Amazingly . . . most users do not even place a shortcut to this absolutely mandatory Windows application . . .Explorer !!  And many double-click "My Computer" to get to their folders and files - wrong, wrong, wrong . . . but let me explain.

Out of all the sections in this guide – pay particular attention to this one.  It is the most important tool of Windows, yet many people never use it !!  

see also:     Explorer Command-Line Switches


Putting Folders at the Top

Explorer often becomes clogged with tons of folders, and as you work . . . to find a recent project you often have to repeatedly scroll way down the list of folders.  The trick is to temporarily rename the Project folder to make it stay at the top - then when you are done with it rename it back to the original name.

For example, suppose you are working on a Sales project for "Texas Instruments".  The "T" will make to folder appear far down in the list.  You may need to access that folder 20 times a day for a few weeks - VERY frustrating.  Instead, simply rename it to:

 - Texas Instruments

The dash is the 2nd highest priority symbol - as far as the display priority of Explorer is concerned.  It is only eclipsed by the single-quote which is difficult to see and never used really . . . so the dash,  -  , is very useful. 

If you have 5 projects that you are accessing frequently, add the following to the beginning of each.  In these 5 examples we will use XYZ as the original folder name, and we will use a space to separate the leading symbols with the actual folder name:

-1 XYZ -2 XYZ -3 XYZ -4 XYZ -5 XYZ

Here is the priority of the symbols that you can use to pop items to the top:

IMPORTANT - a Problem with Windows Explorer and "case"

We will explain Explorer in detail - but first here is a problem you need to be aware of - by default, Explorer DOES NOT show folder and file names in the actual case that they are in !!!  It "pretty's them up".  For example, if you have a folder named MYFAVS  -  Explorer thinks that looks gaudy and changes it to "Myfavs".  That may be fine with you, and if it is, don't change it.  But if you work with your own website and publish to a UNIX-based server, then you should fix this, because UNIX is case-sensitive !!!  Here's the problem and the fix defined:


Explorer does NOT show the actual case of the Folder and Filenames !!!


Force Explorer to Display Correct Filename Capitalization 
NOTE: you can also use TweakUI, the "Explorer" tab, and check or uncheck the "Adjust case of 8.3 filenames" option

By default, Explorer displays uppercase (all caps) 8.3 DOS-style filenames (such as "README.TXT") in a "prettier" format 
(such as "Readme.txt). If the filename has more than eight letters (not including the extension), or if the filename contains at least 
one space, the capitalization is not modified. (Note: Windows doesn't actually change the capitalization of any files, only the way they're displayed in Explorer.) Here's how to turn off this feature: 

Windows 98: 
select Tools/Folder Options/View from Explorer
turn on the Allow uppercase filenames option. 

Windows 95, Me, 2000, and XP: 
Run the Registry Editor (REGEDIT.EXE). 
Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Policies\ Explorer. 
If it doesn't already exist, create a new DWORD value named DontPrettyPath. (Edit -> New -> DWORD Value). 
Double-click on the DontPrettyPath value, and type 1 for the value. 
NOTE:  of it does not allow you to do this, right-click on the folder
Close the Registry Editor when you're done. 
Restart Windows - or you can probably just log out and log back in for this change to take effect. 
To turn the feature back on, change the value data back to 0, or just delete the value entirely. 


Incredibly, Microsoft has never placed a shortcut to it on the desktop with any version of Windows.  Actually, they leave it out on purpose – it gives the user power, and whenever you give the user power – your trouble calls increase.  Yet so critical is Windows Explorer, that once you have learned how to use it – you will not be able to work without it.  

NOTE:  do not confuse Windows Explorer with Internet Explorer.  Windows Explorer allows you to browse your hard drive – Internet Explorer allows you to browse the web.  For the remainder of this section, I will refer to Windows Explorer, as “Explorer”, and Internet Explorer as “IE”.  

Explorer shows you what is on your hard drive – the folders and the files.  Folders are also called “directories”.  To optimize how quickly you can access and find files, simply create folders, and sub-folders (folders within folders), and name them appropriately.

