Dark mode in File Explorer

Final dark theme screenshot

We’re excited to announce that File Explorer will now support dark mode in the next major release of Windows. With Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17733, Windows Insiders can see the latest design for dark mode by going to Settings > Personalization > Colors and selecting the Dark option under the Choose your app mode section.

So how has dark mode gotten to where it’s at now, and how are Windows Insiders helping us determine what’s next? Let’s take a look!

Prioritizing dark mode in File Explorer

Adding dark mode to File Explorer has been a top request from Insiders. Some of you prefer dark mode since it can be easy on the eyes. Others simply like the fresh, new look. But while dark mode has been available in Windows for some time, it hasn’t be available in File Explorer, until now.

Why did it take us some time to get it applied in File Explorer? Compared to more modern parts of Windows, File Explorer was harder to change quickly. While dark mode can be applied to many modern components in Windows quite easily, File Explorer contains some legacy user interface frameworks, which don’t plug into that infrastructure automatically. We had to literally break new ground to bring dark mode to these parts of File Explorer.

We also were careful to only change File Explorer and the Common File Dialog and not change common controls, which could break a lot of app experiences, like making dark text in an app unreadable.

One additional challenge was getting this work prioritized along with improvements going into RS5. Because of your feedback as Windows Insiders, we knew this works was important to you and that it was time to deliver. And management agreed with us!

From there, we started working on bringing dark mode to File Explorer, and Insider Preview Build 17666 was the first build where Insiders could preview that experience.

Dark mode design and your feedback

As we designed this, we wanted to keep it consistent with the experiences that were already part of the dark mode. File Explorer also uses color to make its sections easy to see and work with, so we also introduced some lighter tones to dark mode for a similar look.

The Office team had also been working on a similar challenge. File Explorer and PowerPoint have some similar design elements, so consistency with them was another one of our objectives.

Our first build was by no means perfect, but we knew your feedback would help us make it better each step of the way.

Initial dark theme screenshot

Sure enough, you didn’t hold back. Your feedback has been amazingly valuable, right down to the smallest details, and the volume of it helped confirm our decision to make the work a priority for the RS5 release. The next version of the design in Build 17686 focused on fixing major bugs.

Improved dark theme screenshot

But your feedback continued to pour in, so Build 17733 focused on addressing it. For example, your feedback asked for more gray tones, which we added to areas like the view pane. We also adjusted the address bar and ribbon colors, so that your eye is drawn more to the content in the center of the screen. And take a closer look at the Navigation Pane. We removed the folder backplates from the folder icons and enlarged the icons to make them stand out more on high DPI displays.

It’s detailed suggestions like these that helped us move from a basic dark mode into the kind of functional design that you need, especially with File Explorer.

Final dark theme screenshot

What’s next

And there you have it, dark mode in File Explorer—designed by Windows engineers and inspired by Windows Insiders from around the world.

Thanks to all of you! We look forward to hearing more from you on our latest design and the other dark mode elements coming to Windows. As your recent feedback clearly shows, Windows Insiders obviously have an excellent sense for design!