2016 Donald R. Snow -- This page was last updated 2016-10-25.
These Freeware Corner notes are published in TAGGology, our Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG) monthly newsletter.  They are also posted on my Freeware Corner Notes page on  where the links are active and there may be corrections, updates, and additional information about the topic in other class notes


Windows 7, XP, and before, had a program called WINDOWS EXPLORER that was very helpful in file management on our computers.  Because of its name, it was constantly being confused with INTERNET EXPLORER, the Windows browser.  In Windows 10 Microsoft has changed the names of both programs.  The file management program is now FILE EXPLORER and the browser is now EDGE.  This Freeware Corner note discusses FILE EXPLORER in Windows 10.


Here are some tutorials, both text and video, that seem helpful. 
  4. -- 9 minutes 
  5. -- 17 minutes - YouTube video 


As in Windows 7, Windows 10 has an icon that looks like a file folder to open this program.  However, the icon only allows you to open one copy of FILE EXPLORER.  When you want to examine, compare, or drag and drop files, it is sometimes helpful to have two of more copies of FILE EXPLORER open.  This can be done with Windows+E; that is, hold down the Windows key (left of the space bar) and then click the letter E.  With this you can open as many copies of FILE EXPLORER as you want.  These can all be resized and moved on your desktop to arrange them the way you want.


The Navigation Pane on the left shows the file hierarchical structure on your hard drives and any flash drives that are plugged into your machine.  Clicking on any drive or folder opens that one in the pane to the right.  Notice that in the Navigation Pane each of the words (buttons) containing a menu has a right-pointing inequality symbol ">".  Clicking on it changes it to a downward pointing "V" and shows you the menu.   Clicking the "V" closes the menu.  You also see the list in the right pane.  The Quick Access button at top left shows the recent files and folders you have been working with.  To add additional files or folders to this Quick Access section you can drag and drop files or folders there or right click on the file name and click Pin To Quick Access.  This doesn't move the file, only makes it appear in the Quick Access collection.  There is also a Downloads button on the left which shows your recent downloads.  The up arrow at the top left takes you up one level in the hierarchy and the back arrow (top left) takes you back to the last view you were at.

Near the top left are the words  File  Home  Share  View  Manage.  Each of these has ways to open new panes or items and ways to set things up.  The File button has a sub-button allowing you to set up additional copies of FILE EXPLORER, the same as Windows+E does.  The Share button includes ways to share files with someone else and to burn files to CDs.  The View button opens a "ribbon" across the top with many additional settings.  Hovering your mouse cursor over a button here changes the screen below so you see what it will look like to decide if that's what you want.  I usually leave the program set with the Details view so I can see all the information about the file or folder on the line, e.g. file title, size, type of file, date created, etc.  The columns to show can be selected by right-clicking in the heading and putting check marks by the items you want included.  Clicking the title box at the head of a column sorts the files on that column and a second click there reverses the sort.  Right clicking a title box at the head of a column opens menus to allow you to select other items to show in the columns.  The columns can be rearranged by just dragging the title boxes left or right.  If there are tags in the metadata of some of your files, you can show a Tags column, if you want. 

The Context Menu which opens when you right-click a file allows you to do various things with the files.  Among other things, I use this to import collections of files into my EVERNOTE program since when you have EVERNOTE installed on your computer, it has been added into the Send To menu on the Context menu.  To use this you highlight the files you want to copy into notes in EVERNOTE, right-click on them, and click Send To EVERNOTE.  Each file is copied into a separate note in the EVERNOTE notebook that you had open and you can edit them there and move them to other notebooks.  Very handy.

On the View ribbon is a box you can check to always show the file extensions and I always show these.  This makes it so that I can see at a glance the type of file it is and it helps so I don't inadvertently click on a malware file, since the bad-guys hope you don't recognize what you are clicking on.


One feature I really liked and used a lot in the old program was a Preview Pane so that when a file name was highlighted, you saw what was in the program without having to actually open it in its program.  This was very helpful in examining files to find or rename them since you could do that without opening them.  When I first looked at the new program FILE EXPLORER, I couldn't find that feature, but it's there.  You get to it as follows.  Click on View (near top left) to open the ribbon across the top with several buttons showing options for the program.  I usually set it here with List view, Medium icons, and the Preview Pane turned.  This shows the file information on the line as file name, size, date created, etc., and when highlighting a file title, I see what's in the file in the Preview Pane.  The Preview Pane can be resized by dragging its left border further left or right.  With FILE EXPLORER set this way, if the file is a pdf, I see the pdf in the Preview Pane and can even scroll through all its pages, all without ever opening it in a pdf program.  If it is a doc file I see the pages in the Preview Pane and can scroll through all of them.  To show this in the Preview Pane you must have a default program set for that type of file, for example, .pdf, .jpg, .doc, etc.  If you don't have a default program set for that file type, you get the message No Preview Available.  This Preview feature is extremely helpful since you can rename files without having to open them.  I am constantly using this feature when ever I scan documents and photos to a flashdrive at a FHC, since at home I can see what's in the file and rename it without having to open it, saving many mouse clicks.  And, as you may be aware, if you have to open a file in a program to see what's in it, you can't rename it until you close it from the program, and by then I have usually forgotten details I need to put in the new title.  The Preview Pane avoids all this and allows seeing inside the file and renaming it right there.  


There is a search box in the upper right corner to search for any characters in the titles of files.  I don't use it because it takes too long.  For example, it took several minutes to search through one hard drive, whereas the program EVERYTHING did the same search in seconds.  I have written other FREEWARE CORNER notes about EVERYTHING and I use it every day.  One thing that FILE EXPLORER has that EVERYTHING doesn't have, is that it can search inside the files for particular text, but I use another faster program to do that.


The new program Windows 10 FILE EXPLORER program has some really helpful features and everyone working in Windows needs an understanding of its basics.  The primary features work just like WINDOWS EXPLORER, so most of us can start using it immediately.  But it has some further properties that will be helpful to us as family historians, so it would be a good idea to go through a couple of the tutorials mentioned above.  This note has just scratched the surface of the program and you will probably file additional ways it is helpful in genealogy.