Windows Explorer (7) Guide

A guide for users of the Jaws screen reader, written by David Bailes. More guides are available on the Jaws Guides page of the VIP Software Guides website.

Contents

Introduction

This is a guide to Windows Explorer on Windows 7. Its uses include browsing or searching the contents of disks, folders and libraries, opening files, deleting files and folders, renaming them, copying and moving them around, and creating new folders. One way of opening Windows Explorer is to press Windows Key + E, and other ways are described later in the guide.

Split buttons

Split buttons are used in a number of places in Windows Explorer, one of which is the Address bar. For those not familiar with split buttons, this variety of button consists of two parts, and this is indicated visually by a vertical line when the button is the focus. On the left hand side of the button there's a name or a graphic, and if you press this part of the button by pressing Spacebar or Enter, then some command is executed, just like pressing a standard button. On the right hand side of the button there's a black triangle, and pressing this side of the button opens a menu. If the split button is in a group of controls which are arranged as a row, then you press the right hand side of the split button by pressing Down Arrow, and this is the case for all the split buttons in Windows Explorer. However, if a split button is part of a group of controls which is arranged as a column, then you press the right hand side of the button using Right Arrow. This is the case, for example, for the Shut down split button which is at the bottom of the right hand column of the Start menu.

Main Window

Assuming that the Details, Preview and Library panes are hidden, and that the Status bar is set to be shown as described in the Hiding panes and Show the status bar sections of the Customizing section, the main window contains the following components:

Moving around the window

Opening Windows Explorer

There are a number of ways of opening Windows Explorer. The initial focus is always the Items view, but the initial current location, whose contents are shown in the Items view, varies.

Hierarchy of locations

The folders and drives on your computer, together with any networked computers and their shared folders, drives and printers, form a tree like hierarchy. This is because nearly all of these different types of location, as well as containing files, can also contain other locations which can in turn contain other locations, etc. For example, disks can contain folders, folders can contain other folders, and some special folders contain disks or networked computers.

The top level location is the Desktop folder, and this contains the following folders: Libraries, your personal folder, Computer, Network, Control Panel, and Recycle bin.

Libraries – an introduction

A library is a new feature in Windows 7, and it's a combined view of one or more folders. By default there are four libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos.

The Documents library is a combined view of the My Documents folder, which is in your personal folder, and another folder, which is normally empty, and can be just ignored for the moment. With these default settings, then if you're viewing their content, opening or saving files, etc, then it doesn't matter whether you use the Documents library or the My Documents folder. There's a similar relationship between the Music, Pictures, and Video libraries, and the My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos folders respectively. The only difference for these is that only the libraries contain some sample files.

Microsoft encourage people to use the libraries by making them more prominent than the corresponding folders. For example, on the Start menu, there are items for opening the libraries, but not the folders.

Libraries are covered in more detail in the Libraries section later in the guide, and this includes descriptions of including additional folders in libraries, and creating new ones.

Changing the current location

Windows Explorer provides several ways of changing the current location, whose contents are shown in the Items view. The following list is a brief overview; more details are given in the relevant section of the guide:

Reading the current location

You should be always be able check the current location by pressing Insert + T to read the title bar. However, if you're using Jaws 11, this does not work in the Items view, where Jaws just says Items view. As a work around for this bug you can press Shift + Tab to move to the Tree view. If you've set the Expand to current folder option, which is described in the Initial focus section of the Tree view section, then the selected location should be the current location, and Jaws reads this. Alternatively, you can press Insert + T, which works when you've in the Tree view.

If you want to know the current location, and its position in the hierarchy of locations, this can be found in the address bar in its split button mode. Tab until you get to the desktop split button, which is always the first of the split buttons. Then use Right Arrow or Left Arrow to read the split buttons.

Hidden files and folders

By default, Windows hides critical files and folders, so that you don't accidentally delete them. An example of a hidden folder is the AppData folder, which is a subfolder of your personal folder, and contains various personal settings and data for Windows and for the programs which you use.

