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10 Tricks for Managing Your Files With Windows 10’s File Explorer


File Explorer in Windows 10 has changed in look, feel, and functionality over the years, but its basic goal has always been to help you manage, view, and launch the array of documents, photos, and files nestled on your PC. Even if you’ve been using Windows 10 since its debut, there are likely features in File Explorer that you may not know about or haven’t used in awhile.

Within the confines of File Explorer, you will see a Quick Access section that displays your most frequently used folders and recently used files. A dedicated Share button allows you to quickly share files from File Explorer. If you’re a Microsoft OneDrive user, the file storage service is embedded inside File Explorer so you can easily store and sync files in the cloud. Read on for other useful features that will make file management in Windows 10 easier than ever.


Customize Quick Access View

quick access

The Quick Access section of File Explorer appears at the top of the left pane and displays your most frequently used folders and recent files. Since it is home to the folders and files you’ll want to access most often, you can customize the Quick Access view to make it even more useful.

pin quick access

Right-click any folder in File Explorer and click Pin to Quick Access from the pop-up menu to manually add folders to the Quick Access section. Files and folders can always be removed from Quick Access if you right-click the item and select Unpin from Quick Access from the pop-up.

unpin quick access

You can change the order of the entries in Quick Access by dragging and dropping one higher or lower in the list. Quick Access even plays a role in the Windows taskbar. Right-click on the File Explorer icon on the taskbar, and your pinned folders for Quick Access appear in the menu.

show recently used

Not too crazy about Quick Access? Stop it in its tracks. In File Explorer, click the View tab at the top to display the View ribbon. Click the Options icon just above its down arrow. From the Privacy section of the General tab, click the checkmarks for Show recently used files in Quick access and Show frequently used folders in Quick access. Recently used files will disappear and no longer populate. Your frequently used folders will still appear but stop populating.


Launch File Explorer to Show ‘This PC’ By Default

show this pc

In Windows 8.1, File Explorer automatically launches in “This PC” view so you can see all of your drives and default folders right off the bat. However, Windows 10 has File Explorer launch in Quick Access view instead. You can tweak this and revert to the “This PC” view by default. 

In File Explorer, click the View menu and then click the Options icon. From the Folder Options window, click the Open File Explorer to: setting and use the drop-down menu to change that setting from Quick Access to “This PC.” Click OK and then close File Explorer. The next time you open the program, it will display the “This PC” view by default.


Turn the Ribbon On or Off

turn on ribbon

File Explorer displays a ribbon full of commands for the Home, Share, and View categories. By default, you have to select each tab to display the ribbon, then click another part of the screen to make it disappear. This saves space since the ribbon appears only when you need it. However, you can also make it so that you always see the commands available for the current ribbon.

At the very top of the File Explorer window, click the Customize Quick Access Toolbar arrow to the right of the folder icon. You will see a menu with various commands, including one to Minimize the Ribbon, which will likely sport a checkmark in front of it. Select this option to change the size of the ribbon.

Maximizing the ribbon will display it in full view all the time. Minimizing the ribbon will restore the default functionality to disappear when not in use.


Show or Hide File Extensions

file extensions

File extensions are a key way of revealing the types of files displayed in File Explorer. A file with a .DOCX extension is a Word document, a file with a .JPG extension is a JPEG image file, and a file with a .WAV extension is a sound file. But sometimes you may not want or need to see the extension, especially if you already know the file type based on its name or location.

You can turn file extensions on or off easily enough. In File Explorer, click the View tab at the top to display the View ribbon. Click the box next to File name extensions to turn on the checkmark and reveal the extensions. Click off the box to remove the checkmark and hide the extensions.


Display Your Libraries

libraries

Windows 10 offers a Libraries feature in which you can house your most often-used folders, but it does not show your libraries by default. If you like to use libraries and want them easily accessible, you must first set them to display in File Explorer. To do so, click the View tab and then click the icon for Navigation pane. From the pop-up menu, click Show libraries. Your libraries then appear toward the bottom of the left pane in File Explorer.


View Different Panes in File Explorer

navigation pane

File Explorer offers various panes to display certain information about folders and files. You can turn those panes on or off to see or hide certain details.

To start, the Navigation pane on the left side of the window displays all the drives and folders on your PC, so you can easily explore them. You’ll likely want to leave this pane alone. But if you wish to turn it off to create more space in the window, click the View tab in the ribbon, click the Navigation pane icon, and uncheck the checkmark next to Navigation pane. To re-enable the pane, click the icon and click the command back on again.

preview pane

The Preview pane lets you see the contents of certain types of files without actually opening them, such as photos, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, and more. It’s a handy way to peek at a file without having to launch its associated program. To enable the Preview pane, click the View tab and then click the option for Preview pane. Now select a particular file, such as an image or PDF, and you’ll see it previewed in the right pane of File Explorer.

detail pane

The Details pane shows you key data on individual folders and files, such as the name, size, and last modified date. To turn on this pane, click the Details pane option on the View tab of the ribbon. Note that you can display the Preview pane or the Details pane, but not both together.


Share Files With Specific Apps

share files

You can share a file with a person or application of your choosing, another handy option that saves you time and effort. Click a file that you wish to share and then click the Share tab at the top of the screen to display the Share ribbon. 

Click the Share icon to open a pane on the right side of the screen with a list of people and apps with which you can share that file. The number of apps will depend on the type of file and which apps are already installed. Select the person or app you want to receive that file.


Send Files to Your OneDrive Online Storage

onedrive

In Windows 10, OneDrive is built directly into File Explorer for easier access. You can add a file to your OneDrive space that’s not already being synchronized simply by copying and pasting it. 

In File Explorer, right-click on the file you want to copy to OneDrive and click the Copy command. Now, right-click on your OneDrive folder and click the Paste command. Once the file is copied to OneDrive, it will sync online and across your other Windows devices with OneDrive installed.


Manage Your Photos and Images

rotate

You can tweak your photos and other image files in File Explorer to some extent. You can right-click a photo in File Explorer and use the Rotate right or Rotate left commands to change the orientation of the image. If you want to turn a photo into your Windows wallpaper, right-click on it and select Set as desktop background from the pop-up menu.

slideshow

You can also watch a slideshow of all the photos in a particular folder. Click the Manage tab to enable the Manage ribbon, then select the Slide show icon. Now just sit back and enjoy the show. Each image appears for about five seconds, but you can click an image to advance to the next one. Right-click on any image in the slideshow to display a pop-up menu that will let you change the speed, go forward or backward, pause the show, or exit.


Search for Files and Documents

search

You can search for specific files by name, extension, or other attributes. You can also use the always popular “?” or “*” wildcard characters to seek out files with certain names or extensions. In File Explorer, click the folder that contains the file you wish to find. In the upper-right corner, you’ll see a search field with a magnifying-glass icon. 

Let’s say you’re looking for a file with the word “business” in the title or contents. In the search field, type the word and then click the right arrow to run the search.

extension search

Now, let’s say you want to narrow the search to only Word documents with “business” as part of the filename. In the search field, type business.docx, and File Explorer returns only Word documents in the results.

file type search

You can further expand your search to include every file of a specific type. Maybe you’re looking for all JPG files. Simply type *.jpg in the search field.

search properties

You will notice the Search ribbon contains a host of other ways to refine the search. You can search by kind, size, modified date, and other properties and even save your search to use it again in the future. You can also expand your search by looking for a file across your entire computer by choosing “This PC” as the destination.



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