is available in a Wikipedia entry.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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