Windows 7: Files and Folders

Want to know how File Explorer works in Windows 7? In this article we will discuss the use of files and folders.

Windows 7 differs from its predecessor Windows Vista in a number of ways. But working with Windows Explorer has not changed that much. In particular, the design has been significantly modified. The principle has remained the same: you use the Explorer to view folders and files on your computer. You can also search for specific folders and files. If you want to read more about the Explorer itself, read the article ‘The Explorer (Windows 7)’. New are the so-called Libraries. You can read how they work in the article ‘Windows 7: libraries in the Explorer’.

A file is an object on your computer. This can be anything: a music track (for example, MP3), a text file from Word, a drawing that you have made with Paint. Files can contain anything, but they have two things in common:

1. All files have a unique name.
2. All files are stored in a folder on your computer.

A folder is nothing more than a repository where you can store files. For example, in Windows XP, personal files were stored in the folder My Documents, and music in the folder My music. Vista did not know those personal folders, but they are back in Windows 7. Of the personal folders, there are four:

  • My pictures. You can use this folder to store your digital images.
  • My Documents. You can use this folder to store your word processing files, worksheets, presentations and (usually text) files.
  • My music. You can use this folder to store all your digital music files.
  • My Videos. You can use this folder to store videos, such as video recordings made with your digital camera or camcorder.
  • In addition, there are general folders such as Downloads, Favorites and Links. You are of course not obliged to use those folders to store your files, but it is practical.

You can access frequently used folders via the Windows 7 Start menu. At the top right you will see your username (in this case ‘Saskia’), below that are the links to some of the folders mentioned. You can also open them via the Start menu > All Programs > Accessories > Windows Explorer .

To open a folder, click on the folder’s name. The Explorer will now open the corresponding folder. This looks globally like the image below. This window may look a bit overwhelming at first. But if you study it more closely, you will see that it is actually very easy.

At the top: The breadcrumb trail
In Windows XP, the Explorer worked on the basis of complicated address rules. You may remember them, the C:program filesmicrosoft… and the like. Vista and now 7 have moved to the so-called breadcrumb trail. At the top of the Explorer is an address line. In it you can read from left to right exactly in which folders you have been before you arrived at the current location:

On the right is the folder you are now in. To the left of that, the folder that that folder is in (here: Documents). It’s on the far left Saskia, the root folder. You will find your own computer name there.

Windows 7: Files and Folders

The great thing about the ‘breadcrumb trail’ is that you can click on all parts of this address line. Suppose you are now looking in the wrong folder completely, then you can jump back to the root folder with a click on Saskia. Or with a click on Documents to that folder. The idea is that this allows you to retrace your steps like a real breadcrumb trail.

Tip: Sometimes it is more convenient to see the address line the old way. Which can. Right click on the breadcrumb trail and choose Edit address. You will now see the address line again in the familiar form.

Previous and Next buttons
You use the buttons Previous and Next one (left arrow and right arrow) to navigate to other folders you have already opened.

The Search box
At the top right of the screen you will find the box To search. Type a word or phrase in the box To search. The search will start as soon as you start typing. For example, if you B type, all files in the folder that begin with the letter “B” appear first in the file list.

Searching is most convenient by opening your root folder first (so your own username: in the example that is Saskia). This is the master folder, which will eventually contain all the files you have in one of the subfolders. Then type in the first letter(s) of the file you are looking for. Windows will now search the folders and present you with a list of results.

The Toolbar
The toolbar is below the address bar. It consists of several buttons, for example Organize, Include in Library, Share with and To burn. The buttons here depend on which folder you have open. 7 adapts the buttons to the type of files. For example, if you clicked on an image, different buttons appear on the toolbar than if you clicked on a music file.

At the top left of the Explorer you will find the Favorites folder, which can contain frequently used files or folders. You can add (frequently used) folders to the Favorites. To do this, search for the desired folder in the Explorer. Click on it and hold down the left mouse button. Then drag the folder to the word Favorites at the top left. When a blue border appears around it, release the left mouse button. The folder is then added to Favorites. You can then open it a lot faster from now on.

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You can determine yourself each time in which way you want to display a file. Would you like a list with details of all files in a folder, or would you rather see thumbnails of, for example, all photos in a folder? Click at the top right on the button with the lines and the black triangle next to it, to change the view.

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