File Explorer In Windows 10 : How To Customize It

For decades, the File Explorer program, formerly known as Windows Explorer, has been an integral part of the Windows operating system. They’ve given it a noticeable overhaul in Windows 10, just like they’ve given most of the other parts of the OS. There are many new tools to get used to, but anyone who has used Windows XP or later will be familiar with the basic layout and functionality. Here’s a quick rundown of the new File Explorer’s finer points.

Quick Access

The Quick Access area, located in the left-hand column of the Navigation Pane by default, is essentially a Bookmarks bar for File Explorer. It displays your most recently accessed folders and pinned folders (folders that you manually assign to this area), so you can quickly access and navigate any folder in Windows. Any folder in Windows can be pinned to Quick Access by right-clicking or long-pressing it on any screen, then clicking Pin to Quick Access.

You can now open this folder from any other folder with ease. Drag and drop files and folders to move (or copy, if they’re on a different drive) them. Click the Pin icon to the right of the folder label to remove it from the Quick Access view. Remove frequently used folders from quick access by right-clicking the folder and selecting Remove From Quick Access.

Microsoft’s cloud storage service, OneDrive, now has its folder beneath the Quick Access area. Below OneDrive, a tree view shows other folders on your computer.

Ribbon interface

Because you’ll be opening and moving files and folders 90% of the time, File Explorer devotes the majority of its user interface space to displaying icons and the tree view on the left side. The ribbon interface (introduced in Windows 8) provides more advanced functions, which you can access by clicking Home, Share, or View. By clicking the Down button next to the folder name in the window header, then de-selecting Minimize the Ribbon, you can make this area visible at all times.

The Home ribbon isn’t handy, if only because all of the functions it contains are accessible via standard mouse-clicks or well-known keyboard shortcuts, such as copy and paste. Share displays functions that aren’t widely used: These buttons can be used to send specific files or folders to a ZIP archive, print or fax documents, burn files to a CD or DVD, and share files using Windows’ built-in networking tools.

Some of the more interesting tools can be found on the View tab. You can show or hide separate panes for Preview (which will show larger versions of things like photos or videos) and Details (which will show smaller versions of things like photos or videos) and enable or disable the Navigation pane (where the Quick Access section is) (which show more technical aspects of a file or group of files at a glance). You can choose from a variety of views for this folder in the Layout section. You can access more advanced tools by selecting the Options icon, then Change Folder and Search Options. Experiment with all of the different view options; you might find that some are particularly useful in folders with many files.

File menu

Although much of the functionality in the File menu was moved to other parts of File Explorer in later versions of Windows, there are still a few useful tools here for power users. The File menu in both the Command Prompt and Windows PowerShell tools allows you to open new instances with the current folder active (which can save a lot of tedious typing). Do you require administrator rights? Hover over the icon and select Open Command Prompt/Windows PowerShell As Administrator from the drop-down menu.

There are a few other methods as well. To open the File Menu and quickly access a Quick Access folder without using the mouse, press Alt + F. Click any number key from here to open the corresponding Quick Access folder in order. You can also easily pin or unpin any folder using the Change Folder and Search Options view.

Picture tools

There are some basic photo tools in File Explorer as well, but they’re hidden by default. Open a folder containing photo files, then select one. Above the Manage Ribbon tab, a new yellow tab called Picture Tools will appear. When you click it, you’ll be able to quickly access tools such as rotating a photo left or right, starting a slideshow with the default photo viewer, and setting a photo as your desktop background.

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Like most modern internet browsers, File Explorer has a search bar. Although it is a built-in feature of Windows, your search is limited to the folder you currently have open (plus any files contained in folders inside that folder) when you use the Search function in File Explorer.

This is especially useful if a folder contains dozens or even hundreds of files. When you type the document’s name into the Search box, it will return a list of relevant results. If the file’s body contains a word that is similar to your search term, Word documents and PDFs may appear as results. If you’re unsure where one of your search results is, right-click it and choose Open File Location to open the relevant folder immediately.

The Search Tools section of the Ribbon interface will also open when you click the search bar (which is usually hidden). This allows you to limit your search by date, file size, file type, or even within a specific folder.

Regrettably, the File Explorer search does not have all of the features of a full Cortana search. You won’t be able to find what you need if you use terms that are too broad.

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Useful keyboard shortcuts

There are dozens of keyboard shortcuts in File Explorer, but here are a few of the most useful:

  • Open a new instance of File Explorer by pressing the Windows key + E from anywhere in Windows.
  • Show or hide the Preview pane by pressing Alt + P.
  • Show or hide the Details pane by pressing Alt + Shift + P.
  • Back up to one folder in your history with the Alt + left arrow key.
  • Go up one folder in the folder tree by pressing Alt + up arrow key.
  • Open a new File Explorer window by pressing Ctrl + N.
  • The Search bar is activated by pressing Ctrl + E.
  • Create a new folder in the current folder by pressing Ctrl + Shift + N.
  • Increase or decrease the size of icons and thumbnails by pressing Ctrl + mouse wheel up or down.

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