5 Things You Didn’t Know You can do with the Windows File Explorer

We’ve been using Windows 10 for about five years now. But most of us use it as thought it was just a spiffier version of previous versions of Windows. We figure that we know what we are doing, and don’t go out of our way to look for shortcuts. Here are five things you can do with Windows File Explorer, the file management program that is at the heart of Windows, that I bet you didn’t know you can do. These are things that will make your life easier and maybe save you a little bit of time.

1. Opening File Explorer in the first place.

This trick has been around since Windows 95 so I’m constantly surprised how many people don’t know it! You know that key on your keyboard that has the Windows logo on it? It’s between the Control and Alt keys in the corner of your keyboard. Can’t find it? It looks something like this: That key works like a shift key. Hold down the Windows Key and other keys on the keyboard to perform a load of shortcuts. What does it have to do with File Explorer? Windows Key + E opens File Explorer.

2. Frequent Folders

File Explorer
File Explorer

On Windows 10, File Explorer opens showing a list of “frequent folders.” The list is maintained by Windows, but you can add additional folders by right-clicking on the folder and selecting Pin to Quick access from the menu that appears. Are there folders you don’t want quick access to anymore? Right-click on the folder and select Unpin from Quick access to remove it. Folders that have been “pinned” have a push pin icon next to them. (Like Downloads, Documents, and Pictures in the image.) You can’t pin individual files though; only folders can be pinned.

3. Working with Image Files

When you view a folder that contains images, you have an additional tab of commands in the ruler. Click on Picture Tools and you will have four commands that you can perform. If you don’t have a file or files selected, the only active option.

If you click Slide show, the files in the folder will be shown as a slide show with the pictures displayed on a black background. To stop the show, press the Escape key.

Once you have selected a file, you can set it as your screen background if you want to by clicking Set as background.

Finally, the options Rotate left and Rotate Right will allow you to rotate the contents of the image to the right or left without having to open it in an image editor.

4. Customize the Send to Menu

When you right-click on a file in the File Explorer, one of the menu options is “Send to” which opens a list of the programs to which you can send the file. If you look at the image below of my Send to menu, which I have already modified a bit, you’ll see that I can send a file to Notepad. If I choose that option the file will open in Microsoft Windows text editor, Notepad.

Using Notepad as an example, here is what I did:

  1. Open the folder that contains shortcuts to the applications to which you can send files. Press the Windows Key + R and then type: “shell:sendto” (without the quotes) to open the folder.
  2. Now that you can see the list of shortcuts, open another File Explorer Window. (Remember Windows Key + E from above?)
  3. Navigate to the folder where Notepad.exe is stored. The location is: C:\Windows\System32
  4. Find Notepad.exe in the list of files.
  5. We are going to create a shortcut to Notepad.exe in the folder with the Send to shortcuts.
  6. Click the right mouse button and drag the file into the destination, the SendTo folder. When you release the button, select “Create shortcuts here” from the menu that appears. (NOTE: If you accidentally dragged the file with the left mouse button, you can press Ctrl+Z to undo the mistake and try again.)
  7. Once you’ve created the shortcut, you can edit its name. So, instead of “notepad.exe – shortcut” you can change the name to Notepad as I did.

5. Open the CommandLine from File Explorer

This last one is for the geeks among you. If you work with the commandline often, you know that it is sometimes tedious to get to the folder (directory) you want to work with. It isn’t a really big deal, but you can save yourself some typing if you: Open Windows Explorer, click once on the folder you want to open, and then click on the File menu and then point to Open Windows PowerShell to reveal another sub-menu. Once it’s open, you’ll have two options:

Open Windows PowerShell

Open Windows PowerShell as administrator

Pick whichever folder you want and PowerShell will open with the current directory set to the one you chose.

If you found these tips useful, or if you know of a good tip for File Explorer that I have not listed here, leave a comment below.

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