If you do want hidden files and folders to appear in the Items view and the Tree view, then there's an option for doing this on the View page of the Folder Options dialog, as described in the Show or hide hidden files and folders section. Note that even if the hidden files and folders are hidden in the Items view and Tree view, you can still navigate to a hidden folder using the address bar in its edit combo box mode.

Items view

The Items view is a list of the contents of the current location which is shown in the address bar, and the list can contain folders, libraries, disks and files. Jaws calls this list the “Items view multi-select list box”, but it's referred to just as the Items view in this guide, and as the Files list in Microsoft's help.

By default, the items are sorted by name, in ascending order. For locations in which there are both folders and files, the folders are listed first, sorted by name, followed by the files, again sorted by name.

Immediately after opening Windows Explorer, the focus is the first item in the Items view, and it's unselected. This is also the case after changing the current location using the Tree view or the Address bar, and if necessary moving to the Items view. If you need to select the first item, then you can press Spacebar or Ctrl + Spacebar. The number of items in the current location, and so also in the Items view is shown in the Status bar (Insert + Page Down) if no items are selected. If the current item is selected, you can unselect it by pressing Ctrl + Spacebar.

In the Items view, you can browse, navigate to different locations, and select items so that you can perform the tasks which are described in the Tasks section later in the guide. The later sub-sections of the Items view section which describe Sorting, Filtering, Grouping, and Arranging, can safely be skipped when first reading this guide.

The type of an item

The display of each item in the Items view includes an icon, which is a small graphic. Folders, libraries and disks each have their own distinctive icon, and each file has an icon which indicates the program which opens it. This allows sighted users to quickly see whether an item is a folder or a library or a word document or whatever.

For users of screen readers, almost the same information is available from the item name's extension or lack of it. The names of nearly all files include an extension, which is a period followed by a number of characters, and this indicates the type of the file. For example, a plain text file has the extension .txt, and a Microsoft Word file has the extension .doc. In contrast, the names of folders, libraries or drives don't have extensions. By default, the file extensions are hidden, but there's an option to turn them on which is described in the Show file extensions section of the Customizing section.

Views

Each location has a view setting, and this determines the layout of the items on the screen and the sort of information which is displayed for each item.

You can find out the view setting of the current location, and change it if necessary, on the View menu. This menu contains the possible view options, starting with Extra large icons, and ending with Contents. The current option is checked, and you can set another option by selecting it and pressing Enter.

With the List and Contents views, which are laid out as columns, and the Details view which is a table, the keystrokes to select the next and previous item are Down Arrow and Up Arrow respectively. However, in the case of the various Icon views and the Tiles view which are laid out as rows, the keystrokes to select the next and previous item are Right Arrow and Left Arrow respectively. Because of this variation of keystrokes for the next and previous items, it greatly simplifies keyboard navigation if the views of all the locations that you go to in Windows Explorer are set to either List, Details or Content.

Default view settings

Fortunately, the default view setting of many common locations is Details. This is the case for the Documents and Music libraries, and the Downloads folder. However, the following is a list of some common locations whose view you'll probably want to change. There are a number of ways of settings these locations to be the current location, but these are all examples of locations which you can move to by typing their name into the address bar in its edit combo box mode, as described in the Edit combo box address bar section. That is, press Alt + D to move to the Address bar, type in the name of the location, and then press Enter.

This may well be all you need to know about customizing views, but more information is available in the View options of the Items view section of the Customizing section.

Details view

The details view, which was introduced in the previous section, is the default view for many locations. This view displays the item's name together with additional information such as the item's size. The information is laid out as a table in which each row describes an item. The first column is the item's name, and the subsequent columns are the item's other properties such as Date Modified and Size. These properties are often referred to as details, hence the name of the view.

There are various ways of reading an item's details:

Changing the details

For each location there's a set of default details which are considered to be appropriate for that location. You can change both which details are displayed, and their order by using the Choose Details dialog box which is opened from the View menu. This dialog includes:

Column headings

The column headings of the table are displayed using a group of split buttons. Although they appear along the top of the table, the group of split buttons comes after the Items view as you Tab round the controls in the window. The first split button is nearly always the name split button, and once you've tabbed to this you can then use Right Arrow and Left Arrow to move between the split buttons.

