How to get the most out of Windows 10 File Explorer

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1 How to get the most out of Windows 10 File Explorer

2 2 Contents 04 The File Explorer Ribbon: A handy tool (once you get used to it) 08 Gain a new perspective with the Group By command 13 Zero in on the files you need with the Filter feature 17 Another great way to find files: The Search contextual tab 25 Two tricks to make File Explorer open specific folders

3 3 The File Explorer Ribbon: A handy tool (once you get used to it) By Greg Shultz If you skipped Windows 8.x and have just upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows XP, you re probably a little disoriented when you go to perform file management tasks. To begin with, the name of the tool has changed from Windows Explorer to File Explorer. Not only that, but the file management tool has been given a new user interface that features a Ribbon instead of a traditional dropdown menu system. When I first encountered File Explorer s Ribbon, I was more than a little disconcerted by what I initially thought would be a big learning curve. However, once I adapted to it, I found that I really liked the Ribbon. I can now say with confidence that once you get used to it, you ll wonder how you ever got along without its feature set. It s truly a much more efficient navigational system. To help you get started, let s take a look at some of its main features. Overview File Explorer s Ribbon contains one menu and a set of core tabs that are always visible. It also includes contextual tabs, which appear based on the type of object you ve selected such as a location, a folder, or a file and then provide related commands. This system of core and contextual tabs is designed to easily expose close to 200 file management commands. Most have always existed in Windows Explorer, but they were buried in numerous nested menus, pop-ups, dialog boxes, and right-click context menus. The Ribbon in File Explorer (Figure A) includes the File menu and three core tabs: Home, Share, and View. Figure A: File Explorer s base Ribbon contains the File menu and three core tabs. The Ribbon s File menu (Figure B) is designed to provide you with quick access to some of the more general commands in File Explorer. When you open the File menu, you ll see a set of commands on the left side and Frequent Places on the right. Frequent Places lists the most recently accessed folders. It remains visible until you select a command that has a submenu. That submenu then overlays the Frequent Places pane and provides related options.

4 4 For example, when you select Open Command Prompt, the submenu overlays Frequent Places with commands to open a regular or an administrator command prompt (Figure C). Both of the Open Command Prompt options are targeted on the currently selected folder. Figure B: The File menu provides access to the general commands in File Explorer. Figure C: Selecting an item from the File menu displays a menu of related commands. Other commands on the File menu allow you to open a new Explorer window, open PowerShell, change folder and search options, access Help, and close File Explorer. Home tab The first of the core tabs is the Home tab (Figure D), which gives you access to the most often used file management commands. The Clipboard group includes all the standard commands, along with the handy Copy Path command. Just select a folder, click the command, and the current path is copied to the clipboard.

5 5 Figure D: The Home tab offers the main file management commands. In the Organize group, you ll find that the Move To and Copy To commands are readily accessible, rather than being hidden away on the Edit menu as they were in Windows XP/7. The Delete and Rename commands also live in this group. The New group lets you create new folders and files of various types. The Easy Access command allows you to add folders to a Library or to the Favorites, as well as to map a drive letter to a network location. This menu also contains items for configuring and using offline files and folders. In addition to the Open and Edit commands, which function just like before by launching the associated application and loading the selected file, the Open group provides you with quick access to the Properties dialog box. The History command launches the File History feature. File History is a new tool that works like a combination of Previous Versions and Windows Backup And Restore. It continuously monitors files stored in Libraries, Desktop, Favorites, and Contacts folders, and when it detects changes in any file, it makes a backup copy to another location such as an external hard disk or a network drive. The Select group offers a set of commands for selecting groups of files and folders. Share tab The Share tab (Figure E) is your one-stop location for any command related to sharing files with others. For example, within the Send group, you can create a Zip file and it. You can burn files to an optical disc, plus print or fax documents. In the Share With group, you ll find a gallery that allows you to share files and folders with your homegroup or with specific users. The Advanced Security command opens the Security tab, where you can lock down sharing by setting specific permissions.