 The top level folder is called the “root”, since the structure mimics that of a tree.  Windows assigns letters to the drives in your machine.  The floppy is the “A” drive, the hard drive is the “C” drive, and the CD is the “D” drive.  If you have a Zip drive or a Jazz drive, they typically take the next letter . . . the “E” drive.  You will be dealing almost exclusively with the C drive, and since the other drives use the same structure as C  -  we will limit the discussion to the C drive.

Create a Shortcut to Explorer
(since you will use it constantly, go ahead and place a shortcut on your desktop)

  1. right-click on an open area of your desktop

  2. left-click on New, and then slide the mouse to the right and select “Shortcut”3) click “Browse”

  3. locate the folder called “Windows” and double-click it

  4. locate the file called “Explorer.exe” and double-click it – you will see the command for the shortcut appear

  5. click “Next” and you will see the name that will appear underneath the shortcut once it is created

  6. begin typing, and rename it to “Explorer” (no need to see the .exe) and click Finish

NOTE:  this is the same method that you can use to create a shortcut to any file.  However, now that you have a shortcut to Explorer on your desktop – you can create shortcuts much faster by using Explorer . . . .

Create a Shortcut to any file using Explorer

  1. open Explorer by double-clicking the shortcut

  2. find the file you wish to create a shortcut to

  3. right-click on the file, and drag it to an open area on your Desktop

  4. release the mouse button, and you will see several options . . . Move, Copy, Create Shortcut, and Cancel.

  5. Left-click on “Create Shortcut”

Most of those who do use Folders, access them by double-clicking on “My Computer”, then “C Drive”, and they work their way down to the desired folder, by double-clicking folder after folder.  In older versions of Windows, this leaves a trail of open boxes on the Desktop which then must be closed.  Even with the newest version, you still have to double-click repeatedly to get the folder you are looking for – and then when you get there, you have no way to quickly get to another folder.  Explorer will change that.  You will now be using several clicks of the mouse, to access what used to require 10 to 20 clicks of the mouse.


Managing your Files – using Windows Explorer

This is the most commonly misunderstood area, and is also one of the most important areas to know.  Once your desktop becomes cluttered with shortcuts and files, it is very difficult to work efficiently.

Never place files on your desktop  The desktop is what you see when your PC completes the boot process (the start process).  The only thing you want there – is the default icons, as well as shortcuts to applications, such as Word, Excel, Outlook, FMS, etc.  The files will be stored on your hard drive (called the “C” drive).

Here is a partial view of Explorer :





There are two window panes – left and right.  The left pane displays folders.  The right pane displays the contents of a folder.  In this case the right pane is showing the contents of the “Cdrom” folder  (you can tell it is the Cdrom contents, because the little icon to the left of the word is shown as an open folder). 

 C is the “root” folder, and 6 subfolders are shown.  Note the small plus and minus symbols (indicators).  If a folder has a + symbol next to it, it means that there is “more” to see (more folders).  This means one or more subfolders exist.  If a folder has a minus next to it, it means that it is expanded out fully, and there is nothing more to see. 

To see what subfolders exist in a folder, simply click the “+” symbol  (it will expand out and immediately change to the “ –“ symbol.  The expanded folders will be shown in the left pane.

To see the entire contents of a folder (both subfolders and files), click the folder.  The contents will then be shown on the right.


Accessing Files Using Explorer

To work your way down to open a file, you simply click the plus symbols successively until you reach the final folder where the file resides – and then click that folder to see the file in the right pane.  For example, the folder DJ970 has an HP 970 printer setup file that resides a couple layers down in the tree.  To get to the file and run it : 

  1. click the + next to dj970

  2. click the + next to enu

  3. click the + next to 9x

  4. click the folder (not the +), disk1

  5. you will now see the contents of disk1 on the right

  6. double-click setup.exe to install the printer drivers



Note that with the “My Computer” method, you would have to open 6 different windows to get there.  Even worse, once you get there, you cannot access aother file without going through the entire “My Computer”, “C drive”, etc. process again.