The left hand side of each split button, which contains its name, can be used for sorting the item by that property, but it's normally easier to use the Sort By sub menu on the View menu, as described in the Sorting section. The right hand side of each split button, which contains a downwards pointing black triangle, can be used for filtering, and this is described in the Filtering section.

Selecting items

For the tasks described in the Tasks section, such as copying and deleting items, you often need to able to select one or more items in the Items view. The following sections describe how to do this.

If you need to check which items are selected, then if you press Shift + Insert + Down Arrow Jaws reads the selected items. Also, if one or more items are selected, then the number of items appears in the Status bar which can be read by pressing Insert + Page Down.

Selecting a single item

You can select a single item using the keystrokes: Up Arrow, Down Arrow, Home, End, and the first character or characters of an item.

Selecting all the items

Press Ctrl + A.

Selecting items which are next to each other:

  1. Select the first item.
  2. Start holding down the Shift key.
  3. Extend the selection using Up Arrow, or Down Arrow, or Home, or End.
  4. Let go of the shift key.

To select items which are not next to each other:

  1. Select the first item.
  2. Start holding down the Ctrl key.
  3. Move up or down the list using Up Arrow, or Down Arrow, or Home or End. To change an item from unselected to selected, of from selected to unselected, press Spacebar.
  4. Let go of the Ctrl key.

Inverting the selection

Choose Invert Selection from the Edit menu: all the items which were selected are deselected, and all the items which were not selected become selected.

Changing the current location

In the Items view, you can move either down or up the location hierarchy:

Sorting

By default, for all locations, the Items view is sorted by name in ascending order. For locations in which there are both folders and files, the folders are listed first, sorted by name, followed by the files, again sorted by name. You can change how the items are sorted for a location by using the Sort By sub-menu on the View menu, which contains two groups of options. The first is the property by which the items can be sorted, and the second consists of the options Ascending and Descending. One option in each group is checked. To change the sorting, choose an unchecked option in one of the groups. If you change the property, then the setting of the ascending/descending options if automatically changed to the most likely setting for that property.

For example, if you wanted find the largest files in your Downloads folder, then you could choose Size on the Sort by sub menu. When you do this the setting of the ascending/descending options is automatically changed to descending, so that the largest file is at the top of the list of files. To restore the sorting to its normal setting, choose Name on the Sort by sub menu, and the setting of the ascending/descending options is automatically changed to ascending.

Note that whatever the view of a location, the properties by which the items can be sorted are the same as the details present in the Details view.

Filtering

If the view of a location is set to the Details view, then you can filter the contents of the Items view using the split buttons which represent the column headings of the table.

  1. Tab to the first split button of the column headings, which is almost always a name split button.
  2. Using Right Arrow or Left Arrow, move to the property by which you want to filter.
  3. Press Down Arrow to press the right hand side of the split button and so open a menu.
  4. The menu contains a number of options, and any number of these can be checked. You can use the following keystrokes:
    • Spacebar checks or unchecks the selected option.
    • Enter sets the selected option to checked, and closes the menu. Note that if the option is already checked, it remains checked.
    • Esc closes the menu, and cancels any changes you've made.
    • Alt closes the menu.

After you've applied a filter, the current location is a temporary location which is below the original location in the hierarchy. For example, if the Documents library is filtered by the Type property of Microsoft Word documents, then the split buttons in the address bar are something like: Desktop, Libraries, Documents, Microsoft Word 97-2003. Because of this, you don't have to unset the filter to return to the original contents: you can just press either Alt + Up Arrow, or Alt + Left Arrow since it was the previous location. If you're filtered the contents using more than one property, then you just have to press these keys the appropriate number of times.

Grouping

By default, only a small number of locations have the items in the Items view grouped by some property. One common example is the Computer folder, where the items are grouped by type, and typically there are two groups: Hard disk drives, and Devices with removable storage.

