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Windows Explorer — known as File Explorer on Windows 8 — is an application that you probably spend a good amount of time in. Even Windows geeks that avoid using any other Microsoft program tend to use Windows Explorer instead of a third-party file manager. But, while we spend time customizing our browser with extensions, we often don’t think about hacking our file manager. There are a lot of ways you can customize Windows Explorer to make your file management experience faster and more efficient.
We won’t dwell on Windows Explorer’s built-in options here — just the most interesting ways you can go off the beaten track and do things that aren’t obvious.
Add Copy to Folder and Move to Folder
With a quick registry hack, you can add “Copy to Folder” and “Move to Folder” entries to your Windows Explorer context menu. You’ll be able to right-click on files or folders and select the Copy To Folder or Move To Folder options. Selecting either option will open a window where you can choose your preferred destination folder, simplifying the file copying and moving process.
To do this, simply download the .reg file for your preferred option from the Seven Forums website — either Add_Copy_To_Folder.reg or Add_Move_To_Folder.reg — and double-click it. Windows will add the information to your registry and display the options in your context menu.
Edit Your Send To Menu
The Send To menu allows you to right-click files or folders and easily perform an operation on them. By default, you can send a document to your desktop, compress it, email it to someone, and more. But you aren’t just limited to the options hat appear here by default. Your Send To menu is actually just a folder, and you can open it to easily add your own custom shortcuts and delete the shortcuts that already exist there.
To open the Send To folder on Windows 7 or 8, press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog, type shell:sendto, and press Enter. After you’ve opened the folder, copy shortcuts you want to use to the folder. If you want to remove shortcuts from the Send To menu, just delete them from the folder.
Customize Your Context Menu
Windows Explorer’s context menu, or right-click menu, becomes cluttered over time as you install more and more software. You can normally uninstall the associated programs to get rid of their right-click menu entries, but what if you’d prefer to leave them installed? You can use a tool like CCleaner to remove options you don’t use from your right-click menu, making it more minimal and less cluttered.
CCleaner doesn’t list all context menu entries — check out our list of ways to remove context menu entries for more information.
If you’d rather add custom shortcuts to your context menu, you can do that by using a program like FileMenu Tools, which we’ve previously covered.
Change Your Default Folder
On Windows 7, Windows Explorer opens to your Libraries folder whenever you open it. But maybe you don’t use libraries, or perhaps you just use a different folder more often instead.
Microsoft doesn’t make this option obvious, but you can easily change the default Windows Explorer folder to your preferred folder by editing your taskbar’s Windows Explorer shortcut. Whenever you launch Windows Explorer, you’ll see the folder you chose. We like making the Downloads folder the default folder, giving you easy access to your recently downloaded files, but you should choose whatever folder you use most.
To do this, right-click the Windows Explorer (or File Explorer) shortcut on your taskbar, right-click Windows Explorer in the jump list that appears, and select Properties. Add the path of your preferred folder to the end of the Shortcut box.
Apple’s Finder is getting tabs in OS X Mavericks, and Linux file managers have had tabs for a long time. But Windows Explorer is still without tabs, even on Windows 8. Internet Explorer was the last big browser to get tabs, and it seems that Windows Explorer will be the last big file manager to get tabs — if it ever does.
While you can replace Windows Explorer with tabbed file managers, you don’t have to switch to a new file manager just for this small feature. Third-party tools like QTTabBar can add tabs to Windows Explorer, giving you the ability to have several folders open in the same file browsing window.
Improve File Copying
The file-copy dialog on Windows 7 and previous versions of Windows isn’t very good. It’s slow, has trouble dealing with file conflicts, and doesn’t allow you to pause file operations. If there’s a file conflict or another problem, the file-copy dialog will stop in its tracks and wait for your input rather than continuing and dealing with conflicts later. Windows 8 improved on this, but you don’t have to upgrade to Windows 8 just to get a better file-copying experience.
To get an improved file-copy dialog, just install TeraCopy and enable its Explorer integration options. Whenever you copy or move files in Windows Explorer — either with drag and drop or copy and paste — TeraCopy will leap into action and perform the file-copying instead. This effectively rips out Windows’ poor file-copy dialog and gives you a much better one. You can disable the integration in the future if you’d like to use the standard file-copy dialog.
TeraCopy also adds itself to your context menu as an option, so you can launch it only when you want it and use the standard file-copy dialog most of the time, if you prefer.
Do you have any other useful tips for hacking away at Windows Explorer? Leave a comment and share them!