Tweaking the File Explorer in Windows 8

Windows Explorer has long been a core element to the Windows line of operating systems, since it is the number one application to use for browsing through the contents of your computer and managing your hard disk contents and that of any other storage devices in your computer. Windows 8 introduces a number of new changes to Windows Explorer. The most noteworthy of these is that the program is now called File Explorer, and it uses the ribbon interface which was introduced with many built-in applications in Windows 7. Those upgrading from Windows 7 will also notice that the Libraries feature has been removed. However, other than these factors, File Explorer offers much the same functionality as its predecessor.

If you are already reasonably familiar with Windows, then you probably already know your way around the File Explorer. The following takes a look at some of the more advanced tweaking possibilities to help you get even more out of this essential application.

Windows Libraries

You might remember the Libraries feature from Windows 7 – these were special folders which displayed the contents of multiple folders on your computer and any other connected storage devices. For example, the Music Library would typically display all of the designated music folders on your computer. It would allow you to manage all of the files from a single folder, even if they were physically stored across multiple folders. Although the feature is hidden by default in both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, it has not actually been removed.

To display your Libraries, all you need to do is right-click on the left-side pane in File Explorer and click “Show Libraries.”

To add more folders to a library, click on the Libraries folder to expand it and right-click on the library you want to modify. Click “Properties.” From this window, you may add other folders to the library simply by clicking the “Add” button. You can add as many folders as you like, and the contents of all of them will appear in the library.

Working with Multiple Files

As was the case with earlier versions, Windows 8 provides a huge range of lesser known keyboard shortcuts, and getting to know some of the more common of these can save you a great deal of time. Say for example you want to move or copy several specific files in a folder in File Explorer, yet they are not all lined up together. Because of this, you cannot simply select them with your mouse cursor. Instead, hold down the Ctrl button on your keyboard and click to highlight each file you want to select. Now, as is the case with any other selection, you can copy the files (Ctrl+C), delete them (Delete) or drag and drop them into another folder. If you only want to place shortcuts to the files in another folder, hold Alt on your keyboard while dragging and dropping them. Finally, you can also rename all selected files in one hit by pressing F2 on your keyboard. Once you enter a name for the first file, all other selected files will be given the same name plus a number in brackets at the end.

Customizing Folders

You can customize folder icons and pictures by entering the folder, right-clicking in any unoccupied space and clicking “Properties” followed by the “Customize” tab. Note that to get the necessary options, you will need to have the full folder path in the address bar at the top of File Explorer. This means that you must navigate to that folder rather than enter it from a library or a personal folder shortcut on your desktop, Start screen or taskbar. For example, if you want to customize your personal documents folder, the following should appear in the address bar:

C:Your User Name

Click “Change Icon” to choose your own folder icon. By default, there will already be a list of icons you can choose from. To add a customized on, click “Browse” and locate an icon file to use.

If you are customizing a folder which is not one of the personal folders for your user account or a protected operating system folder, you will should also see a section entitled “Folder pictures.” Here you can choose a standard image file, rather than an icon, to display on the folder.

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