6 6 View tab Figure E: The Share tab provides commands related to sharing files with others. On the View tab (Figure F), you ll find a host of commands for configuring the way File Explorer displays files. In the Panes group, you can configure the Navigation pane and enable or disable the Preview pane or the Details pane. The latter now appears in the same space as the Preview pane rather than at the bottom of the window. Figure F: The View tab includes a host of commands for configuring File Explorer s display. The Layout group sports a live preview gallery for choosing your icon display. Just hover over an option in the gallery, and the file display changes accordingly. The Current View group exposes several great commands. First, the Group By and Sort By commands give you neat ways to narrow and organize the display of your files so they re readily available. Second, when you re using the Details layout, the Add Columns and Size All Columns To Fit commands come in handy for getting a better look at the available file and folder details in File Explorer s display. The Show/Hide group brings to light several valuable items that were previously hidden in the Folder Options dialog box. The Item Check Boxes option allows you to enable the check box file selection feature. When you want to show or hide file extensions on the fly, select the Filename Extensions check box. When you need to quickly see hidden files, select the Hidden Items check box. The Hide Selected Items command allows you to quickly set the Hidden attribute no more going to the Properties dialog box. The Options command opens the Folder Options dialog box.

7 7 Gain a new perspective with the Group By command By Greg Shultz Windows Ribbon system, with its core and contextual tabs, is designed to expose close to 200 file management commands in File Explorer. One of these commands is called Group By, and it s found on the View tab. If you re like most users, you probably aren t taking advantage of the power that this command provides when it comes to sorting through the various files, folders, and other objects you can display in File Explorer. For example, when it comes to data files, no matter how organized you are, chances are pretty good that you don t know where every document is located. Nor do you even remember every document you have on your hard disk. Of course, Windows 10 s Search feature can help you out when you have an idea what you are looking for, but it really can t help you when you re not sure. File Explorer s Group By command offers a different perspective on the data files you have stored on your hard disk. For instance, using the Group By feature, you can find data files you never knew you had or that you d forgotten about. It can also help you locate and get rid of junk files you never meant to keep and that are hogging valuable disk space. As its name implies, the Group By command is designed to display all your files in groups and it s contextual. In this article, I ll explain how the Group By command works and show you how to use it to your advantage. Documents Let s begin by looking at how the Group By command works in the Documents folder. When you click the Group By command, a dropdown menu appears that displays the Group options that are appropriate for the Documents folder (Figure A). Figure A: Windows presents these options in the Documents folder.

8 8 In the Documents folder, the Group options include Name, Date modified, Type, Size, Date created, Authors, Tags, and Title (the Ascending and Descending options are not always selectable, which appears to be a bug). At the bottom of the Group By menu, you ll see the Choose Columns command. Selecting it will open the Choose Details dialog box (Figure B), where you can add other column headers to the display and to the Group By menu. For example, you might want to investigate the different types of files you have in the Documents folder. To do so, you could choose the Group By Type option and then select the List View (Figure C). In addition to the groups, File Explorer tells you how many files are in each grouping. As you can see, combining the List View with the Group By command provides an interesting way to look at your files. Figure B: The Choose Details dialog box allows you to add other column headers to the display and to the Group By menu. Figure C: You can investigate different types of files using the Group By Type option.

9 9 Suppose you want open up space on your hard disk. Simply choose the Group By Size option, select Descending, and then select the Details View (Figure D). Now you can see which files are hogging disk space. Figure D: You can find out which files are taking up disk space if you use the Group By Size option. If you happen to select a Group By option that doesn t work with some of the files in your folder, those files will appear in a group titled Unspecified. In my test folder, I selected Authors, and those files that don t have that metadata appeared in the Unspecified group (Figure E). Once you select a Group By option, you ll see that the Group By menu contains a new command titled (None). Selecting this option basically ungroups the files and returns the display to normal. Music Figure E: Files that don t fit the Group By option you choose will appear in the Unspecified group. When you select the Music folder, the Group By menu displays options that apply to music files. Let s say you want to find a file for a short song. You could select Group By Length (Figure F).

10 10 Figure F: In the Music folder, the Group By menu contains options that apply to music files. Pictures When you select the Pictures folder, the Group By menu displays options that apply to images. For example, suppose you want to find a file based on its proportions. You could choose Group By Dimensions (Figure G). Figure G: In the Pictures folder, the Group By menu shows image-related options.

