NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, Seprember 2007
Exploring Windows Explorer – Part 1
By Jim Sanders,
Vice President, North Orange County Computer Club, California

editor(at)noccc.org (click to email author)

Obtained from APCUG with the author's permission for publication by APCUG member groups.

Everyone using Windows XP uses Windows Explorer all the time. Some use it in what I consider the true form. Some, because you use it under the title of My Computer. And all of us when we are using Internet Explorer, because Windows Explorer is an integral part of Internet Explorer. I continue to be surprised at how many people do not know that you can right click on the start button and go directly to Windows Explorer. I prefer that to the My Computer path because it brings up Windows Explorer with the left hand pane of the window displaying the tree structure of the files. It surprises me that many people who use the My Computer path don’t know that they can bring up the tree pane by clicking on the folder button in the taskbar.

Something that is almost sad, is how many people live with the default settings of Windows Explorer. One of the first things that I do with a new installation of Windows XP, is to open Windows Explorer, go to the view menu and click on details. The next step is to open the tools menu, and click on folder options. When the folder options window opens, but what had a slump and wrong that a mile and the click on the view tab. Then click on display the full path in the title bar to place a checkmark in the box, click on show hidden files and folders to put the bullet on that line, click on a hide extensions for known file types to remove the checkmark. Personally, I think Microsoft did new users in particular, a major disservice by having the last item set to by default. The resulting confusion of having two or more files with the same name, and not differentiated by the file extension, causes a fair amount of distress in users that are not sure which file to choose. I like to see the protected operating system files but you may be more comfortable leaving them hidden. The last item is to check is show control panel in my computer. Then click on apply, wait for it to finish, then click on apply to all holders, then click on OK and you’re done.

As a result of the above actions the right hand window pane will now have four columns, name, size, height, and date modified. The sort will be set to alphabetical by name, numbers and special characters first, then A to Z. If you want the sort to be Z to A, click on name at the top of the name column. If you want the sort to be by size, click on size at the top of the size column and Windows Explorer will sort the folder by file size, smallest file first. To reverse the order, and place the largest file at the top of the list, click on size again. The same procedure works with the type column and the date modified column. There is a faint divider bar between each of the columns located in the horizontal bar where the names of the columns are located. One of the easiest ones to find is one space to the right of the column heading Size. If you move the mouse cursor to that area you should see a double headed arrow appear. If you then click and hold the left mouse button, you can adjust the width of the edge of the columns. The width of the name column is often too narrow to show the complete file name. Having the complete path displayed in the address bar, is often useful when you need to copy and paste that path into other applications.

When you have a lot of files in a folder, there is a navigation shortcut in the name column that too few people seem to know about. When you first open a folder, the display will show any other folders (or what should really be called subdirectories) within that folder followed by files, starting with the letter A. If you need to get to a file that starts with a letter T, you might have to scroll through several hundred files to get there. There is a faster way. Click on the first file in the folder to highlight it, then type the first letter of the file that you wish to find. In this example the display would immediately jump to the first file that starts with the letter T. If you know what you are searching for, and can type quickly, you can follow the first letter with the second letter of the name and it will take you to that point instead.

I think initially setting all folders on a hard disk to the detail view is the best starting point and is best suited for the majority of folders. Windows XP allows you to customize the view of each and every folder and will remember what settings you assigned to a given folder. For instance, for folders that contain photos it is often more useful if the thumbnail view, or the film strip view, is chosen so that you can see what each picture actually is. The advantage of the thumbnail view is that you can find images quicker than in the filmstrip view. The advantage of the filmstrip view is that you get a line of thumbnails across the bottom of the pane and a larger view of which ever thumbnail is highlighted. There are also mouse click arrow’s that allow you to view the next or previous image. Don’t forget that you can right click on any of the thumbnails and bring up a whole new menu of things that you can do with the image.

Everybody should learn how to do file housekeeping on their computer disk. Being able to move files from one folder to another, to copy files from one folder to another, to create new folders, and several other functions along those lines can help you keep your data organized. It should be noted that most of these functions can be accomplished in more than one fashion. For instance, if you wished to copy a file from folder A to folder B, you would first select the file by left clicking on it which will cause it to be highlighted. You could then open the edit menu by clicking on edit, then click on copy, then click on the destination folder, then click on paste in the edit menu, a copy of the file will appear in that folder. Alternately, you could use some of the keyboard shortcuts. You could highlight the file, press and hold down the Ctrl key and then tap the C. key. This will copy the file to the temporary holding bin called clipboard. You would then highlight the destination folder, press and hold down the control key, then tap the V. key which will paste the file from the clipboard to the folder you highlighted. Another method is called drag and drop. In this method you move the mouse cursor over the file you wish to copy, left click and hold the mouse button, move the mouse to drag a ghost image of the file over the top of the destination folder and then release the left mouse button. There are many more features to cover but this is all the room I have for now. We will do more later.

This article has been provided to APCUG by the author solely for publication by APCUG member groups. All other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

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