3.2 Working with Files and Folders

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3.1 The Windows Explorer Interface

You probably spend a lot of time using Windows Explorer, so why not make it work the way that you ‚ rather than Microsoft's engineers ‚ want it to work? As you'll see in this section, there are many ways to give Windows Explorer more power and efficiency, including keyboard shortcuts that can save you from mouse- related wrist strain.

3.1.1 Opening Explorer with a Keyboard Shortcut

Tired of clicking menus to get to Windows Explorer? Open it the fast way: Press the Windows key+E and Windows Explorer opens with just a flick of two fingers.

Note: The Windows key (the key with the Windows logo on it) resides in different places on different keyboards. On desktop computers, it often sits between the Ctrl and Alt keys. On a laptop, it could be almost anywhere .

Geeks can also open Explorer by typing explorer.exe at a command prompt or into the Run box and then pressing Enter. And if you want to open Windows Explorer to a specific folder, enter the name of the folder after the command, with the full path to the folder, like this: explorer.exe C:\Windows .

Figure 3-1. To open Windows Explorer, right-click My Computer (either on the desktop or in the Start menu), and then choose Explore. If you don't see the list of folders in the left pane, choose View Explorer Bar Folders.

3.1.2 Speeding Up Windows Explorer with Keyboard Shortcuts

To speed up your pace in Windows Explorer, don't reach for the mouse. Instead, use keyboard shortcuts that let you handle common tasks without having to waste valuable time mousing around. Table 3-1 lists some of the most useful Windows Explorer shortcuts.

Table 3-1. Windows Explorer Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard Shortcut

What It Does


Displays the properties of the selected file or folder.


Lets you rename the selected file or folder.


Lets you find files in the selected folder.


Displays a drop-down list of available disk drives .


Refreshes the current folder display. (If you have Windows Explorer open, and you add a file to the folder using another program, that file might not show up in Windows Explorer until you refresh it using the F5 key.)

F6 (or Tab)

Cycles you between the top-most file or folder in the current directory and the little "x" icon that closes the left-side Folders pane. If you're in the File and Folder Tasks view (which has a pane on the left side with icons for common tasks), the F6 and Tab keys let you cycle between the top-most file or folder in the directory that's currently displayed and various file and folder tasks.


Jumps to the menu bar.


Opens the context menu when you've highlighted a file. This lets you perform actions like printing the file, copying it, or moving it. (You can also do this by right-clicking the file.)


Toggles full-screen mode on and off. (In full-screen mode, Windows Explorer takes up your full screen.)


Deletes a file or folder.


Shuts down Windows Explorer.

Windows Key+E

Opens Windows Explorer.


Cuts the selected file or folder (Edit Cut).


Copies the selected file or folder (Edit Copy).


Pastes the selected file or folder (Edit Paste).


Undoes the last action.


Deletes the selected file or folder immediately, without moving it to the Recycle Bin. Use it when you're absolutely , positively sure you want to delete a file.


Goes to the top of a folder list.


Goes to the end of a folder list.

Right arrow

Expands the current folder if it's collapsed ; otherwise , moves your cursor to a subfolder or the next folder.

Left arrow

Collapses the current folder if it's expanded; otherwise, moves your cursor to a folder above the current subfolder.

3.1.3 Showing the Full File Path in Explorer

When you're using Windows Explorer, it's easy to become confused about exactly where you are. There are so many folders buried within folders buried within other folders, you can often find yourself wishing you had sprinkled some breadcrumbs along the way.

A simple trick can tell Explorer to show you the way ‚ no breadcrumbs required. You can set Explorer to show you exactly where on your computer you are, and how to get where you want to go (Figure 3-2).

Tip: Windows Explorer is a cousin of Internet Explorer, the popular Web browser, which means you can navigate around them similarly. They both have address bars, and title bars, and you can use the back button in Windows Explorer much the way you do in Internet Explorer ‚ click it to jump back to the previous frame.

To have Windows Explorer display its full file path, first open up Explorer and choose Tools Folder Options View. In the Advanced Settings pane, look under Files and Folders, and then turn on "Display the full path in the title bar" and "Display the full path in the address bar." Click OK. The full path now appears in the title bar.

Figure 3-2. Displaying full path names on the Windows Explorer title bar and address bar helps keep you from getting lost on your own computer. The address bar is also useful for navigation: Type the name of one of your folders in it, and Windows Explorer takes you there. (Of course, it's up to you to remember your folders' names .)

Note: Depending on how you've set up Windows Explorer, the address bar may not be immediately visible. To make sure the address bar appears, choose View Toolbars and select Address Bar.
Consistent Windows Explorer Views

Sometimes, Windows Explorer shows me a bunch of thumbnails in the right pane, but sometimes it shows me a list, or even a list with details. How do I get it to show me the same view all the time?