11 11 This PC In addition to files, the Group By command works with other objects. For instance, when you select This PC, the Group By menu displays a host of options you can use to display the items you find in This PC. Suppose you have a number of external drives connected to your computer and you want to find out their formatted file system. Just use Group By File System (Figure H). You can also group by other options, like Total Size, Free Space, and Percent Full. This will definitely give you a different perspective. Figure H: When you select This PC, you ll find a number of useful options on the Group By menu. Network Finally, when you select Network, the Group By menu displays options that can be useful in a number of situations. For instance, suppose you want to find out what IP addresses are being used by the systems on your network. You could do this by selecting Group By IP Address (Figure I). Figure I: In Network, the Group By menu provides options you can use to view your network in helpful displays.

12 12 Zero in on the files you need with the Filter feature By Greg Shultz As we ve discussed in the previous articles, File Explorer offers easy access to a tremendous number of useful commands and options. This time around, we re going to look at the Filter feature, which can be especially helpful. While the Filter feature is not actually a command on the Ribbon, it is a handy tool to have in your arsenal. Similar to the Group By command, the Filter feature allows you to gain a different perspective on the data files stored on your hard disk. However, unlike Group By, which allows you to reorganize all the files in a folder, the Filter feature lets you narrow the display to only those files you want to work with. Let s take a closer look. Accessing the Filter feature To begin with, the Filter feature is accessible only in File Explorer s Details view. That s because the Filter feature actually lives in the column headers that display at the top of the File List pane when you re using that View. For example, the Documents Library displays the Name, Date Modified, Type, and Size column headers by default (Figure A). Figure A: There are four column headers in the Documents Library by default. When you hover your mouse pointer over a column heading, a dropdown arrow appears to the right of the heading. This arrow displays a menu with the Filter options that are appropriate to the heading type. For instance, the Filter menu on the Name heading displays options that show groups of numbers and letters that a filename could begin with (Figure B). Selecting one or more of the check boxes enables that filter. Figure B: The column heading menu contains filters that are appropriate for that heading type.

13 13 To get a better understanding of how the Filter feature works, let s look at some example situations where using it would be advantageous. Using the Filter feature Suppose you encounter a folder that contains a plethora of files and folders, but you want to see only PDF files. If so, you d access the Filter feature on the Type header, and the resulting menu would display all the file types present in the folder (Figure C). If you select the check box next to the PDF type, you ll see only PDF files in this folder (Figure D). Notice the check mark in the column header; this indicates that this File List is currently being filtered. You ll also see the file type spelled out in the address bar.filter option allows you to filter out all but the documents You can also use multiple Filters at the same time. For example, you could add a Name Filter to limit the display to only document names that begin with any letters in the range of Q to Z (Figure E). Figure C: The Type Filter menu will display all the file types in the folder. Suppose you ve found the PDF files you re looking for, but you also want to find the DOC source files. Go back to the Type Filter (Figure F). As you can see, the Type Filter menu is much smaller, because it s now considering only those file types that have filenames beginning with letters in the range of Q to Z. The other nice thing about the Filter menu is that it remains open until you click on something else. This means that you can select different Filter options on the menu, one by one, to easily see different sets of files. Figure D: The Filter option allows you to filter out all but the documents you re interested in seeing.

14 14 For instance, suppose you want to look for files created on certain dates. Once you bring up the Date Modified filter, you ll see a Calendar display (Figure G). As you click on any date, File Explorer will instantly filter out all other files and display only the files created on that date. So if you select the 8th, you ll just see files or folders created on the 8th. If you then select the 9th, you ll just see files or folders created on the 9th, and so on. Figure E: You can use multiple filters at the same time. Figure F: The Type filter menu is now being filtered by the Name filter. Figure G: A Filter menu will remain in focus, allowing you to sequentially apply different filters on the fly.

15 15 Removing filters To remove a filter, you can clear the check box or you can use a shortcut just click the back button. If you ve applied multiple Filters, you ll have to click the back button to remove each Filter. If you decide that you want to immediately apply the Filter again, just click the forward button. Other filters In my examples, I showed you only the Filters in the Documents folder. The other folders, such as Pictures, Videos, and Music, contain different file types and have different headers in the Details view. This means that those folders will have filters that are appropriate to the type of files in that folder.