If the Items view is grouped by some property, then it contains a number of groups headings. If a group heading is expanded, which it is by default, then the items in that group appear below the heading. If it's collapsed, then the items in the groups are not shown. For both expanded and collapsed group headings, if a heading is the focus, then all the items in the group are selected.

You can control the grouping of items for a location by using the Group By sub-menu on the View menu, which contains two groups of options. The first is the property by which the items can be grouped, and the second consists of the options Ascending and Descending. If one of the properties is checked, then this group also contains the option (none) so that grouping can be turned off. To group the items by a property, choose one of the properties from this menu. When you do this, the setting of the ascending/descending options is automatically changed to the most likely setting for that property, and the options on the Sort by sub menu are set to the same settings as the Group by sub menu, which is normally what you want. This does however mean that if you turn the grouping off, you'll also probably want to change the sorting as well.

When Jaws reads a group heading, it reads the name of the group, followed by whether it's expanded or collapsed, followed by the phrase group box. For sighted users, the number of items in a group is displayed after its name, but unfortunately Jaws doesn't read this.

To expand or collapse group headings:

Unfortunately there aren't any shortcuts to move to the next or previous group heading. However, you can collapse all the group headings as described above, read through the headings, and then expand the headings which you're interested in.

Arranging libraries

Only libraries can be “arranged”. The default arrangement for all libraries is by folder, which is the normal way that folders and files are displayed. However, libraries can be arranged by other properties which are appropriate to the kind of files for which the library is optimized. When a library is arranged by one of these other properties, then all the files in the library and all the files in the folders below it in the hierarchy are arranged by the property.

To change the arrangement of a library, open the Arrange By sub menu on the View menu, and choose one of the options. Note that you can also change the arrangement of any of the folders below the library in the hierarchy, if you really want to. As examples, the next two sections describe the possible arrangements of the Documents and Music libraries.

Arrangements of the Documents library

The Documents library can be arranged by:

Arrangements of the Music library

The Music library can be arranged by:

Address bar

The Address bar both shows the current location, and enables you to change it. It has two different modes: it's either a series of split buttons, or an edit combo box, and these will be described in detail in the following two sections below. When you move to the Address bar, its initial mode depends on the keystroke used to move to it:

Once you're in the address bar, then you can easily switch between the two modes:

Split button address bar

When the Address bar is in split button mode, it consists of one or more split buttons, and you can move between these using Left Arrow and Right Arrow. These split buttons show the current location, together with its place in the location hierarchy. For example, if the current location is your Documents library, then the split buttons are: Desktop, Libraries, and Documents. You can read this as Desktop contains Libraries, which contains Documents. The initial focus is the first split button, and because the Desktop folder is the top location in the hierarchy, this is always the Desktop split button.

Note that if the current location doesn't contain any locations, then the last button is an ordinary button rather than a split button. Also, if there isn't enough space in the address bar for all the split buttons, then one or more of the split buttons between the Desktop split button and the current location split button are omitted.

Changing the current location

To change the current location using the split buttons:

Edit combo box address bar

The edit combo box shows the current location, and its position in a location hierarchy using backslashes to separate its parts. You can move to a new location by typing the appropriate text, as described in the next section.

Note that the location hierarchy shown in edit combo box mode is different from the one shown in the split buttons mode, and which is described in the Hierarchy of locations section above. For standard file folders it reflects the arrangement of the folders on your disk drives. For example, for the Downloads folder which is in your personal folder, the address will be something like C:\Users\Username\Downloads.

Changing the current location

You can change the current location by typing in the appropriate text, as described below, and then pressing Enter. The focus then normally moves to the Items view.

You can move to a number of folders and libraries simply by typing in the name of the folder or library. These include:

To move to a particular drive you can type in its drive letter, followed by colon. For example, if you know that the drive letter of your USB memory stick is E, then you can just type in E:.

If the location you type in doesn't match an actual location, then either an Address bar message box opens which tells you to check the spelling, or it's assumed to be a web address, and your default web browser opens.