You can change the view for the current frame of Windows Explorer by choosing View and then selecting one of the six choices (from Filmstrip to Details) listed on the menu. Details is usually the most useful, as it lets you see a lot of tasty information about your files, including size , when they were last modified, and so on. (To choose your details,

right-click one of the existing details ‚ like Name, Size, Type ‚ and from the menu that appears, select the categories you want to add.)

If you want to set the view to be the same for every frame of Windows Explorer ‚ the arrangement most people find easiest to deal with ‚ first set your current window to the setting you prefer. Then choose Tools Folder Options, click the View tab, and then click "Apply to All Folders." When XP asks if you want to reset all your folder views, click Yes, then OK to close the dialog box. You've just overcome Explorer's weird inconsistency.

3.1.4 Customizing Windows Explorer Toolbars

Besides the Address toolbar, there are two other toolbars that make working with Explorer easier: the Standard Buttons toolbar, which displays buttons across the top of Explorer for common tasks like searching, and the Links toolbar, which displays Internet links.

To choose which toolbars to display, open Windows Explorer, choose View Toolbars, and simply select the toolbars that appeal to you. The ones with checkmarks are the ones Windows is currently displaying. To hide a toolbar, return to the Toolbars menu and click ‚ that is, uncheck ‚ the item you want to nix.

You can also customize the position and size of any toolbar by dragging its handles, as shown in Figure 3-3.

Figure 3-3. Drag a toolbar's handles to reposition and resize it. In this figure, the handle is the dotted vertical line to the left of the word Address. Drag the handle down to move the toolbar to a new line. If two toolbars share a line and not all the buttons on each are visible, drag one toolbar to the right to expose more buttons.

Once the toolbars are where you want them, you can lock them in place. Choose View Toolbars Lock the Toolbars. A checkmark now appears next to Lock the Toolbars. When you lock the toolbars, their handles disappear. When you want to move the toolbars again, you first have to unlock them by selecting View Toolbars Lock the Toolbars so that the checkmark goes away.

You can further customize the Standard Buttons toolbar by adding buttons, removing buttons, changing the buttons' order, adjusting their size, and indicating how to display their text labels. To make any of these changes, choose View Toolbars Customize. The Customize Toolbar dialog box, shown in Figure 3-4, appears.

Figure 3-4. You can customize the Standard Buttons toolbar by adding or deleting buttons. Be careful not to add too many, or there won't be room to display all of them. A little-known option that's great for anyone who likes to see files and folders in all their expansive glory is the Full Screen button: When you click it, Windows Explorer takes up your entire screen, without even menus to get in the way. Press the Full Screen button to go from full screen back to normal size.

You can use the Customize Toolbar dialog box to customize the Standard Buttons toolbar in the following ways:

  • Add a button by selecting it in the left column, and choosing Add.

  • Delete a button by selecting it in the right column, and choosing Remove.

  • Move a button up or down by selecting it and clicking Move Up or Move Down.

  • Alter the size of buttons by using the "Icon options" drop-down menu.

  • Change how text labels appear by using the "Text options" drop-down menu.

3.1.5 Alternatives to Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer is pretty good at letting you view and manage your files and folders, but what if you don't want to settle for that?

Fortunately, Windows Explorer isn't your only option. You can download other programs that offer more power and a wider variety of features than Explorer. Here are three popular alternatives. Simply download and run them as you would any program. PowerDesk

This program may be the most powerful file manager you can find. It includes a built-in file viewer for viewing more than 200 different types of files, a very powerful file searcher, and MP3 management tools. PowerDesk also lets you attach sticky notes to your files and customize your folders using colors, so you can easily distinguish them. For example, you could use blue for work and red for family stuff. You can download and try PowerDesk for free, but if you keep using it, the company expects you to pay $29.95. Find it at http://www.v-com.com/product/pd_ind.html. Turbo Browser

This file manager includes lots of powerful utilities, like a built-in Web browser, an image viewer, an HTML editor, and a variety of Internet utilities (including one that makes it easier to download files). You can download and try it for free, but if you decide to keep it, it costs either $39.95 (for a basic version) or $89.95 (for a version loaded with bells and whistles). Find it at http://www.filestream.com. Total Commander

One of the best things about this file manager is that it offers side-by-side file windows, making it easy to move and copy files between directories and drives. It also has built-in compression tools for shrinking your files (so they take up less hard disk space), and file comparison and directory synchronization features (so you can check whether two files with the same name in different folders are in fact the exact same file). You can also download this program for a free trial, but if you continue using it, the developer wants you to pony up $28. Find it at http://www.ghisler.com.

Windows XP Power Hound
Windows XP Power Hound: Teach Yourself New Tricks
ISBN: 0596006195
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 119

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