Three Tricks to Make the Windows 7 Explorer More Useful


When it introduced Windows Vista, Microsoft changed the appearance and functions of Windows Explorer quite a bit and in Windows 7 even more changes were made. Here are three tips to help you make better use of  some of the  features for accessing and viewing folders in Windows 7.

Opening the Folder Options dialog

One place for configuring the settings for the display of folders is the dialog “Folder Options”. There are numerous ways to open this dialog but here is a quick route.

  1. Open the Start menu.
  2. In the Start Search bar, enter “folder” (without quotes).
  3. Choose “Folder Options” from the list.
  4. The “Folder Options” dialog will open (figure below). 

Show the active folder in the navigation pane

One useful change that can be made in Folder Options is to re-enable the display of the active folder in the navigation pane. By default, the Windows 7 version of Explorer doesn't show the currently active folder in the left pane.  You can get a Windows XP style of folder tree by putting checks by the entries shown outlined in red in the figure below. If you do not want the sub-folders displayed, place a check by “Show all folders” only. Don't forget to click "Apply" after any changes you make.

Folder options dialog in Windows 7

Add or remove links from the Favorites section of the Navigation Pane

In the top of the left side or navigation pane in an Explorer window is a section called “Favorites”.  (These are not to be confused with Internet Explorer Favorites.) This is a convenient list of shortcuts to folders or links that you use frequently and are provided for easy access. By default, Desktop, Downloads, and Recent Places are listed. 

Adding your own shortcuts to the list is very easy. One way is to drag a folder and drop it into the list. Another is to open the Links folder and add the shortcuts there. 

The Links folder is opened this way:

  1. Open the Start menu
  2. In the Start Search bar, enter “shell:links” (without quotes,
  3. Choose “shell:links” from the list.
  4. A folder containing the shortcuts for the navigation pane favorite links will open. 

Removing shortcuts from the Favorites list is also very easy. Either delete them from the Links folder directly or right-click on a link in the navigation pane and choose “Remove” in the context menu. 

More information—Fellow editor Jojoyee has written a comprehensive article on Favorite Links, which can be found here.  

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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