File Explorer in Windows 8.1
File Explorer has been available in Windows for many, many years. However, in Windows 8.1, its appearance and functionality have been enhanced. It is also called “File Explorer” in Windows 8.1 while in most previous releases it was referred to as “Windows Explorer.” It doesn’t really matter what you call it, as long as you realize that Windows Explorer and the “File Explorer” app are the same thing. In this lesson, we will examine using File Explorer in Windows 8.1. File Explorer is a window that allows you to explore and manage the files and folders contained within your computer. When you open a library folder within Windows 8.1, for example, its content will be displayed within a File Explorer window.
You can start File Explorer as an app in Windows 8.1 by clicking the “File Explorer” app within the “Apps” screen that you can access by clicking the downward-pointing arrow in the lower-left corner of the Start screen to view all of the apps on your computer. You can access it from the Desktop by clicking the button for “File Explorer” that appears within the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen. In Windows 8.1, the File Explorer window contains a set of tabs at the top of the window that allows you to perform many tasks and activities on the files and folders you select within the main File Explorer window. Let’s examine the different features and functions shown within a typical File Explorer screen in Windows 8.1.
Within File Explorer, the Navigation Pane is used to select folders, drives, and navigate the computers, folders, and files on your network. You can expand and collapse the areas shown within the Navigation Pane, which include your Favorites, SkyDrive, Homegroup, This PC, and Network.
You can use the Back, Forward, and Up Buttons to navigate within the different screens that you browse within File Explorer. You can click the Back button to return to the last page viewed, the Forward button to move forward again after pressing the Back button, and the Up button to move up a level within the folder hierarchy shown within File Explorer.
The various Tabs within the Ribbon are shown at the top of File Explorer. You will find all of your file and folder management commands shown within the area. When you select an item within the Files and Folders listing shown within File Explorer, the available commands will be shown on the tabs that comprise the Ribbon. You can click the tabs to see the functions available within each group.
The Address Bar shows the currently selected location within your computer or network. You can also click into the Address Bar and enter a folder location, if desired. The Files and Folders listing shows the contents of the Address Bar location that is currently selected.
If you are viewing the “Details” view of a folder location shown within the Address Bar then the details of the files and folders will be shown within columns. At the top of each column you will see a Column Name that displays the type of information shown within that column.
If you want to search for a specific file or folder within a selected folder location you can use the Search Box to accomplish this. Simply type the name of the file or folder or the first few letters in the name of the file or folder into the Search Box to then search within the currently selected folder location for the text that you enter. Searching begins immediately as you begin typing into the Search Box.
You use File Explorer to navigate through the files and folders on your computer. Within the large pane at the right side of File Explorer, you will see the contents of the currently selected drive or folder. Within this pane at the right, you can double-click a drive or folder icon to open it. Windows will then display its contents in the pane at the right side, showing you any folders and files within that selected location. You can then repeat this process, moving through the folders within the computer to explore the files and folders within your computer.
You can also use the hierarchical display pane at the left side of the File Explorer window to navigate the drives and folders on your computer. Whatever item you select in the pane at the left side of the File Explorer window will display its contents in the pane to the right. For example, you can click the “This PC” icon shown within the left pane to display the libraries, media servers, and drives within your computer in the pane to the right. In the left pane there is also a collapsible and expandable arrow shown at the left of each icon. If needed, you can click the arrow to expand the containers shown next to the icon, which will then be displayed in a hierarchical listing beneath their parent container. For example, you can click the arrow next to the “This PC” icon to show the libraries, media servers, and drives on your computer within the left pane if they are hidden. You can then select a drive in that listing within the left pane, such as the “C:” drive, to display the folders within the computer’s hard drive in the pane to the right. Also note that this drive icon has an arrow next to it within the left pane which you can click to collapse and expand the folders within the drive in the left pane, as well.
To open a file shown in the right pane, simply double-click the file. Windows will then open the file with whatever software program or app it thinks is best to open files of that type. If it doesn’t know what program to use to open the file type, it will display a message window that will allow you to select the type of program that you want Windows to use to attempt to open the selected file type.
To view information about a selected file within the pane at the right side of the File Explorer window in Windows 8.1, you will need to click the “View” tab at the top of the window after selecting the file and then click the “Details pane” button within the “Panes” button group at the left side of the tab. You can choose to leave the display of this pane on or you can hide it again when you are finished viewing the file’s properties by clicking the “Details pane” button again to hide its display.
Within File Explorer, if you display the contents of a folder in the pane at the right and then realize that you are looking in the wrong folder, you can click the “Back” button in the toolbar below the Ribbon to simply move back into the last folder that you viewed. You can then click the “Forward” button to move forward again into the folder that you just left, if needed. If instead of moving back to the last viewed folder, you would prefer to move up one folder level within the folder hierarchy, as shown in the pane at the left, you can click the “Up” button to move up one folder level.
Changing Folder Views
Windows allows you to change the display of the files and folders shown in the right pane within the File Explorer window. This is just a matter of personal preference. Your options are to display folder items as “Extra large icons,” “Large icons,” “Medium icons,” “Small icons,” “List,” “Details,” “Tiles,” or “Content” in Windows 8.1.
To change the view settings of the currently displayed folder within File Explorer in Windows 8.1, click the “View” tab within the Ribbon. Then click the desired view style button shown within the listing displayed in the “Layout” button group. You can hold your mouse pointer over any view button listed to see a preview of how it would appear in the window below. You can then click the choice that you prefer to apply it to the current folder.