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Taming Windows Explorer

fldrs (12K)

I don’t know about you, but when I’m working on a large network, I find it frustrating to have to search through hierarchies of folders on different drives, looking for my key folders, some of which could be buried many layers down. So I like to spend a bit of time setting up my own environment so that I can go straight to each of these key folders and display its contents. And, since I may need to open a key folder several times a day, I like to be able to control the way the files are displayed when I open up that folder—generally, my preference is for a folder to open in a dual-pane Explorer view, with the navigator pane (not the Windows Explorer task pane) on the left. I prefer some folders to open maximised and other folders—usually smaller ones—to open in normal (neither maximised nor minimised) size. With a bit of experimentation and a lot of searching and fiddling around, I’ve found ways to achieve a suitable set-up for achieving this.

The picture on the right shows the bottom right of the desktop on my computer at home. Clicking on the fldrs_btn (1K) symbol has caused a pop-up menu to appear, listing just the key folders that I want quick access to. The steps below show how to achieve a set-up like this.

  1. The first step is to create a shortcut to each of my key folders. There are various ways to do this, but this is the way that seems to work best for what I want to do. I open Windows Explorer and locate one of my key folders. I arrange the windows on the screen to make sure a piece of desktop is visible somewhere and right-click on the folder icon, then drag it onto the desktop. On releasing the mouse button, I select Create Shortcuts Here (yes, it actually is a plural, I’ve just noticed!).
  2. I now have my shortcut, but when I double-click it, the display looks how Windows thinks it should look, not how I like it. I need to fix that.

    It’s been pointed out to me that some of the following steps may be unnecessary. Have a look at this page and locate the paragraph headed Force My Computer Desktop Icon To Open In Windows Explorer Mode. This describes a way to get force folders to open in Explorer mode.

  3. I right-click on the shortcut and select Properties. In the dialog box that appears I select the Shortcut tab. I set the Run drop-down to Normal window or Maximized, depending on which is best for this folder.
  4. properties_dlg (31K)
  5. Next, the tricky bit. The Target text box currently shows the pathname for the target folder—sometimes it’s enclosed in double quotes, sometimes not. If not, I add the quotes. To get it to open in the dual-pane Explorer mode, I insert this string before the pathname (if I added a quote, I put the string before the quote):

    %windir%\explorer.exe /e,

    The comma is part of the string and should not be followed by a space (the quote at the start of the pathname of the target folder should come directly after the comma).

  6. Once I’ve done this to my shortcut, for some reason Windows changes the icon it uses for the shortcut to the My Computer icon. I don’t really like this, so while I’ve got the Properties dialog box open I click on Change Icon… and set it back to the folder icon. Then I click OK, and this shortcut’s ready for testing.
  7. When I’ve done this for every key folder, I have a new gaggle of shortcuts on my desktop. In some environments, like the one I’m working in, that’s not very satisfactory, as our desktops can be overwritten at any time. Besides, it’s not always convenient to go to the desktop when I have other windows open. So I put all these shortcuts into a new folder on the desktop, give it a suitable name (I call it Fldrs), then drag that folder onto the taskbar. Now at the right-hand end of the taskbar I see fldrs_plus_btn (1K). When I click on the fldrs_btn (1K), a pop-up menu appears with all my shortcuts on it. And that’s the end result I’d been wanting: a handy way to open any of my key folders, right from the taskbar!
  8. If I later want to add other shortcuts to these, I right-click on the label (Fldrs, or whatever you called it) and select Open Folder. Then I can drag any new shortcuts into the folder.

That’s the end of the main story, but I should mention some possible variants.


  1. If (for any one of the shortcuts I’m creating) I replace the string I quoted above with this one:
  2. %windir%\explorer.exe /e,/root,

    (again, the final comma is part of the string, not my punctuation) then that particular shortcut will open the dual-pane Explorer window to show the relevant target folder at the topmost level (the ‘root’)—that is, the navigator pane shows nothing but this folder and its subfolders. This can be useful if I want to clear away extra clutter, but I can’t then go up a level if I decide I’m looking for something else.

  3. Another possibility is to use the string

    %windir%\explorer.exr /e,/select,

    and then the Explorer navigator pane reverts to showing the whole hierarchy, but the target folder is selected in the right-hand pane. (I don’t see much use for this.)

  4. Finally, I’ve recently come across some other useful shortcuts constructed along similar lines, but with special target folders—ones that I need to use codes to find.

  5. A particularly useful one opens to a window that has My Computer selected in the navigator pane and just the unexpanded top-level drive folders (C:/, D:/, etc) in the right-hand pane. This is good for, say, going straight to a different part of the network or an external drive. I find it easiest to create this shortcut by right-clicking on the desktop, then selecting New > Shortcut. This starts a wizard. In the text box on the first page, I enter this spectacularly unmemorable text:
  6. %windir%\explorer.exe /e, ::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}

    Then I click Next, enter a name for the shortcut and click Finish. The shortcut now appears on my desktop. I can now make the same cosmetic changes as before—change the icon, etc—by right-clicking and selecting Properties. Afterwards I drag the shortcut to the folder where I put the others.

    This last one has some interesting variants too.

  7. Want to a shortcut to the printers window? The string is:
  8. %windir%\explorer.exe /e, ::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}\::{2227A280-3AEA-1069-A2DE-0800 2B30309D}
  9. The control panel?
  10. %windir%\explorer.exe /e, ::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}\::{21EC2020-3AEA-1069-A2DD-0800 2B30309D}
  11. The recycle bin (don’t ask me why I’d want to)?
  12. %windir%\explorer.exe /e, ::{645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}
  13. Network Neighbourhood?
  14. %windir%\explorer.exe /e, ::{208D2C60-3AEA-1069-A2D7-08002B30309D}

(I strongly advise you to cut and paste these, rather than copying them character by character!!)

Note. You may also like to check out this link, to a message posted to the austechwriter list by Stuart Burnfield, which suggests other ways of making Windows Explorer easy to use.

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