Configuring Windows Explorer
Basic Modifications

The Microsoft Windows Explorer provides file and directory management functions similar to the old file manager and the DOS dir command. However, the default configuration provides misleading information and is particularly hard to use.

This section describes the basic changes needed to make the Windows Explorer just a bit friendlier.

There are many ways to open Windows Explorer. The main difference in these methods is in how the data is displayed. Actually, both of these options run the same program (Explorer.exe), only the command line parameters are different. From the registry,
exploreC:\WINDOWS\Explorer.exe /e,/idlist,%I,%L
openC:\WINDOWS\Explorer.exe /idlist,%I,%L
As you can see, the only difference is the /e command line parameter.

In order to change the default action when double clicking on the My Computer icon, open Windows Explorer. (Use any method you like.) From the menu bar, select View/Options.... In the dialog box,

This procedure is summarized in the cookbook as

The Microsoft braindead default installation on Windows Explorer hides the file extensions. Microsoft has apparently decided that extensions are just too confusing for users to understand. You haven't lived until you have 5 files named autoexec.

Duh, which one is autoexec.bat?
Gee, its the one with the type MS-DOS Batch File.

Well, it actually gets worse than this. Try using Notepad to create a file named The file is actually named However, if the extensions are hidden (did I mention that this is the Microsoft braindead default), it shows in Windows Explorer as! A similar thing happens when you try to save from Microsoft Word. Depending on the selected file type, the actual file name could be,,, or something else, but only is shown for each of these. To make matters worse, these 8.3 filenames can not be used in some DOS applications because the filenames (which are actually 8.3.3 which you can't see) are automatically converted to testxx~1.doc, testxx~1.txt, testxx~1.rtf, and so forth. (BTW, these extra unwanted extension can be suppressed if you enclose the filenames in double quotes when the file is created.)

On the other hand, if Notepad is used to create a file named test.bat, then that is the file's name.

This can be improved by simply changing the default. From the Windows Explorer menu bar, select View/Options.... In the dialog box,

BTW, even after changing this configuration option, there are at least 4 extensions (pif, lnk, shr, and url) which will not be displayed. (This can be verified from a command prompt using dir.) Did I mention that Microsoft tools are the best?
There is little as frustrating as having hidden files. You think that you have selected everything in a folder and either zip it or copy it to a floppy, only to find that something is missing. By default, Windows Explorer hides all files which end in .dll, .sys, .vdx, .386, and .drv as well as all files marked as hidden.

This can be improved by simply changing the default. From the Windows Explorer menu bar, select View/Options.... In the dialog box,

Of course, this does not allow Windows Explorer to show all the files on the disk. Those marked system and hidden are still kept from prying eyes. See C:\windows\Fonts\marlett.ttf (Win 95) or C:\WINNT\Fonts\marlett.ttf (NT 4.0) for an example.
By default, Windows Explorer shows only the bottom level of the directory tree in the Title Bar (the blue bar at the top of the window) and in the Description Bar over the filenames (assuming that it is enabled). This can be a problem if, for instance, you have temp directories on each of several hard drives. Once you scroll the left directory tree pane so that the currently open directory is no longer visible, there is no indication as to what drive the files in the right pane are on.

On the other hand, if you are several levels deep into the tree structure, it can be rather difficult to determine what the directory name actually is.

This can be improved by simply changing the default. From the Windows Explorer menu bar, select View/Options.... In the dialog box,

In standard brain dead fashion, the Microsoft default when exploring files is to use the list view. This view shows only the file names, but not their size or date last modified. It also requires several clicks in the menu to change the file's sort order.

This can be improved by simply changing a default. From the Windows Explorer menu bar, select View and check Toolbar.

This toolbar simplifies changing disk drives and provides many of the menu selections as buttons. Click the Details button to display Name, Size, Type, and Modified. Clicking on the buttons with these names will sort the files in either assending or decending order. (Just keep clicking to change the order.) However, notice that Microsoft has improved the user interface extensively by not providing any way to sort the files be file extension (which by default are hidden - remember?).

There are many times that you will want to simply see what is in a file without Opening it in its default application. Or perhaps, the file is not associated with a default application and you would like to see what is inside. Normally, I prefer to view these files as either generic text or as a hex dump. Unfortunately, a browser of with both of these capabilities is not provided with windows. Instead, we will use Notepad, the generic text browser which comes standard with all versions of Windows.

When you right click on any file, one of the available options is Send To. When selected, this option displays the contents of the SendTo folder. Any application (or short cut) placed in this folder will be available every time the context menu is displayed. The exact location of this folder depends on the specific operating system and on the current configuration.

To use this feature, the procedure is to

To add Edit in Notepad to the SendTo folder
Win 95 Create a link to c:\windows\notepad.exe in c:\windows\sendto
Win NT Create a link to c:\winnt\notepad.exe in c:\winnt\profiles\[userid]\sendto

To create the link, in the Explorer,

And that is all there is to it.
If you want to browse a file in hex, simply create a shortcut to the DOS debug command (c:\windows\command\debug.exe in Win 95) in the SendTo folder. Be sure to rename it to something like Browse in Debug.exe

You will need a couple of useful commands to make this work