File Explorer in Windows 11 does not show text under buttons. This is confusing for older people.

Steel Contributor

I provide tech support to older consumers in their homes, teaching, streamlining, upgrading and assisting with Windows, Android, iOS and Amazon Fire (tablet) devices. Most of my clients are aged 60-85 and actively use Windows 10 linked with Edge and Outlook mobile apps (and Microsoft Launcher) on Android or iOS. Many are excited by Windows 11.


The changes from Windows 10 to Windows 11 will be received well by most of my clients, because there are so many lists of text beautifully laid out, particularly in the Settings App, but many of my clients who "read all the text on their screen" before feeling confident to click or tap a button, will find the difference between the clear ribbon/toolbar buttons in Windows 10 File Explorer to the minimalistic Windows 11 File Explorer icons extremely confusing and frustrating.


Please make text labels underneath the main toolbar buttons across the top of File Explorer a priority, or at least an option that can be turned on or off, pop up "tool tips" would also be appreciated.


It is great that the same icons now appear in the right-click options menu, but I would hope these could include text labels below them too.


These example images highlight the problem:


Windows 10 File Explorer Controls - Note how visually clear the "Move to", "Copy to" and "Delete" buttons are?  This ribbon is too busy with all the other options, but the main "buttons" state exactly what they do very clearly.



Windows 11 File Explorer Controls seem bewildering to new users, older users or to those who are vision impaired.


By comparison the OneDrive website provides a very clear yet minimal interface:



8 Replies
I fully agree.
At least there should be a file explorer setting to turn texts on/off.
I have Pro but see no Pro in this new ribbon. There should be a standard and yes a nice one like the old ribbon. Improved but don't eliminate.
Totally agree! Just had to drive to my elderly parents' house to explain the multiple steps to simply get to the PRINT option so they can print photos from Windows 11 File Explorer. This basic function should be simple to access. They knew how on their old (Win 8.1) computer. Those Win 11 File Explorer icons didn't make any sense to me, much less them. And there is NO PRINTER ICON among the mysterious icons! What? Come on Microsoft, many users need visually-easy access to basic functions like printing. Instead, the print option is buried on the second menu after a right click. (Or under the three dots if you're in image preview and only want to print that one image.) In this day and age, considering ALL users should play an important part of software design.
best response confirmed by Graham-STMC (Steel Contributor)
And yet another voice supporting this proposal. I have no idea why, ever, an "icons and text" display option is not available, even if it's not the default. I've been using Windows since it first hit the street, and I still "read the text" more quickly than I recognize the icons for certain things.

Please bring "icons and text" back!

Adding insult to injury, see this webpage: Get Back Windows 10 Ribbon UI in Windows 11 File Explorer 


The first "solution" (it's a great workaround, but so far I cannot find a way to make it stick) allows you to get back to what is, for all intents and purposes, the Windows 10 style of ribbons in File Explorer with the click of a button.  Clearly this could also be handled by a setting that the end user should be able to toggle on to make this the default way that File Explorer appears.


It's really frustrating to know that the actual ability to do this exists, at the click of a button, in special circumstances and yet there is no way for the user to simply select this as the default via a setting (or even a registry hack.  The one that used to work under Version 21H2 doesn't work in 22H2).

I suspect it's confusing for everyone, but I'm older, so what would I know.  I only program computers.


Back to the issue: I have a better solution than offering an option to show either hieroglyphics or both hieroglyphics + text: offer a third solution to show only text.  The hieroglyphics add nothing for me, or--I suspect--for anyone who wants text labels.


As for the problem of having too many actions crammed into one list, how about this: Have a top level choice, maybe call it "Edit"; under that you could have "Copy", "Paste", "Cut", and then maybe a "More...".  Clicking on the "More" (or for Old Fogies like me, using the keyboard to navigate there) would bring up these other choices.  Or some of the other choices might better go under some other top-level item, maybe call it "Tools".


There remains the question of what to call these new-fangled ways of interacting with one's computer.  I'd suggest we use the word "menu".  You'll have to admit, in some ways "menu" makes more sense than "ribbon".


I know, this is radically new.  Who on earth would read text labels?  Who would use their keyboard to navigate these things, rather than a mouse?  But it's worth a try, IMHO.  And don't stop at the File Manager, try these funky menus out in Word and other Microsoft products.

@mcswell  Some good ideas there. I think at least the Pro version would offer the choicees. Right now I see very little difference between Pro and the regular edition

My biggest complaint is that file management is a top priority for all computers. That Windows 11 is set up to make file management a third rate choice is absurd. The move, copy, and paste are key to file management. 

@Peter_R_732 FWIW, on computers I own, for over a decade I've been using a freeware file manager called FreeCommander XE (there's also a pay version, but the free one does everything I need). Dual panes, genuine menus with text instead of that hokey ribbon, lots of capabilities that File Manager doesn't have. About the only time I need to use File Manager is when I'm on a computer at work, and then I get frustrated. There are other freeware (and payware) file management programs as well, probably all much better than the File Manager that's built into Windows.