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Windows 7 tips and tweaks

Exploring Windows Explorer windows

Windows Explorer must be the most used program in Windows and it is an essential tool for browsing the contents of the disk, managing files and folders, opening files and so on. It has changed over the years and the contents of the left-hand panel is very different to what it was in XP. You used to be able to get a tree view of the folders in the left pane showing the subfolders branching out to the right and this was useful for navigating the disk. Windows 7 does things differently, but you can still get this tree view, sort of. You just need to change a few options.

Click the Explorer icon in the taskbar to open a window and then click Organize, Folder and Search Options. On the General tab, click Show all folders and Automatically expand to current folder. Apply the settings, then close Explorer and open it again. The lower part of the left-hand pane is changed and below the libraries is the tree view. As you explore the disk and open folders and subfolders the tree view exapands on the left. You can quickly jump to any folder by clicking it in the left pane and you can collapse and expand folders by clicking the little triangle icon next to them. (It's hidden until you mouse over a folder.) You may prefer this view to the default one. Try it and see.

Windows Explorer tree view

When you want to copy or move files it is useful to open two Explorer windows side by side. You can then drag files and folders from one to the other. A useful trick here is to right click any disk or folder in the left or right panes and select Open in new window.

One final tip, you can change the view by clicking the icon in the top right corner of the Explorer window. Click the arrow to display a menu. OK, you knew that, but if you right click in an empty part of the Explorer window on the right there are options to group the files and folders in various ways. For example, you can select Group by, Name. You can also right click and choose a sort option, such as Sort by, Name. These two options sound the same, but they are very different. Group by puts the files and folders into groups, such as A-J, L-T, and U-Z. When you also sort by name, it's the groups that are sorted and not the files. Right click and select Group by, (None) to turn off grouping.

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