Additional notes

Tree view

The Tree view contains both a tree view of the hierarchy of locations and your favorite locations. Note that this Tree view is called the Navigation pane in Microsoft's documentation, and in various places in the user interface. However, since Jaws reads the control as “tree view tree view”, this guide refers to it simply as the Tree view.

By default, some locations are omitted from the hierarchy of locations shown in the Tree view, and the tree view contains the following items:

By default the top level Desktop folder, your personal folder, Control panel, and the Recycle bin are omitted from the tree view. If you want these folders to be shown, then the instructions for setting the Show all folders option are given in the Tree view options section of the Customizing section.

Changing the current location

To change the current location using this tree view, select a location, and then press Enter. Note that the focus remains in the Tree view, so you then have to press Tab if you want to move to the Items view.

Selecting a location

With the Favorites, Libraries and Computer items expanded, which they are by default, it's very easy to select common locations such as your Downloads folder, Documents library, or a USB memory stick using the first character or characters of the item. This is a brief summary of all the standard keystrokes for selecting a location:

A more detailed description of the tree view control is given in the separate Controls Guide. Note that one of the examples given in that guide is the folder hierarchy in Windows XP, and not Windows 7.

Initial focus

When you move to the Tree view, the initial focus is the location which is selected. When you're not in the Tree view and change the current location, then which location is selected in the Tree view is automatically updated to reflect this. However, exactly which location ends up being selected depends on the setting of the expand to current folder option. When the current location is changed, then:

Instructions for setting this option are given in the Tree view options section of the Customizing section.

Note that you can also manually select the current location in the Tree view by pressing Ctrl + Shift + E, which if necessary expands the tree view so that the current location is shown, and then selects this location.

Favorite locations

The Favorites item at the top of the Tree view contains shortcuts to favorite locations, and the default locations are Desktop, Downloads, and Recent Places. You can also add and remove these locations, as described in the following sections. Adding a favorite location can be particularly useful for quickly moving to locations which are deep down in the location hierarchy.

The following sections describe how to add to and manage the Favorite locations.

Adding a location

  1. Change the current location to be the location which you want to add to your favorite locations.
  2. Move to the Tree view, and press Home to select the Favorites item.
  3. Open its context menu, and choose Add current location to Favorites.

Removing a location

Select a shortcut to a location contained by the Favorites item, and press Delete.

Sorting the locations by name

To sort the locations by name, select the Favorites item, and choose Sort by name from its context menu.

Tasks

This section describes a number of common tasks which involve folders and files, and in the text that follows, an item can be either a folder or a file. Normally, you'll select items in the Items view, which was described in the Selecting items section above. However, if you only need to select a single folder, then you can also do this in the Tree view.

The tasks included in this section are opening files, creating new folders, deleting, renaming, copying, and moving items, and finding out the sizes of files, folders, libraries, and disks.

Opening files

To open a file, select it and then press Enter. The file will be opened by the default program for the type of that file, which is indicated by its extension.

You can open a number of files at the same time, as long as they share the same default program. One useful example is that you can select a number of music files, and then press Enter. All the files are then played by your default music player.

Deleting items

When you delete items, they're moved to the Recycle bin, which gives you a chance to retrieve them if in future you realise that you need them. Exceptions to this are that if you delete items from devices with removable storage like CDs or USB flash drives, or from the Recycle bin, they are permanently deleted.

To delete one or more items:

  1. Select one or more items.
  2. Press Delete.
  3. A Delete File, or Delete Folder, or Delete Multiple Items dialog opens, asking whether you're sure. Press Enter to press the Yes button.

Recycle bin

One way of moving to the Recycle bin is to press Alt + D to move to the Address bar, type recycle bin, and then press Enter. Alternatively, you can easily move there using either the Tree view or the Items view.

If the view has been set to the Details view, then by default the second column heading of the Items view of the Recycle bin is the original location of the deleted item. You can restore one or more items to their original locations by selecting them and then choosing Restore from their context menu. Alternatively, you can either copy and paste or cut and paste them to wherever you want.

