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12 Best File Explorer Tips and Tricks for Windows 11

by Gaurav Bidasaria
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Windows File Explorer has come a long way since its inception in 1995. While the underlying concept remains the same, much has changed under the hood, making it a productivity powerhouse for Windows 11 users. A few years ago, I shared some File Explorer tips and tricks for Windows 10, however, Windows 11 has made some important changes. So here I am again with the best tips and tricks for File Explorer on Windows 11 this time.

1. Useful Keyboard Shortcuts

Let’s begin the guide with an extensive list of keyboard shortcuts for File Explorer on Windows 11. It will come in useful for the rest of the guide and make your experience snappier saving you precious time.

  • Windows+E – open file explorer
  • Backspace – go back one folder back
  • Alt+ left arrow/right arrow – move one folder back or forward
  • Ctrl+N – opens new window of the same destination when file explorer is open
  • Ctrl+W – closes open tabs/window (if no tabs are open)
  • Ctrl+T – open new tab
  • Alt+F4 – closes open windows including all open tabs if any
  • Ctrl+F – use the search bar in the top-right corner
  • Ctrl+L – use the address bar at the top
  • Ctrl+Z – undo previous action (restore deleted file)
  • Ctrl+Y – redo previous action
  • Alt+Tab – switch between open windows
  • Windows+F1 – opens ‘how to get help’ page in Bing search
  • Shift+Del – deletes selected files directly without moving them to Recycle Bin first
  • F2 – rename selected file or folder
  • F6 – move through file explorer elements
  • Win+Left/Right/Up/Down – dock open window to either side of the screen and view two app windows side-by-side
  • Ctrl+Shift+N – create a new folder
  • Alt+Enter – view properties of the selected folder
  • Backspace – go one folder back or to the parent folder
  • Alt+P – display preview of selected file on the right window-pane
  • Shift+Alt+P – edit metadata that you see in preview using command above

Regular keyboard shortcut to cut, copy, paste, and select all work everywhere including File Explorer.

2. Open Multiple Tabs

The 2H22 update in Windows 11 brought a much anticipated and required feature — multiple tabs in the same window. Just like your favorite browser, you can now open multiple tabs in Windows 11 File Explorer too.

multiple tabs in file explorer on windows 11

Simply press Ctrl+T to open a new tab window and press Ctrl+W to close it. There seems to be no limit as to how many file explorer tabs you can open but I would recommend you keep this number low so as to not affect the performance of the PC.

3. Change Launch Folder Location

It is easy to open a new file explorer window. Simply press Start/Windows key+E. However, the default folder is always Home. While that is not necessarily bad, different people have different needs. Fortunately, you can change the default folder in File Explorer on Windows 11.

1. Press Windows+E to open File Explorer window.

2. Click on the kebab menu (three-dot icon) and select Options.

file explorer options in windows 11

3. In the pop-up that opens, under the General tab, select a location to Open File Explorer to from the drop-down menu. You can choose Home, This PC, or Personal (Your Name).

change where file explorer opens by default on windows 11

4. Click on Apply to save changes and then click on OK to close the window.

4. Customize Quick Access Menu

You can pin or unpin (bookmark) items in the Quick menu that appears on the left sidebar inside the File Explorer. By default, it shows pictures, videos, and some other default folders.

pin/unpin folders to quick access menu in file explorer in windows 11

To add your favorite folders to the Quick Access Menu, right-click on any folder and select Pin to Quick Access option. Similarly, you can also unpin folders from the Quick Access Menu.

The Quick Access menu also displays recently and frequently used files and folders that you have opened. You can disable that from the same menu as above. Unselect Show recently used files, Show frequently used folders, and Show files from Office.com.

quick access menu recently and frequently used files

Pro Tip 1: You can change the order of folders in Quick Access menu by simply dragging and dropping them in the menu.

Pro Tip 2: Click on the Clear button you see in the above screenshot to clear all File Explorer browsing history so no one knows what files and folders you accessed. Great for privacy.

5. Customize Folder Layout

There are so many ways to change the layout of the File Explorer folder in Windows 11. You can change the size of icons from small to so big that it will actually hurt your eyes.

You can also sort the files and folders in a list with details on the right like date, size, etc.

change view of files and folders in file explorer on windows 11

What is interesting and useful is that you can set different views for different folders. So you can have large icons for the parent folder and a list with details for sub-folders.

If drill down further and select Show, you will find even more options. Here you can divide the folder into panes with even more details like a preview of the file, details, checkboxes, etc.

