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More Windows Explorer Hacks

by Mitch Tulloch, author of Windows Server Hacks

In a previous article, I described four things you could do to get more out of Windows Explorer to manage files and folders on your computer. In this article, we'll look at three additional tips and tricks you may find useful.

Group View

You can sort files according to file extension (file type) by clicking on the Type column heading in Details view; however, Windows XP's version of Windows Explorer gives you a new way to group files: by using the Show In Groups menu option. First select either Thumbnails, Tiles, Icons, or Details from the View menu, and then select View -> Arrange Icons By -> Show in Groups (Figure 1).

Show In Groups also lets you group files according to name, file size, and the date last modified. To do this, select View -> Arrange Icons By, and then choose either Name, Size, or Modified. While this doesn't give you any more information than you can't already get by using Details view, it does provide file information in a more friendly way. It can show you at a glance, for example, whether you have any files that were modified yesterday or any files whose size is 0 bytes.

Thumbnail, click for full-size image.
Figure 1. The new Show In Groups option--click for full-size image

Right-Click and Drag

Dragging files from one folder to another is a quick and easy way of working with Explorer, and most users know that the result of such a drag-and-drop operation depends on whether the target folder is on the same volume as the initial folder. Specifically, dragging a file to a different folder on the same volume moves the file to the target folder, but dragging the file to a folder on a different volume copies the file instead. That's all you need to remember, right?

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Unfortunately, it's more complicated than that. For example, try dragging a program installation file named Setup.exe from one volume to another. Instead of copying the file, a shortcut to the original file is created in the new location. This is not the case, however, if you drag multiple files of which one is Setup.exe--in that case, all files are copied, including Setup.exe. Another example is when you drag any .exe file into the Start Menu tree of folders. The result is a shortcut being created instead of the file being copied. Other unexpected results can happen if you try to drag and drop system files like My Documents and Recycle Bin, or if you drag Control Panel icons.

An easy way to untangle the confusion of dragging and dropping files is to click and drag the file using the right mouse button instead of the usual left one used for such operations. Then, as you release the mouse button when the file is positioned over its target folder, a shortcut menu will appear, giving you two or more of the following options, depending on whether the target folder is on the same volume as the original folder:

  • Move here
  • Copy here
  • Create Shortcuts here

If you prefer left-clicking, however, you can still force each of these options by doing the following:

  • To move a file, hold down Shift and left-drag the file to its new location. (This works only if the target folder is on a different volume.)
  • To copy a file, hold down Ctrl and left-drag.
  • To create a new shortcut to the file, hold down Alt and left-drag.

Duplicating Files

Occasionally you may want to make multiple copies of certain files. A simple way to do this is to select your file in Windows Explorer, press Ctrl-C to copy the file to the Clipboard, and press Ctrl-V to copy the Clipboard contents back into your original folder. If your original file was named My Budget.doc, the copy will be named Copy of My Budget.doc. If you press Ctrl-V again, another copy of your file will be created and will be named Copy(2) of My Budget.doc, and so on.

What if you'd rather have your copies named differently, for example My Budget 1.doc, My Budget 2.doc, and so on? Unfortunately there's no easy way to do this using Explorer. You'll have to select each copy of your file, press F2, and type a new name for the file. What a drag.

Creative Element Power Tools to the rescue. This amazing set of tools includes a utility called Power Rename that lets you easily duplicate lots of files and control how the copied files are named. Creative Element Power Tools also includes other goodies like the Copy Or Move Files Anywhere tool, which simplifies copying and moving files by letting you right-click on a file, selecting Copy To or Move To, and pointing to or typing the path to the target folder to which you want the file copied or moved. Creative Element manages, so they have lots of experience with being frustrated with Windows. By developing these Power Tools, they've decided to stop griping and do something about it!

Mitch Tulloch is the author of Windows 2000 Administration in a Nutshell, Windows Server 2003 in a Nutshell, and Windows Server Hacks.

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