Renaming an item

To rename an item:

  1. Select an item.
  2. Choose Rename from the item's context menu (F2).
  3. The item's name appears temporarily in an edit box. If the item is a folder or library, then the whole name is selected, so you can just type in a new name to replace the old name. If the item is a file, then all of the name except for the extension, for example .doc or .pdf, is selected. So if you type in a new name, you shouldn't include the extension, because the original extension is not overwritten.
  4. Press Enter. Alternatively press Esc to cancel the rename.

Creating a new folder

When you create a new folder, it's created in the current location.

  1. Open the File menu, then open the New sub-menu and choose New Folder (Ctrl + Shift + N).
  2. Type a name for the folder, and press Enter.

Copying items using Copy and Paste

  1. Select the items you want to copy.
  2. Choose Copy from the Edit or context menu (Ctrl + C).
  3. To specify the destination location before pasting the items, you can do one of the following:
    • Change the current location to the required destination location by any of the available methods. After doing this, the first item in the Items view is the focus, and it's unselected. As long as no items in the Items view are selected, then the destination location is the current location.
    • Select a location in the Items view, optionally having changed the current location. With a location selected in the Items view, the destination location is this selected location, rather than the current location.
    • In the Tree view, select a location. Note that this doesn't involve changing the current location.
  4. Choose Paste from the Edit or context menu (Ctrl + V) to paste the items.

Examples

For example, if there are two folders in your Documents library, and you wanted to copy a file from one folder to the other folder, you could:

  1. Select the file in the first folder.
  2. Press Ctrl + C.
  3. To change the current location to the second folder: press Alt + Up Arrow to move up to the Documents library, select the second folder, and press Enter to move down to this folder.
  4. Press Ctrl + V.

As a second example, which illustrates the various ways of specifying the destination folder, say that you wanted to copy a file from your Documents library to a folder on a USB memory stick. After selecting the file and pressing Ctrl + C you could do any of the following:

Moving items using Cut and Paste

This involves exactly the same steps as Copy and Paste, which was described in the last section, but in the second step choose Cut from the Edit or context menu (Ctrl + X), rather than Copy.

For example, if you wanted to move a file in your Documents library to a Folder in this library:

  1. If necessary, go to your Documents library.
  2. In the Items view, select the file.
  3. Press Ctrl + X to Cut.
  4. Select the Folder.
  5. Press Ctrl + V to paste.

Copy items using Send To

The Sent To sub menu provides a convenient way of copying one or more items to a number of locations and programs.

  1. Select the items you want to copy.
  2. Open the context menu, then open the Send To sub-menu, and choose a destination.

By default, the Send To sub menu contains the following destinations:

Note that if you open the context menu with Shift + Application Key or Shift + F10, the Send To sub menu also contains the folders contained in your personal folder, for example My Music, and My Videos.

Customizing the Send to sub menu

You can add locations to the Send to sub menu, by creating shortcuts to them in a SendTo folder, which is buried deep in the folder hierarchy beneath your personal folder. This is one way of creating a shortcut to a location in your SendTo folder:

  1. Select the location in either the Items view or the Tree view, and press Ctrl + C to copy.
  2. To change the current location to the SendTo folder, press Alt + D to move to the address bar in edit combo box mode, type sendto (one word), and press Enter.
  3. Choose Paste Shortcut on the Edit menu, to create a shortcut to the desired location. Note then the name of the shortcut is the name of the location followed by dash shortcut, so you'll want to rename the shortcut (F2) to remove the dash shortcut.

Size of files

The size of a single file may be available as one the properties shown in a details few. In addition, the size of one or more selected files is shown in their properties dialog.

A number of locations have by default both a Details view, and the item's size as the fourth column. Examples of these locations are the Documents library, the Downloads folder, and disks. Although, by default, the Music library has a Details view, size is not one of the properties shown. If you need to check the size of music files frequently, you can add size to the properties shown, and then change the order of the properties so that the size is the fourth column, just like these other locations. See the Changing the details section of the Details view section for instructions.

You can also find the size of a selected file or the total size of a number of selected files in their Properties dialog:

  1. To open the Properties dialog of the selected file or files, choose Properties from their context menu (Application key, then R, or Alt + Enter).
  2. Move to the Details page, and you can quickly find size in the list view by pressing S.
  3. Alternatively, the size is also available on the General page of this dialog, and can be read using the methods given in the next section.

