Windows Explorer Hints

The following keyboard shortcuts are related to Windows Explorer
Windows-EOpen a new Windows Explorer window
Windows-BreakOpen System Properties
There are several ways to open the System Properties window.
  • Start / Settings / Control Panel / System (requires 4 mouse clicks),
  • Right click My Computer and select Properties (of course this requires hiding all 20 open windows first)
  • Windows key-Break (Very useful when debugging hardware confilcts)
Windows-MMinimize all open windows
Windows-FOpen the File Find dialog
Windows-ROpen the Run Program dialog
Windows Open the Start Menu
Change the active window

On most keyboards, the Windows key is between the Ctrl and Alt keys. (What a trick. Get all computers to have your logo on the keyboard. Even if the operating system is DOS, OS 2, or Linux, the keyboard advertises that Microsoft designed your hardware and software!)

To determine the size of a directory and all its sub-directories
Click on the directory to highlight it, right click it and select properties from the menu. This will display the number of files and sub-directories under the parent and the total size used by them.

This also works if several files and/or directories are selected - the properties dialog will display the size of everything selected and all the subdirectories under them.

Do not use & ; , ^ ( ) in a file or directory name
Though Windows Explorer will not generate an error if any of these characters is used, you will probably regret it. All of these are reserved NT 4.0 command-line paramters. (Trouble shooting design problems is a blast :)

For instance, in Windows NT, the ampersand "&" character is used to separate 2 commands on the same line. If it is used in either a file or a directory name, it will work in some cases and fail in others.

According to p266 of The Windows Interface Guidelines for Software Design (Chapter 10 - System Naming Conventions), long file names can contain any character except / \ : * ? < > | ". (You can also search the Windows help for filenames and select changing.)

DOS commands do not work with filenames which contain spaces
If a filename contains a space, then it must be enclosed in double quotes.

Never use spaces in file or directory names that will be used over the web. Some browsers don't know what to do with these spaces.

Allow an icon which starts a DOS program to prompt you for command line parameters
In the PIF file (shortcut), place a question mark "?" after the command (from Computer Tips)

Create an icon which opens with all the folders closed
Set the shortcut target to C:\WINNT\explorer.exe /e,/select

Create an icon which opens at the h-drive
Set the shortcut target to h:\

I you haven't changed the My Computer default to Explore, then set the shortcut target to C:\WINNT\explorer.exe /e,h:\

Change the default action for all your source code files to Edit in Notepad
When compilers are installed, they sometimes associate their source code files (such as pas c cpp h hpp bas and many others) to open the application when the files are double clicked. If you find this irritating (I do :), you can add an Edit in Notepad action to the relevant file types and make this the default. Be sure to also rename the open action to something less ambiguous (like Open in Delphi).

Delete files without copying them to the recycle bin
Normally, when you delete a file, it is actually moved to the recycle bin. This makes it possible to undelete the file later if needed. However, there are many times that you know that you will never need that file again. (temp files?) These files can be deleted if you hold down the shift key and then press del.

Remove un-used applications from the SendTo directory
By default, the c:\Windows\SendTo directory (Win 95) contains many applications which you probably never use. Create a sub-directory and move the un-used shortcuts to it. This way, if you ever want to use one of them, it is still available by right clicking a file, but, otherwise, only applications you normally use are visible.

My SendTo directory currently contains Notepad, DOS Edit, File Compare, DOS Debug (for hex browsing), and the Floppy Drive.

Double click the column header separator to instantly size a column to display its contents
You can change the width of a column by dragging the right edge of the header button. In addition, you can double click the button's right edge and the column will automatically resize itself to fit the widest item in that column. This works when columns are too wide or too narrow.

Normally, if a column is not wide enough to display its contents, the long entries are truncated and 3 dots are displayed to indicate that information is not displayed.

Use the keypad * to expand a directory and all the subdirectories below it.
If you want to expand an entire directory tree (not just the top node), then press the asterisk (*) key on the numeric keypad. The other * above the 8 won't work.

Use Ctrl-keypad + to automatically resize the column widths.
You can also use the mouse to resize the columns (just drag the separators).

Disable that annoying click
Every time you open a new directory, there is an annoying click. It wasn't always like that. But running Windows Explorer under Windows 98 which also has IE 5 loaded, there is this click. It even clicks when selecting web pages in IE 5. Ugh! (User hostile is great.)

Based on InControl traces, the new IE 5 install added start.wav to the system and installed it in the registry.

To fix this c..., open the control panel and double click the Sounds icon. The Windows Explorer / Start Navigation event runs Start.wav ... just disable it (set it to none).

Restoring an empty Detail View pane
The column headings in the Detail View pane can be re-sized. If this view is completely empty for all directories, then check if the columns have all been set to a width of zero.

There should be a gray vertical bar between the left and right panes (aka the splitter bar). With the mouse, point to this bar near the top where the column headings are located. You should be able to get 2 (TWO) different cursors

  1. A horizontal double arrow - ignore this, it moves the splitter bar
  2. A horizontal double arrow with 2 vertical lines in the middle. This adjusts the column widths. Simply drag this cursor to the right to display the right-most missing (hidden) column. (You must hold down the mouse button when you drag.) Repeat this procedure 5 times, once for each column.
Because I don't know how these columns can hide themselves, I assume that when this problem happens on your machine it is intentional! If you discover a way to re-create this problem without a "friend's" assistance, please let me know.

Microsoft suggests fixing this by deleting a registry value.

Personally, I think that is wrong. After all, Windows Explorer has the problem, not IE. Also, this value does not exist on my Win 95 system. Using Registry Monitor, I found 2 other possibilities with the second one being the most likely (its on both machines).

ScanDisk Runs Even Though Windows Shut Down Correctly
This is a possible problem with fast systems (> 500 Mhz) that automatically shut off the power supply. Microsoft's pseudo fix is to modify the registry and increase the timeout.

How to display all upper case filenames
By default, when you type an 8.3 filename using all uppercase letters, Windows Explorer lies to you and shows only the first letter as upper case and the rest as lower case. suggests this fix - create a DontPrettyPath key under HKCU \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Policies \ Explorer and set its value to "1".

The O attribute
Windows 2000 and XP (and perhaps others) have added a new atribute - o - which is not described in any document I found using a web search (Oct 2005). Normally, attributes are displayed, set, and cleared using the attrib command. However, o is not described in the help and can not be displayed or modified using the attrib command. These are the attributes that can be displayed in Windows Explorer when you right click the column headings and select Attributes.

Off line appears to be part of the "briefcase" philosophy.

This is from Potential issues involved in updating Windows NT IFS drivers to Windows 2000


When this new attribute is set on a file, the network timeout on the file is extended from 45 seconds to 1000 seconds. (This new default value can in turn be changed via the registry setting System\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanWorkStation\Parameters\ OffLineFileTimeoutInterval.) This new attribute is supported in the Windows 2000 redirector (RDR). It may also be backported to a Windows NT 4.0 service pack at some point (it is not in SP4), and possibly a Windows 98 service pack. It is intended for use by devices with high latencies, such as tape or optical disk libraries.

Use and interpretation of FILE_ATTRIBUTE_OFFLINE is optional, except for filter drivers that perform volume scans. Such drivers should ignore offline files by default, although they may offer advanced users the option of including offline files in the scan.

Additional info:

Author: Robert Clemenzi -
URL: http:// / user / clemenzi / technical / WinExplorer / hints.htm