How To Find Your Electronic Files Faster

By | Jun 7, 2010

In Part 5 of Setting Up a Filing System, I said I’d show you how to set up Windows Explorer to help you find your files faster.  Many of you may know Windows Explorer as My Computer, since that is the name Windows gives the shortcut.

Windows Explorer Default View

The default view of files in Windows Explorer is the Icon view (click on the thumbnail to see in full size).

WindowsIcons

This view has a number of disadvantages:

  1. Each file takes up more room on the page, so you have to scroll more to see all the files.
  2. The files are alphabetized from right to left and then down.  Your eye spends more time moving back and forth looking for the file you want, especially if you aren’t completely sure of the name of the file.
  3. The only information you get is the file name and what program the file was created in, and that only if you recognize the icon.
  4. If you have a long file name, it gets truncated, and you can only see the entire file name by clicking on the individual file.

Windows Explorer Detail View

Some people like the icon view, but I personally loathe it.  The first thing I do on a new computer is to open Windows Explorer and change to the Detail view.

WindowsDetails

The things I like about the Detailed view are:

  1. Files are alphabetized top to bottom, so there’s no side to side scanning.
  2. You see the file size and date modified in addition to the name and file type.
  3. You can easily change the column widths to see the entire file name.
  4. Most importantly, you can change the sort order.  Just click on the name at the top of a column to sort by that criteria.  For instance, if you know the file you want was changed yesterday, click on the Date Modified column to sort by that date.  If you know the file type is pdf, click on the Type heading to sort by file type. If you have a folder with many files, this can be very handy.

Changing the View in Windows Explorer

Changing the view in Windows Explore is quite simple.  On the tool bar, there is a button that looks like a generic Windows icon.  Click on that button to get a drop down list of available Views.  Click on your preferred view.  As I said earlier, my favorite view is the Detail view.  Windows 7 note: You change the view the same way except that the button is on the right side of the tool bar.

WindowsChangeView

Now, this only changes the view of the particular folder you are currently looking at.  In order to change the default view in Windows Explorer, you need to take one more step.

Click on “Tools” on the menu bar and choose “Folder Options”.  Then, in the Folder Options dialogue box, click on the View tab, and then on the “Apply to All Folders” button.  This will change your default view.

WindowsChangeViewApply

Using the detail view in Windows Explorer will help you find the files you need faster.

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