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Windows 7 tips and tweaks

Customise Explorer in the taskbar

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Next to the Start button in the Windows 7 taskbar is an Explorer icon. Click it and it opens an Explorer window to display your libraries. This may not actually be the location you want to display though and each time you click the Explorer icon you then have to navigate to the folder you actually want to see. The behaviour of this icon isn't fixed and you can change to to display any folder you want. The icon is basically a shortcut to Explorer and you can customise the shortcut to do other things besides display the Libraries folder. It is actually a lot easier than you might think.

Click the Start button, All programs, Accessories and then right click Explorer and select Properties. The Properties dialog opens with the Shortcut tab selected. In the Target box it says %windir%\explorer.exe and this is the command to run Explorer. The %windir% simply means the Windows directory, so the shortcut is actually C:\Windows\explorer.exe for most people. The %windir% is just a clever way of coping if someone installs Windows on P:\Win7 or some other unusual place.

Explorer in all versions of Windows has some optional command line parameters:

explorer.exe [/n][/e][,/root,<object>][[,/select],<sub object>]

This looks complicated, but it can be broken down into simpler parts. The /n and /e are different views and they are optional. In Windows 7 they both seem to do the same thing and you should edit the Explorer shortcut to say %windir%\explorer.exe /e and see the difference in the view compared to without it. Instead of opening an Explorer window to show your Libraries, it opens and displays the My Documents folder.

Suppose you want Explorer to always open and display the Public folder by default. This is where the /root... parameter comes in handy because it specifies the folder to display. Change the Explorer shortcut to %windir%\explorer.exe /e /root,C:\Users\Public and the C:\Users\Public folder is always opened when you click Explorer on the Start menu. You can enter any path and folder you like. The /select is optional and it enables you to specify that a file or folder is selected when Explorer starts. You probably won't need it and /root is more useful.

OK, now that you have customised the Explorer shortcut on the Start, All Programs, Accessores menu we can customise the icon on the taskbar next to the Start menu. Right click the icon and select Unpin this program from taskbar. This removes the Explorer icon. Go to the Start, All Programs, Accessores menu, right click Explorer and select Pin to Start menu. The new customised Explorer icon is added to the right of the Start button. Try it, it will open and display the folder specified in the command line - Public in the example above.

(To put things back as they were, unpin the shortcut, edit the Start, All Programs, Accessores, Explorer shortcut back to %windir%\explorer.exe and pin it back on the taskbar.)


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