Windows 11 comes with a host of new features and improvements over previous versions of the OS. One such improvement is the redesigned File Explorer, which has been given a fresh new look and some handy new features. In this article, we'll show you how to use File Explorer in Windows 11 to its fullest potential.
Making the most of File Explorer
File Explorer is an app whose name is fairly descriptive, but at the same time, it only gives you a taste of what it can be used for. Windows 11 has further improved on the app, most recently introducing tabs, saving you from having multiple windows open at once. At its most basic, the app gives you a way to navigate the contents of your hard drive, accessing and managing files and folders as you go. But File Explorer is much more versatile than that. For example, you can use it to browse your OneDrive files or to connect to a network drive. You can also use it to manage your computer's files and folders. In short, File Explorer is an indispensible tool that every Windows user should learn how to use.
1. Launching File Explorer
File Explorer is a file management application that is included with Windows 10 and Windows 11. It provides a graphical interface for working with the files and folders on your computer. There are various ways to launch File Explorer, starting off by clicking the shortcut in the taskbar – it's the yellow folder icon. However, you can also find a shortcut in the Start menu. The Start menu is located on the taskbar by default, but if it's hidden, you can show it by pressing the Windows key + X keys at the same time. There are several components of the app window to note – there's the main toolbar at the very top, and beneath this are the navigation buttons. To the left is the navigation pane and the large, main section to the right shows the contents of the currently selected folder or location.
2. Expanding the sidebar icons
The navigation pane is on the left side of File Explorer and it provides an easy way to navigate to your files and folders. The icons at the top of the pane will expand to show you more options when you hover your mouse over them. For example, if you click the Downloads icon, the folder contents will be displayed in the right-hand pane. You can then double-click any folder to open it. Alternatively, you can select a file and press Ctrl+C to copy it, Ctrl+X to cut it, or Ctrl+V to paste it.
3. Expanding the folders
The left and right panes in File Explorer work in slightly different ways, but both give you the ability to browse your files. The left pane is where you'll see the basic information about your computer, such as the name of your computer, the type of operating system it uses, the size of your hard drive, and how much free space you have. The right pane is where you'll see the contents of the selected folder. Just as you clicked This PC to view its contents, you can do the same with your C: drive – or you can double-click it, or hover and click the arrow to expand it in the navigation pane. With your C: drive selected, you'll see the contents in the right-hand pane – there'll be folders such as Windows, Users, and Program Files – and you can drill down to see sub-folders.
4. Customizing the views
File Explorer in Windows 11 gives you a lot of control over how you view your files and folders. As you browse, you can use the back and forward arrows in the navigation bar just as you would in a web browser to skip back and forth. You can also use the Home, Move To, Copy To, and Delete buttons to take quick actions on files and folders. There are lots of ways to customize the way files and folders are displayed, starting with using the Sort button. For example, you can sort files by name, date, size, or type. You can also use the Group by submenu to customize things further. For example, you can group files by type, date modified, or tags.
5. Changing the View options
File Explorer is the go-to program when it comes to managing your files on Windows 11. But if you're new to File Explorer or just haven't customized it to your liking, there are a few things you should know. First of all, File Explorer offers a variety of viewing options to help you get a better overview of your files and folders. Further options are available through the View menu where you can choose icons of different sizes, and decide if you want to see information such as file size next to individual items. The View menu also lets you toggle Compact view on and off. You may want to experiment to see what works best for you. The Show submenu lets you show or hide various optional components like the very handy Preview pane or the equally useful Details pane
6. Using different actions in Explorer
Among the most common things you'll want to do with files and folders is to simply open them – something you can do with a quick double-click. But there are plenty of other actions you can perform, just as dragging and dropping a file to a folder in order to move it. In the toolbar, the New button gives you a way to quickly create a number of different types of documents, while the other buttons are, in order, Cut, Copy, Paste, Rename, Share and Delete.
7. Looking in the Context menu
In File Explorer, the toolbar options that you see and the actions that they perform depend on what you have selected. For example, if you right-click on a file, you will see the same toolbar options as in the main File Explorer window, but if you right-click on a folder, the options that appear will be different. You can use the Open with submenu to choose an alternative app to open the file or folder with. The Copy as path option copies the full path of the selected file or folder to the clipboard.
8. Right-clicking a folder
Right-clicking a folder in File Explorer gives you several options. "Pin to Quick Access" is a great way to bookmark frequently used folders so they can be easily accessed from the Quick access section of the left-hand navigation pane. Another bookmarking option is "Pin to Start" which adds the selected folder to the Start menu as a shortcut. You'll also see "Show more options" at the bottom of the context menu, which will display the legacy context menu from earlier versions of Windows. This menu includes options like Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete and Properties.
9. Using the Search bar in Explorer
The Search bar in File Explorer is a great way to quickly find the files you need. Just type in a search term and hit Enter, and File Explorer will start looking for matches. You can also use the Search bar to find files of a particular size or type. Just select the Size or Type you want to filter by and hit Enter. The results will be displayed in the main right-hand pane as they are found.
10. Using the Advanced options in Explorer
In File Explorer, you have various options you can access and configure. For example, you can choose whether File Explorer should start with This PC or Quick Access selected by default. You can also adjust the settings for how files and folders are displayed in File Explorer, as well as how you search for files and folders. spend some time determining which setting suits your way of working the best.
11. Using tabs in File Explorer
If you've ever used a web browser, then you'll be familiar with the concept of tabs. A tab lets you have multiple websites open at the same time, without cluttering up your screen. Well, a recent update, announced at a productivity event in April 2022, has added tabs to File Explorer, similar to those in a web browser. To open a new tab, just press CTRL + T on your keyboard, or right-click and select Open in New Tab. You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + W to close the current tab. This can be very useful if you need to keep a folder open, while you go to your cloud storage folder to find something to drop into that folder.
With all of the new features in File Explorer, it's easy to make the most of your files and folders. Whether you're looking for a more organized view or want to customize your experience, File Explorer has something to offer everyone. Give it a try and see how easily you can manage your files and folders with this powerful app.
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