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  • Writer's pictureBen Bowyer

File Explorer: Exploring the Windows File Manager

The File Explorer is much the same as it was in previous versions of Windows but it is still worth you exploring it. The File Explorer is one of the most overlooked tools in Windows but if you want to be able to find your accumulated photos, music files, and word documents without having to use Search, it is definitely something you should be familiar with.


File Explorer Toolbar: This tabbed toolbar contains all of the tools you need to manage the different files and folders you can view. The main tab is Home, which contains tools for pinning to the Quick Access pane in the Start menu, copying, pasting, moving and renaming files. Once you have selected a file or folder in the main pane, the tools become active. Navigation Pane – Folders: The left-hand sidebar contains a list of different file folders on your computer. Clicking on any of the folders shown here will display the various files and folders inside, in the main pane. The list is split into sections, including Quick Access/Recent, OneDrive and This PC. If you right-click on a blank area, you can choose to show All Folders here.

Info Bar: The thin bar along the bottom of the File Explorer displays several bits of useful information. If nothing in the main window is selected, the info bar shows the total number of items in the selected folder. Click on a file and the file size is also shown here. If you select several files, the number of items selected is shown, along with the total size of all selected items combined.

Window Controls: Almost every window that opens in Windows includes these controls. From left to right they are: Minimise, Maximise and Close. Just below the standard window controls is a small arrow and a question mark. The arrow is used to show and hide the File Explorer toolbar, which is useful for smaller displays. The question mark will, when clicked, open a help page.

Preview Pane: If the preview pane is enabled, approximately a third of the File Explorer window and indeed, any other folder that you open will be reserved for a preview of any selected files. Normally, only image, html and text files will display a preview in this pane. The preview pane can be increased or decreased in size by clicking and dragging the scroll bar to the left of it. You can turn it on/off in “View” menu on the file explorer toolbar.

Folder View: The two buttons here let you choose between viewing the contents of the folder in a thumbnail format or alternatively, as a list. When the folder items are displayed as a list, you can choose to display a varying amount of information, including date last modified, file type and file size. Items shown as a list will still display a preview in the Preview Pane when selected.

Folder Contents Pane: When a folder is selected in the File Location sidebar, its contents are shown in the main pane. The contents of any single folder may vary greatly of course but Windows uses standard icons to show Word documents, text files, various different image formats and shortcuts to apps and software. As you can see here, images will usually be displayed as a thumbnail unless view settings have been changed.


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