16 16 Another great way to find files: The Search contextual tab By Greg Shultz The Windows 10 Search contextual tab offers some great options and it plays in well with the Filter feature we discussed in the preceding article. Let s take a look. The Search tab When you select the Search box in the upper-right corner of File Explorer, the Search contextual tab will appear (Figure A). This tab is populated with a host of filters and additional search features arranged in several categories: Location, Refine, and Options. We ll take a look at those additional features in a moment. Figure A: The Search tab offers a selection of filters and additional search features. As soon as you begin typing in the Search box, File Explorer will begin sifting through the search index for that text in folder names, filenames, the contents of files, and in file properties. It then displays the results in File Explorer. For example, I entered Man into the Search box in the Documents Library, and it instantly turned up 112 items (Figure B). Figure B: The Search process is fast and efficient.

17 17 Manually weeding through 112 files to find the ones I want would be a time-consuming task. Fortunately, I can use Search filters to do the work for me. Location filters Using the filters in the Location category, I can better target my search. The default location is All Subfolders, which will conduct the search in the selected folder and all subfolders underneath it. If you re not sure where on your hard disk the file is, you can expand the search by selecting This PC, which will search everywhere on the computer. If you know that the file is in the current folder, you can narrow the search by selecting Current Folder, which will search only in the selected folder and not in any of the subfolders. If the file or text you re looking for was not found in these three most common locations, you can select Search Again In and choose from any of the available options (Figure C). The options you find will vary, depending on your situation. Figure C: The Search Again In menu will display options relevant to your system. As you can see in my example, the choices on the menu include things like my Homegroup, Libraries, and the internet, which will direct the search to Bing. Refine filters Using the filters in the Refine category will allow you to narrow your search even further. An interesting fact here is that the filters in the Refine category actually invoke a base version of the Windows Search Advanced Query Syntax.

18 18 When you select the Date Modified filter (Figure D), you ll see a menu that allows you to select one of the available timeframes, such as Yesterday or Last Year. Figure D: The Date Modified filter provides a menu where you can select one of the available timeframes. When you select one of the options on the Date Modified menu, the Advanced Query Syntax for the filter will appear in the Search box in light blue text. For example, if you select This Year, datemodified:this year will appear in the Search box (Figure E). The filter appears in the Search box along with your original search term. Figure E: The Date Modified filter invokes the Advanced Query Syntax.

19 19 In the case of the Date Modified filter, the timeframes can also be refined. Just place your cursor right after the last character and click. When you do, a panel will appear that contains a calendar. You can select a date or date range simply by clicking the dates on the calendar (Figure F). You can also select one of the other timeframes. Figure F: Using the calendar you can refine your Date Modified search based on actual dates. When you select the Kind filter, you ll see an extensive menu that shows the different kinds of files you can search for. I selected Document from the list, and the Advanced Query Syntax base term kind:=document appeared in the search box (Figure G). This allows you to narrow your search to only files classified as documents by the Kind filter. My example turned up.pdf,. docx, and.txt files that contained the word Man in the title, properties, or contents. Figure G: Using the Kind filter essentially allows you to narrow your search to a specific file type.

20 20 Looking at the available Kind filters reveals some interesting ways to refine your search. For instance, you can specify content from Contacts, Instant Messages, Recorded TV, and Web History, just to mention a few. If you click the query text in the Search box, a panel will appear that allows you to select one of the other Kind filters. If you know roughly the size of the file you re searching for, you can use the Size filter (Figure H) to help narrow your search. Click the query text in the Search box, and a panel will appear that lets you select one of the other Size filters. Figure H: Using the Size filter enables you to narrow your search to a specific file type. If you select the Other Properties filter, you can select some of the most common file properties. However, these filters work a bit differently from the others, in that they require you to add information to the filter. For example, I selected Type from the menu (Figure I), and it appeared in the search box, but I had to manually enter the name of the type I wanted to search for right after the colon. Options The items in the Options section aren t filters, but they will help you conduct your search operation more efficiently. For instance, Recent Searches essentially displays a history list of all your recent search operations (Figure J). There s also a Clear Search History command so that you can easily clean up the list when you no longer need it. From the Advanced Options menu (Figure K), you can change which folders are indexed for fast searching or add non-indexed locations to a search operation. For example, you might configure the tool to search the contents of files in non-indexed locations.

