©2016 Donald R. Snow
This page was last updated 2016-02-19

These Freeware Corner notes are published in TAGGology, our Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG) monthly newsletter, and are posted on where there may be corrections or updates.

This free utility program has been in versions of Windows, almost from the beginning.  The name WINDOWS EXPLORER makes it easily confused with the program INTERNET EXPLORER, which is a browser, i.e., a program that allows you to get to the Internet.  In Windows 10 the browser's name has been changed to EDGE, so it won't be confused with WINDOWS EXPLORER.  WINDOWS EXPLORER is a very useful computer utility to work with files on your computer, to list, run, move, drag-and-drop, and rename them.   In this note I will describe some little-known features of WINDOWS EXPLORER in Windows 7 that help greatly in finding and renaming files.

You can open WINDOWS EXPLORER by clicking on the "file folder" icon at the bottom left of your Windows 7 screen, next to the Start/Stop globe.  Clicking on this icon again doesn't open another copy of WINDOWS EXPLORER, but you can do this by making a shortcut icon on your desktop.  Do this by clicking on the Start/Stop globe, typing in Explorer, right-clicking on WINDOWS EXPLORER when you see those words, and creating a shortcut on your Desktop.  This desktop icon will allow you to open multiple copies of WINDOWS EXPLORER, so you can drag and drop between them.  Many drag-and-drop operations are easier with multiple copies.  It's like working with Q-DIR or FREE COMMANDER which have two or more panels and allow moving files from one panel to another.

With WINDOWS EXPLORER open clicking on the Question Mark icon (upper right corner) opens the Help panel.  This shows various options to get more help, including how to have a friend help you fix your computer through the Internet.  There is a search box to use keywords to find answers about WINDOWS EXPLORER and how to use it.

A little-known option in WINDOWS EXPLORER is to open the Preview Panel.  This defaults to being closed.  The Preview Panel allows you to see the document, pdf, jpg, or whatever, without having to open the file in another program.  Thus, by arrowing down the list of files in a folder you see the first page of each and, if the document or pdf or picture has more than one page, it even allows you to use the scroll bar to see all the other pages.  This makes it so you can tell what's in a document without having to open it in another program.  If you don't use the Preview Panel when renaming files you have to open the file in its program, note the name and date you want to use, close it in that program, and then rename it in WINDOWS EXPLORER.  With the Preview Panel open you can see what's in the file right there and rename the file immediately.

To open the Preview Panel click on the rectangular icon in the upper right corner next to the Help question mark icon.   This icon toggles the Preview Panel on and off.  To the left of the Preview Panel icon is an icon to show the file/folder list in various ways.  I  usually leave it set to Show Details so I can see the title, date, size, etc., of the files.  Note that only those programs for which you have a default program assigned will show in the Preview Panel.  For others the Preview Panel  remains blank.  By dragging the vertical demarcation line in the title bar across the top you can widen or shrink the Preview Panel so you can see the contents more easily.

When I scan documents to a flash drive at a Family History Center, the scanner gives them names like Scanned-image-12.pdf, Scanned-image-13.pdf, etc.  By moving those files to a folder on my computer and opening the folder in WINDOWS EXPLORER, I can see what's in each file by just highlighting the file name.   Without this I have to open the file in another program.  With the Preview Panel I don't have to try to remember the name or date to rename the file since I can see it there.  And to find a particular file in a folder, if I don't know the name or haven't renamed it yet, I can open the folder and arrow down the list and watch the Preview Panel until I find the file I'm looking for.  This has saved me hours and hours of time and I use it every time I scan things at the FHC.  The naming system for files that I have worked out over several years so they alphabetize in chronological order is discussed in another set of notes, but uses the date in International Date Format, YYYY-MM-DD so they alphabetize in chronological order.

This is an example of a feature that has been in WINDOWS EXPLORER for some time, but that I just discovered a couple of years ago.  Since discovering it, I have used it many times.  Maybe you already knew about it, but I didn't.  It makes me wonder how many other features there are in programs that I use, but don't know about them.  Like someone said, we only use about 10% of our brains and I imagine we only use about 10% of the features in our computer programs.  I hope this helps some of you in your Family History work.