Don’t let Windows File Explorer fool you with its plain looks. It’s capable of many more actions and tweaks than it lets on!
The file explorer in Windows has quite a few hidden settings that are not a part of your workflow. That’s most likely because you haven’t discovered them, yet. We’re here to help you change that, but first, here’s a quick look at some keyboard shortcuts to speed up navigation in Explorer.
- Win + E – Opens Windows Explorer
- Alt + Up – Switches to the parent folder in the hierarchy
- Alt P – Toggles the Preview pane
- Alt+Enter – Opens Properties for the selected object
- F2 – Allows you to rename selection
- Shift + Del – Deletes selection directly i.e. without moving it to Recycle Bin
Now let’s move on to 10 things that you didn’t know Windows Explorer could do.
Open ISO Files
Up to Windows 7, you needed a third-party tool like UltraISO or PowerISO to open ISO files. Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft has added native support for this file format. So now all you have to do to open an .iso file is right-click on it and select Mount from the context menu.
Mounting .ISO files Directly is Awesome Feature in Windows 8 – hidden gem! http://t.co/wSzJX9aXdj
— Larisa Golovko (@landviser) February 20, 2015
Move Files via the Address Bar
If you have ever found yourself cut-pasting or copy-pasting files from a child folder to a parent folder, here’s a neat trick you can use. In Explorer, select the file(s) you want to move and drag it to the parent location in the address bar to move the file. If you want to copy the file instead, hold down Ctrl when you’re dragging and dropping the file.
Add Tags and Comments via File Details
When you select a file in Windows 7, you’ll see its details — size, the date of creation, etc. — in a section at the bottom. You can customize some of those details by adding tags, comments, etc. This functionality is not immediately clear because the fields don’t appear editable.
Display the Pathname in the Title Bar
Having the full path in the title bar is quite convenient, but it’s no longer displayed by default in Windows 8 and above. You can bring it back quite easily though! Click on View > Options in the Explorer ribbon to open the Folder Options dialog. Switch to the View tab in the dialog, find the Display full path in the title bar option, and check the box next to it.
Here’s another handy tweak. If you don’t like Explorer’s default breadcrumb navigation in Windows 7 and above, you can switch to the classic full path style in the address bar with a program called Classic Shell.
Show a Network Map
A network map gives you a detailed pictorial view of the devices on your network and their interconnections. In Windows 7, you have easy access to this map via the See Full Map link in Network and Sharing Center. Hovering over each computer in the network map shows you its IP address and MAC address. This information often comes in handy, especially when you’re troubleshooting.
The network map feature went missing after Windows 7, but that’s not a big deal. If you run a newer version of Windows, there is something you can do to get the same network map information.
Open Explorer and click on Network in the sidebar. Under the View tab of the ribbon, click on Details to switch to the Details view. Next, click on Sort by and then on Choose columns from the dropdown.
The Choose Details dialog should pop up at this point. Select the checkboxes for IP Address and MAC Address, and click on OK. Refresh the Network view. Now you should be able to see those details in there.
Reveal Secret “Send To” Locations
Hold down Shift and then select a file or folder in Explorer, open its context menu, and hover over the Send to link. This simple keystroke reveals a secret set of locations, including the Library folders, in the Send to menu. Do note that the extra options won’t appear if you press Shift after you have opened the menu.
You can also change the locations that appear in the Send to menu. To do so, type shell:sendto in Explorer’s address bar. This brings up the location where the Send to options are stored. Just drag and drop any of your commonly used folders to this location and you’ll then be able to see them in the Send to menu by default.
Give You Shortcuts to Useful Actions
If you use any Explorer actions or items often, browsing the ribbon tabs to find them every time is inconvenient.
There’s a much quicker way to access your favorite items such as the Properties dialog or the New Folder action. Just right-click on each such item in the ribbon and select Add to Quick Access Toolbar. This gives you one-click access to those items, by placing them in the discreet toolbar that’s right at the top.
Be sure to add the Home tab’s Easy access action to the quick access toolbar. It allows you to make a few useful changes — pinning files and folders to the Start menu, making them available offline, mapping a network drive, etc.
Display Checkboxes for File Selection
You don’t have to stick with the default method of selecting multiple files: holding down Ctrl or Shift as you select each file. You can add checkboxes in Windows Explorer for easier file and folder selection.
To enable the checkbox feature in Windows 7, go to Organize > Folder Options, and under View Tab > Advanced Settings, select the checkbox next to Use check boxes to select items.
The same method works if you’re on Windows 8, but there’s a shortcut, too! Open the View tab from the ribbon, look for Item check boxes and select the box next to it.
Tabbed navigation is super convenient, and many of us would consider it a must-have for Explorer. But Microsoft doesn’t think so, and continues to ignore the demand for this much-requested feature.
At no point did Microsoft think about tabs in the file explorer. smh
— Boy Child (@NaiRobley) October 17, 2015
You can get tabbed navigation anyway, with Clover — a Windows Explorer extension. You’ll find its multi-tab functionality similar to that of Google Chrome. Clover works on Windows 7 through Windows 10, but on the latter it makes a few tweaks to File Explorer’s menus.
QTTabBar is another tabbed navigation extension you can try.
Stop Displaying Recent Items and Places
You won’t find the Favorites and Libraries sidebar sections in Windows 10. The Quick access section has replaced them. It holds shortcuts — user specified and computer generated — to your frequently used files and locations. If this view feels cluttered and distracting, you can get rid of it. You’ll need to clear data that Quick access has already gathered and prevent it from logging more data.
Navigate to the View tab in the ribbon and click on Options, which you’ll find at the extreme right. In the Folder Options dialog that comes up, click on the Clear button in the Privacy section of the the General tab. Now uncheck the boxes next to Show recently used files in Quick access and Show frequently used folders in Quick access. Done? Super! Quick Access won’t bother you anymore.
Irritated with Quick Access in Windows 10? I am! Here's a Clean Up Quick Access guide http://t.co/n048dbpumT
— Richard Tubb (@tubblog) October 5, 2015
If you’d like to get rid of only select Quick access locations, skip the Clear button step above. Instead right-click on each location you want to remove from the sidebar and then click on Unpin from Quick access or Remove from Quick access as appropriate.
Note that although similarly named, this Quick access feature has nothing to do with the Quick Access Toolbar feature we discussed a few sections above.
In Windows 7 and Windows 8, Favorites > Recent Places is somewhat of a functional equivalent to Quick access i.e. it stores a list of your commonly used locations. To prevent it from accumulating data, here’s what you can do.
Windows 7: Right-click on an empty space on the taskbar and then click on Properties to bring up the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog. In the Start Menu tab, under Privacy, uncheck the box next to Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and the taskbar and click on Apply.
Windows 8: Bring up the Taskbar and Navigation properties dialog via the taskbar context menu. Switch to the Jump Lists tab and uncheck the box next to Store and display recently opened items in Jump Lists, and hit Apply. Do remember that this action will also hide the jump lists that appear when you right-click on taskbar icons.
Are You Ready to Explore Explorer?
Windows Explorer has many more tiny tweaks hidden in plain sight. We urge you to discover them all and put them to work. We promise that it’ll transform your Windows experience.
Which Windows File Explorer tricks do you consider invaluable? Tell us about them in the comments!