A future version of Windows 11 could have a new gallery feature built into a whole new File Explorer. Hidden in the latest dev build of Windows 11 (build 25300), the gallery shows your images in an attractive format, lets you browse them by date and search them using a built-in search box. Windows Hacker Albacore discovered the gallery (opens in new tab) ,which they say is based on XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language), by enabling the new WASDK (Windows App SDK) based File Explorer.
Both the WASDK File Explorer and its gallery feature are disabled by default in Windows 11 Build 25300, but with some registry edits and enabling of optional hidden features, I was able to turn them on.
The WASDK File Explorer looks identical to the default File Explorer with the same exact icons, colors and layout. The only way I could tell that I was running it is that there’s an icon of a slice of pizza in the toolbar, which says “You are previewing the Windows App SDK version of File Explorer” when you hover over it.
The gallery icon appears below the Home icon in the left pane. When I clicked it, it showed me a series of thumbnails for images that were in my Pictures library, sorted by the file date. When I hovered over the right side of the window, a list of years appeared. Clicking on a particular year, 2012 for example, scrolled me down to that part of the gallery.
There’s also a gallery search box in the upper right corner of the window. When I typed “cats” into the box, it pulled up one JPG file that I had named “cats.jpg,” but didn’t even show a thumbnail preview of the pictures.
It looks like the search can only identify pictures by filename, which isn’t very helpful when you’re dumping images off of your phone. It would be nice if somehow this feature could use image recognition to search the content of your pictures.
By default, the gallery only grabbed pictures from my OneDrive Pictures library, but I was able to add additional folders to it by clicking on the Locations button that appears in the toolbar when the gallery is open. After I clicked Locations, I clicked Add in the subsequent dialog box and added the Documents library to the gallery.
Overall, this gallery feature seems nice, but not ready for primetime. Albacore warned in their Twitter thread that the WASDK File Explorer is not stable and, during my testing, crashed a couple of times. However, it does indicate that Microsoft is working on a new File Explorer and gallery experience, which we will likely see in a future production build of Windows 11.
How to Enable the Windows 11 XAML Gallery
If you want to try the Windows 11 XAML Gallery and WASDK File Explorer like I did, here’s what you need to do. Keep in mind that these steps involve using a Dev build of Windows 11 which could be unstable or incompatible with your hardware. I installed the build into a virtual machine on my desktop so I didn’t have to take any risks with my production environment. I recommend that you do the same.
1. Install Windows Insider Build 25300 if you don’t have it already. You can download an ISO (opens in new tab)of it directly from Microsoft.
2. Change this Registry Value from 0 to 1: HKLM \ SOFTWARE \Microsoft \Windows \CurrentVersion\ Shell\ Update\ Packages\ MicrosoftWindows.Client.40729001_cw5n1h2txyewy \Compatible.
Note that this Registry Value was locked for me and I could not modify it until I set ownership of the Registry Key to Administrators. You may need to do the same.
3. Download ViVeTool from github (opens in new tab)and unzip it in a folder (ex: C:\vivetool).
4. Launch a command prompt as admin and navigate to that folder by typing cd C:\vivetool or whatever the path is.
5. Enter the following commands, each followed by Enter.
ViveTool.exe /enable /id:40729001 ViveTool.exe /enable /id:40731912 ViveTool.exe /enable /id:41969252 ViveTool.exe /enable /id:42922424 ViveTool.exe /enable /id:41040327 ViveTool.exe /enable /id:42295138 ViveTool.exe /enable /id:42105254
Each of these IDs is an optional feature or dependency that’s not available from the control panel or elsewhere. ViVetool allows you to enable these functions by their IDs. Similarly, you can disable them by substituting /disable for /enable.
After that, when you launch the File Explorer, you should see the pizza slice icon, which indicates that you are using the WASDK File Explorer. The gallery icon should also be in the left pane.