21 21 Figure I: The Other Properties filter requires user input. Figure J: Recent searches displays a history of all your recent search operations. If you find yourself performing the same search over and over again, you can save the search for easy access anytime you need it. All you have to do is click Save Search. The search will be saved in the Saved Search folder in your user profile folder (Figure L).

22 22 Figure K: Advanced Options allows you to change indexed locations. Figure L: You can save yourself time and effort by saving the search.

23 23 Saved searches appear in the Favorites section of the Navigation pane (Figure M), so that you can easily run a search whenever you need to. Figure M: If you have a search operation that you run on a regular basis, you can save the search. Two other commands appear on the Search tab: the Open File Location command and the Close Search command. Selecting a file in the search results display and then selecting the Open File Location command will open the folder containing the file that s currently selected. Selecting the Close Search command will do exactly what it says it will close the Search tab and remove the results from the file pane.

24 24 Two tricks to make File Explorer open specific folders By Mark Kaelin Recently, a reader sent me an asking if it would be possible to update an old article I wrote. How do I tweak Windows Explorer to open in a directory of my choosing? explains how to change the behavior of File Explorer in Windows XP, but to get the same effect in Windows 10 requires a slightly different approach. Here s an update to show you how. The new elegant way There are actually two ways to get the Windows 10 File Explorer to open in a directory of your choosing. The first, best, and easiest way is to take advantage of the Pin feature found in the Taskbar on the Windows 10 Desktop. When you click or tap the File Explorer icon in the Taskbar, the app will open in a special library called Quick Access (at least that is what happens on my Desktop, as you can see in Figure A). From there, you can navigate to the other folders available on your PC. Figure A: The quick Access library opens when you click or tap the File Explorer icon. However, if you right-click the File Explorer icon, you are presented with a submenu showing pinned and recently opened files and folders. You can use this feature to pin any folder or file you want to this submenu.

25 25 All you have to do is grab a folder or file displayed in File Explorer and drop it on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar. Once you do, that file or folder will be pinned to the submenu. As you can see in Figure B, I have several pinned folders, which I can access quickly by right-clicking the File Explorer icon in the Taskbar. For those of you who prefer the Windows 10 Start Screen, you also have the option to pin a folder or a file to the Start Screen. That feature could come in handy for Windows 10 tablets or PCs using a touch screen. The old-fashioned hack If you insist on making Windows 10 act more like Windows XP, you will have to create a shortcut for the File Explorer app, which is located in the Windows file folder. Note: You can t modify the way the executable file itself works. Once you find the executable file (explorer.exe), right-click it and navigate to the Create Shortcut menu item. The system will locate the new shortcut file to your Desktop by default. If you double-click that shortcut it will open File Explorer in Quick Access as it did before. To get that shortcut to open in a different folder you will have to modify its properties. Figure B: Pinned folders are easy to access. Right-click the File Explorer shortcut and click on the Properties menu item. When you get to the Properties screen, click on the Shortcut tab. Now, just like you did in Windows XP, you will change the Target box on this screen (Figure C) to include the switches and the location of your desired folder. Figure C: Modify the Target setting to point to the location you want.

26 26 The command in the Target box should follow this pattern: c:\windows\explorer.exe /n, /e, X:\Folder of my choosing You can follow this procedure to create as many shortcuts for as many folders as you want. Of course, that could clutter your Desktop a bit, so I would suggest using descriptive titles and perhaps changing the default icon. Choose wisely Creating a way to access specific folders in Windows 10 is not difficult and in many ways the process is the same as it was with Windows XP. However, I have been using the Taskbar and its pinning feature since Windows 7 and find it much more efficient and elegant than the old Windows XP way of creating shortcuts. Which method you prefer is a choice you will have to make for yourself.

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