By using Explorer to access the file, you have it open and ready to access other files if need be.


Creating a Directory Structure for Work Files

Open Explorer, and create a number of folders, for saving of work and project files.  The key is to create a tree, without having any excessively long lists of folders.  The root folder (“C:”) already has a number of folders under it, so it is best to create few folders there.

As an example, you could create 3 primary folders under C :

“Admin” – weekly reports, link, receipts and travel, expenses, etc.

“Telecom” – technical files such as acronym lists, white papers, product guides, etc.

“Sales” – current and old sales projects – proposals, trouble issues, customer profiles, etc.


Getting the folders Together - the folders, by default, are shown in alphabetical order.  This means the three folders you have created will show up in various places, which makes accessing them slightly more cumbersome.  You can rename each folder, adding a “1-“ to the beginning, and they will all show up at the top of your view.  Click on each folder, wait a couple of seconds, and click again  -  the folder name will be highlighted within a block, and you can now type the new name for it – and hit <Enter>.  Rename the 3 folders to “1-Admin”, “1-Sales”, and “1-Telecom”.  Hit the “F5” ket to refresh the view, and they will all pop up to the top, as shown :




Next, click on the folder on the left, and then select File/New/Folder.  Immediately, a folder will appear on the right, temporarily called “New Folder”.  It will be highlighted by a block, which means it is ready to be renamed: 



Simply type the new name and hit <Enter>.  Then repeat the process.  You must first click the folder on the left !!  This tells Windows which folder you are trying to create a subfolder within.  Each time you go to create another subfolder, you have to first click the parent folder on the left. 

 In this example we wish to create 3 sub-folders underneath Admin – called Weekly, Receipts, and Travel.  Once complete, the tree will look like this :



Similarly, you can create subfolders under 1-Sales  .  .  .  one folder for each of your customers, as well as other Sales-oriented folders.

 Finally, you can move all the files into their appropriate folders, and you will be organized.  Keep in mind that this is a never-ending battle.  Folders will need to be renamed, deleted, and created.  But when you start working on a project, you know where everything is.

 Tip:  after a long period of time, your folders will become bloated.  Go through them and delete unwanted files.  In addition, create a folder, such as “Sales-old” for those files that are old and rarely used  .  .  .  but too important to throw away.

 The final folders, expanded out by clicking the + symbols, will look something like this :



 Minimize, Maximize, and Close (Exit) buttons :  almost every Windows application has these 3 buttons in the upper-right area.  They are used to size the window, or close the application.  Quite often, you need to switch to a different application, but do not want to close your current application – in that case, click on “Minimize” to bring the application down on the bottom bar (the “task Bar”).  It is still running, and can be instantly brought back to full size (Maximized) by clicking the button on the bottom task bar.  This allows you to instantly pull it up – with no wait.  It also allows you to see other shortcuts on your screen by minimizing it, and getting it out of the way.

Always leave Explorer running.  When you are done using it, instead of closing it, “minimize” it.  That way, it will be running and visible on the “Taskbar” at the bottom of your screen, for immediate retrieval.  You will find that you need to use Explorer so frequently, that there is no reason to ever close it.  Here is a screenshot from the lower right portion of the screen with Explorer and a few other applications all minimized.  Any of them can be immediately brought back to full size, by simply clicking “Once” on the button. Again, the advantage, is that they are all running, and you will not have to wait while they go through the start-up process.  In addition, whatever document you are working on will be there, and you will not have to click File/Open to get to it.



Moving and Copying Files and Folders

 Once your basic folder structure is set up, you can now save files in the appropriate folder.  You can also move files, and even folders.  Priorities and assignments often change at work, so there will be plenty of occasions for moving files around.  This is one of the few times you will need your right mouse button.

 Whenever you move anything in Explorer, use the right mouse button to click and drag.  When you release the button, a small menu pops up, asking you whether you want to Move, Copy, Create New Folder, or Cancel.

