NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2010
Windows Explorer
By Wil Wakely, President, Seniors Computer Group, California
Bits & Bytes, June 2010 Issue

wilw@adnc.com (click to email author)

What a terrible name! Often confused with Internet Explorer, this file manipulator is one of the most useful and used programs on my computer. I often talk with people who don’t know what this program is. They have never used it, and I am curious as to how they can accomplish anything with their computer without familiarity with this powerful utility. Here’s what it does:

Windows, as with most operating systems, is based upon a file structure where each program, picture, song or document is stored in a named file in some memory device, e.g., a hard drive, CD, DVD or flash drive. Groups of similar files are stored in named folders. Windows Explorer is a file manipulator allowing you to find, copy, move, save, launch, and a variety of other operations on individual and groups of files.

A quick way to launch it is to right click on the Start button and select Explore from the sub-menu. A better way in XP is to place an Icon for Windows Explorer on your desktop. To do this, first locate the program: Start/All programs/Accessories/Windows Explorer; then right click it and in the drop-down menu select “Send to/desktop (create shortcut)”.

I don’t like the Icon view; I prefer the Details view with no Icons and more information. The Details view allows you to sort the filenames by alpha ascending (A to Z) by clicking on the Name in the gray title bar. Clicking Name a second time will sort the file name alpha descending (Z to A). Sorting by Size, Type (file extension), or Date Modified is done the same way. Under Tools/Folder Options/View tab, be sure to uncheck “Hide extensions for known file types” and check “Show hidden files and folders.” Then click the “Apply to all folders” button to set all views to the same settings. Windows 7 recognized the importance of this program and keeps it on the taskbar for easy launch. It is a yellow file folder Icon, third from the left Start button.

An easier application of Windows Explorer is to bring up two copies, resized and located so you can see both side by side. Then you can easily Move or Copy files between the two windows using d-d (drag and drop). By default files d-d to the same drive are Moved; files d-d to different drives are Copied. Holding down the left mouse button during the d-d allows you to select either option. To add new folders or sub-folders use the menu File/New/Folder command.

A good site to visit to learn many more features of Windows Explorer is: http://www.toejumper.net/speed5/winex5.htm. Familiarize yourself with this powerful program so you can control your computer, and not have your computer control you!

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