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Windows Explorer is a program that is used like a folder to navigate through the different parts of your computer. Using Windows Explorer, you can view file hierarchy, move large volumes of files at once, and more.
You should be pretty familiar with the basics of Windows Explorer by now, so in this lesson we will go over more detailed information.

Launching Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer is found by clicking *Start > All Programs > Accessories > Windows Explorer{*}. It is also attached to the taskbar by default:

Figure 1: Windows Explorer folder and icon.
When you open Windows Explorer, you will see links to the four default libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos.

Windows Explorer Overview

At the top of the window is the command area. There are Back and Forward buttons, an address bar that shows you the current folder or drive you are viewing, and other commands that change depending on the content included in the folder.
For example, when you first open Windows Explorer via the Start menu or taskbar, you have the option to create a new library:

Figure 2: New Library button.

When viewing a folder that contains a variety of items, you will see these commands:

Figure 3: Common Windows Explorer commands.

These four commands are the most common ones you will see when using Windows Explorer.
Let's take a moment to go over what each command does.


This option is available all the time when using Windows Explorer. This general menu lets you perform a number of common tasks:

Figure 4: Organize dialog.

Share with

Windows has the ability to communicate with other computers that are part of the same network. Most offices have some sort of network established so all computers can save files in one location or share a printer. Many homes also have a network, either a wired one that was installed when the house was built or a wireless one via a wireless router.
Windows 7 has the ability to communicate with other types of computers. Two or more Windows 7 computers can create a Homegroup; a simple network that allows for easy sharing of files. Most of the information relating to networking is beyond the scope of this manual. However, if you click the "Share with" option, you can share files with other users on your network:

Figure 5: Share With dialog.


Burn the contents of the current folder to a CD or DVD.

New folder

Use this command to add a new folder inside the current location. Click the command, then type a name for this new folder:

Figure 6: New Folder button and naming folder.

If you are viewing files that can be played with Windows Media Player, you will see the "Play all" command:

Figure 7: Play all button.

Click this command to play all items in the folder.

If you are viewing a folder that contains pictures, click "Slide show" to view all files at once:

Figure 8: Slide show button.

Choosing a Layout

If you want to choose a different layout for Windows Explorer, use the Organize command and point to Layout. You can enable or disable different parts of the window here:

Figure 9: Organize dialog with Layout selection.

Let's go over the different components:



Menu bar

The Menu bar is disabled by default. This option adds some menus to the top of the window:

Figure 10: Menu Bar.

File lets you create and manage objects in the folder. Edit lets you select, cut, copy, and paste items. View lets you change how items in the folder are displayed. Tools offers advanced networking options. Finally, Help lets you view the Help file and legal information about Windows.

Details pane

The Details pane is visible at the bottom of the window. It shows vital statistics about the folder or the selected item(s):

Figure 11: Multiple seleted items.

Figure 12: Single item selected.

Preview pane

The Preview pane is useful when viewing pictures or other graphical media. It displays a small image on the right side of the window:

Figure 13: Preview of Koala.

Navigation pane

This lists the major folders and locations on your computer:

Figure 14: Major folders and locations in Navigation pane.



Library pane

The Library pane is only visible when viewing libraries. It shows the library name, a link to the number of locations referenced by the library, and a menu to arrange the data in the library:

Figure 15: Arrange By options.

View Options

Windows lets you display file information in a variety of ways. Experiment with these options when viewing a folder that contains a lot of files. To explore the view commands, click the "More options" command:

Figure 16: More options button.

This command lets you choose between a variety of different views.

Figure 17: Different view options.

Extra Large, Large, and Medium icons are great when viewing folders containing pictures:

Figure 18:Large icons in picture library.

List and Details are great when viewing data or system files, or many files of the same type.
Below is an example of the Details view, which provides vital statistics about different files:

Figure 19: Detail list of items in a library.

Creating a New Library

We've already used libraries quite a bit in this manual. They are essentially folders that reference one or more different locations on your computer at once. The four default libraries included with Windows 7 will probably be enough for most users. However, if you are responsible for working on many different projects that each require a lot of supplemental information, it might be easier for you to create a new library instead of adding more and more folders to the Documents library.

To create a new library, open Windows Explorer or click the Libraries link in the Navigation pane.

Then click the "New library" command:

Figure 20: New Library button.

A new library will appear under the others. Give the library a meaningful name and press Enter:

Figure 21: Naming of a new library.

Now double-click this new library to open it. In order to use the library, it needs something to reference. Click "Include a folder" to continue:

Figure 22: Include a folder button.

Next, navigate to the area of your computer containing a folder you want to add. Highlight the folder and then click "Include folder:"

Figure 23: Selecting folders to include in a library.

The new location will then be shown in the library:

Figure 24: Document in a library.

To add another location, click the blue "1 location" text under the library title. Browse and choose another folder. Repeat this process until you have added all the folders you need to the library.

Don't forget, you can add more locations to the default libraries too!

You can even delete the existing libraries if you wish; just right-click the library you want to remove and click Delete:

Figure 25: Right-click Dialog with delete selected.

If you delete a library, you aren't deleting the data included in them. Remember that a library is just a convenient way to reference several file locations at once. If you want to delete data for good, you will have to delete the source data manually.