 Tip:  you can select multiple files with the mouse, by using the SHIFT or CTRL keys.  To select a range of files that appear adjacent to each other, click the first file, hold down the SHIFT key, and click the last file of the ones you want to select.  To select specific files which are not side-by-side, hold the CTRL key down and click the files you want to highlight  .  .  .  one at a time.  To deselect a file that you have clicked by accisent – click on it again. 

 For example, suppose you have a folder called GSA, where you have been saving and editing all your GSA documents.  Over time, the folder contents has swelled to 30 files.  Half of them are orders, and the other half are proposal documentation.   You would do the following :


You now have two subfolders under GSA, called Orders, and Proposals.  Yet all the files still reside in the GSA folder.  To move the Orders related files :

·        Hold down the “CTRL” key and begin clicking files (those destined for the “Orders” folder) to highlight them.  Once they are highlighted, release the CTRL key, right click on any of the files, and drag to the “Orders” folder until you see it become highlighted

 Repeat the same 3 steps for all the “Proposal” related files.  You may even want to further sub-divide up the Proposal files, into subfolders that list each proposal separately.  Name the folders so that it is easy to tell what the proposal entailed.  .  .  such as “T1 Internet”, “ATM 6-sites”, and “Toll-Free 4 PRI’s”


Find Files Using Explorer, and Wildcards (asterisks  *)

 You can search your entire hard drive by clicking on Start/Find Files . . .

 This takes some time, since Windows must search the entire drive.  Quite often, you know that a file resides in a certain folder or area of your hard drive, and you can search only that area – using Explorer :

 For example, you are looking for a Proposal that you know is called ATM “something”.doc.  For example, it may be ATM-6sites.doc  .  .  .  or  ATM-south.doc.  You know it is in the 1-Sales folder somewhere, but you do not know exactly where.  You also know the file name starts with ATM, and that it is a Word document, so it will definitely end in “.doc”.  Do the following :

  1.  left-click on the folder, “1-Sales”

  2.  right-click, and then left-click on Find . . .

  3.  in the “Named” field, enter:    ATM*.doc   (the * is a wild card, and tells windows to search for any file that begins with ATM and ends in .doc

  4.  the results of the search will show in the window below.  You may get several results, if multiple files begind with ATM and end in .doc  -  double-clcik the correct file to open it.

NOTE:  you will probably want to know where the file resides, but the results window has a narrow area where it displays the path.  For example, the actual path may be c:\1-Sales\GSA\proposals\atm-south.doc, but windows does not have enough space, and only shows you, “c:\1-sales”.  You can click the border above it in the gray area and drag to widen it, and reveal the entire path :





Find Files Containing specific Text  (perfect for FTS2001 proposal seraches)

 If you do not know the file name, or you simply want to pull up every file that contains a certain topic  -  you can enter the text you wish to search for in the “Containing Text” field, and Windows will open every file from that folder on down, and search for any occurrences of the text you typed in.  This search can take a long time to complete, so try to limit the folder size you are using.  For example, if you click on the root folder, or even the very large c:\windows folder, and perform a “Containing Text” search – you will have a long wait.

 *** make sure that the “Include Subfolders” box is checked

 You can copy the FTS2001 proposal from the SONAR folder to your hard drive, and instead of painstakingly searching through the complex table of contents, use Windows Explorer.  Simply right click on the FTS2001 folder, select Find . .  and enter the text your are looking for in the “Containing Text” field.  A number of documents will appear in the results window.  Double-click on them, one at a time, and when they are opened in Word, hit CTRL-F to bring up a search box, and then enter the text to find the exact location.  For example, with Toll-Free “Cascade Routing”, your initial FTS2001 folder scan will bring up 5 to 10 documents – you can quickly open up each and do a search for “Cascade Routing”, and find the area of the proposal that you need to reference.

 OK that’s it.  You now have a basic understanding of the most powerful tool in the Windows operating system