Windows 7: Six Power Tips for Windows Explorer

Like us, you’ve probably been using Windows Explorer for what seems like forever now. When Windows 7 arrived, it brought several new file management features to Explorer right along with it. So, if you’re looking for ways to improve your experience with Windows Explorer, then these six power tips are just what you’ve been looking for!

1. Navigating with Drop-down Menus

One of the great time-saving features of the new Windows Explorer is the drop-down menus, allowing quick access to locations above or below the current one. To navigate, [Click] a drop-down arrow in the address bar, then select a location:


Or, to directly navigate to one of the locations higher up, [Click] the location in the address bar.

2. Typing a Path

If you know the exact path that you would like to navigate to, or maybe you just want to feel a little nostalgic, you can type the path directly into the Windows Explorer navigation bar. To enter a path, [Click] the address bar or press <Alt-D>, type the path, then press <Enter> to navigate.

To make typing a path easier:


Windows Explorer will suggest possible folders or files that match the text as you type.
To toggle through the suggestions, press <Tab>, <UpArrow>, or <DownArrow>.
To navigate to a selected folder or file, press <Enter>. Or, to select a folder without navigating, select the folder, type the \ character, then continue typing.

3. Using Navigation Buttons: Forward, Back & Recent

To navigate one step back, [Click] or press <Alt-LeftArrow>.

To navigate one step forward, [Click] or press <Alt-RightArrow>.

To navigate to a recent location, [Click] the drop-down arrow of .

4. Revealing Menus

To show the File, Edit, View, Tools, and Help menu items, press <Alt>, then use the arrow keys to navigate. Or, to always show the menus:

  1. Press <Alt>, then choose TOOLS, FOLDER OPTIONS.
  2. [Click] VIEW tab, then check ALWAYS SHOW MENUS under ADVANCED SETTINGS.
  3. [Click] OK.

5. Using the Keyboard

A great way to move more quickly in Windows Explorer is to never take your hands off the keys. Here are a collection of keyboard shortcuts to help you out with that:

To launch Windows Explorer: <Windows-E>.

To open a new window: <Ctrl-N>.

To create a new folder at the current location: <Ctrl-Shift-N>.

To navigate one step back: <Alt-LeftArrow>.

To navigate one step forward: <Alt-RightArrow>.

To navigate one level up: <Alt-UpArrow>.

To select the address bar: <Alt-D>.

To select the search box: <Ctrl-E> or <Ctrl-F>.

6. Using Libraries

Libraries are an excellent way to cut down on the amount of work you have to do finding and saving your files, because they provide a great way to view files that exist anywhere on your system in one central location. This is a very powerful new Windows Explorer feature, so we’ve covered it in a separate post. If you would like to learn more about using Libraries, check out our Windows 7: Pulling Files Together with Windows Explorer Libraries post.

Bonus Tip: Change Windows Explorer’s Default Location

When you open Windows Explorer from the taskbar, it defaults to the Libraries location. Some of us, however, might want to change the default start location to My Computer, or to a custom folder location on the system.

To customize the default start location for the Windows Explorer taskbar pin:

  1.  Close all instances of Windows Explorer.
  2. Press and hold <Shift>, then [RightClick] in the taskbar. Select PROPERTIES.
  3. On the SHORTCUT tab, paste the following in the TARGET field:
    • For My Computer: %windir%\explorer.exe ::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}
    • For the Documents Folder: %windir%\explorer.exe ::{450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103}
    • For a Custom Location: %windir%\explorer.exe driveletter:\path
  4. [Click] OK.

To remove the customization, set the shortcut to %windir%\explorer.exe.

Double Bonus: Any Windows Explorer shortcut can be modified by selecting the shortcut’s property sheet. You could create several shortcuts or taskbar pins to various locations on your system.

Triple Bonus: If you want to open Windows Explorer at the My Computer location, but don’t want to fuss with property sheets, you can use the keyboard shortcut to get you there – just press <Windows-E>.

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