Combine these view options and layout together and you have a lot of ways to customize how the folder looks.

6. Rotate Images Directly

Many times, I take screenshots in landscape mode on my mobile and need to rotate that image before using it on my computer. Usually, that would require an image editor like Paint. Some image viewers also allow rotating images. However, a cool Windows 11 File Explorer tip is using the context menu to rotate images directly without even opening it.

rotate images left and right without opening in file explorer on windows 11

On Windows 11, you will also see the rotate buttons appear in the toolbar above upon selecting the image.

7. Share Files in File Explorer

Most users open a third-party app like Feem to share files. Others open Bluetooth. But you don’t need to do all of that. Simply open File Explorer, select the file you want to share, and click on Share in the right-click context menu. You should see direct shortcuts to some sharing apps like Feem.

share option in windows 11 file explorer

Clicking on the Share button will open Share menu which contains shortcuts to some key Microsoft apps along with Nearby sharing menu.

windows 11 sharing menu from file explorer

Here you can easily share the selected file to other Microsoft apps as well as your key contacts.

8. Restore Ribbon Menu

Windows 10’s File Explorer came with a ribbon menu that most users are familiar with. Windows 11 went on a trimming spree and the ribbon menu was cut off to make the UI more modern and clutter-free.

However, fortunately, there is a way to get it back. Microsoft Support has shared a Registry Editor hack that you can use to restore Ribbon Menu in File Explorer in Windows 11 to its old glory.

9. Show Libraries, Network, This PC

There are certain folders that are hidden by default in the sidebar of File Explorer. This was not the case in Windows 10. However, it is easy to display or add them back.

Go back to File Explorer Options from the kebab menu and under the View tab, scroll to the bottom of the list to check Show libraries, Show Network, and Show This PC.

show hidden folders in file explorer on windows 11

These folders act as shortcuts to important files and folders that you may need while working with File Explorer.

10. Benefit From Context Menu

The context menu opens when you right-click inside the File Explorer on Windows. In fact, it works across the OS the same way, however, will display different options depending on the app you are using and where the mouse is pointing.

Inside File Explorer, if you right-click in an empty area, you can group, sort, and even change the view easily.

file explorer context menu in windows 11

And if you right-click on a file or folder, you will different options. A lot will also depend on the file type selected. For example, when I select an image, I can see it as a desktop background or wallpaper, rotate it, compress it, etc.

windows file explorer context menu options

Don’t like Windows Media Player? Open video file using another app. In fact, you can any file type using a 3rd-party app instead of the default one from Context Menu > Open > Open with.

Apart from that, you will also see options from third-party apps like image editors, video players, file editors, etc. Context menu makes it quick and easy to manipulate a file and use it as you want. Right-clicking on a folder will let you copy its path for example.

One of the best features that I like and find myself using a lot is the ability to zip files and folders making it easier to upload, share, and attach them to email or other apps. If you have WinRAR, you can create archive files too. Similarly, you can unzip folders and extract files within. This saves space.

11. Use File Explorer Search

There is a search bar in the top-right corner of the File Explorer to search for files and folders hidden deep within the hierarchy. A little-known Windows 11 File Explorer trick is that it supports not only keywords but also wildcards which makes it a real-time saver.

Some ways you can use File Explorer to search for files are:

  • Type keywords
  • Search by file extension and file type like .docx, .png, .avi, .mp3, etc.
  • Use wild cards like ‘?’, ‘*’, etc.
  • Search by color like orange (check screenshot below)
windows 11 file explorer search operators and tricks

Eleven Forums has an interesting tutorial that further explores these functions and search operators in detail. Once you see the search results, you can further manipulate them to find what you are looking for.

windows file explorer 11 search results options

12. Rename Files in Bulk

We have all been there. You have a bunch of photos from DSLR or smartphone and want to rename them. Another scenario is where you receive a bunch of files from an intern or download from the web and they are named all wrong.

There are multiple ways to rename files on Windows, some using File Explorer while others using open-source apps and tools.

Explore Files on Windows

These are some of the best and also daily File Explorer tips and tricks for Windows 11 users. Note that Microsoft made several changes to File Explorer and so it looks and functions a little differently on Windows 11 and then on Windows 10. However, the fundamentals remain the same.

However, you don’t have to limit yourself to File Explorer tips and tricks on Windows 11. There are plenty of third-party file manager apps that bring new and innovative features to the table for your perusal. Fancy yourself a pro user? Try them out. Note that while the list was prepared for Windows 10, they work just fine on Windows 11 too.

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