Size of folders

The size of a selected folder, or the total size of a number selected folders is shown in their properties dialog:

  1. To open the properties dialog of the selected folder or folders, choose Properties from its context menu (Application key, then R, or in the Items view only Alt + Enter).
  2. The dialog opens on the General page, and the initial focus is near the bottom of the page. However you can't read the size by using standard keyboard navigation. You have to either read the whole page (Insert + B), or use the Jaws cursor. For the latter option, press Insert + Numpad Minus to route the Jaws cursor to the PC cursor, and then read up the page by using Up Arrow. Note that it can take a little time for the size to reach its final total, as Windows may have to go through all the files in the folders below that folder. When you've finished reading, press Numpad Plus to go back to using the PC cursor.

Size of libraries

As in the case of folders described above, the size of a library is available in its properties dialog, and again you can't read it by using standard keyboard navigation. In this case the initial focus in the dialog box is near the top of the page, so after routing the Jaws cursor to the PC cursor, read down the page using Down Arrow.

Size of disks

The easiest way to find a disk's size and amount of free space is to set the Computer folder as the current location. If the view has be set to Details, as has already been suggested, then the third and fourth columns are the disk's total size and free space respectively.

Alternatively, the size, free space and used space are available in a disk's properties dialog. As in the case of folders and libraries described above, you can't read this information by standard keyboard navigation, but have to either read the whole page or use the Jaws cursor.

Searching

To search the current location using the search box:

  1. Press Ctrl + E to move to the Search edit box.
  2. Type in one or more search terms. If you use more than one search term, then a file must match all the search terms.
  3. As you type in the search terms, the results automatically appear in the Items view – there's no need to press Enter to make this happen. To move to the Items view, press Tab three times.

By default, when the Items view contains search results, its view is set to the Contents view. Each result consists of the item's name, together with some other information, including the folder path. This specifies the folder which contains the item, using the same disk and folder hierarchy which is used in the Address bar in edit combo box mode. When using Down Arrow or Up Arrow to select the next or previous item, then Jaws reads only the item's name. However, if you press Insert + Up Arrow to read the current item, then Jaws reads all the information. You may prefer to change the view to the Details view which makes it easier to access each item's properties, such as its folder path.

Note that as soon as you move to the Search edit box, a drop down list appears temporarily below the edit box. This list contains previous search terms and a toolbar for applying advanced search options. However, Jaws doesn't read these previous search terms, and it's normally easier to type in the advanced search options, as described later in this section, rather that use the toolbar. An alternative way of moving to the Items view after you've typed in your search terms is to press Enter to close the drop down list, and then press Down Arrow.

The next three sections describe the locations searched, which information is searched, and details of the word matching. The sections after these describe more advanced techniques which allow you to refine your searches.

Locations searched

The current location is searched, and by default all the the locations below this in the location hierarchy are also searched. So for example, if you search your Documents library, then all its folders are searched, and any sub-folders of these folders etc. If you don't want subfolders to be searched, then you can turn this option off, as described in the Search options section of the Customizing section.

Which information is matched

When you search, the information which is matched against your search terms can be either only filenames or it can also include file contents. Which is the case can depend both on whether the location is indexed, and on certain search options. By default:

The remainder of this section describes how file contents are used for searching, indexing, and the relevant search options.

Files contain both data, and some of the properties of the data. Sometimes these properties are referred to as metadata, which simply means data about data. For example, a text document contains the actual text, and properties such as the authors and title. A music file contains audio data, and also properties such as artists, album, etc. When Windows searches file contents, this always includes the properties of the data, and also includes the actual data, if it's text.

Windows maintains an Index which contains information about the files and their contents in certain locations, and this information is stored in a way that enables searches to be very fast. So when you search for files in one of these indexed locations, the index is searched rather than the location itself, and so even a search which includes file contents will be fast. By default, these are the locations which are indexed:

For most people these defaults are fine, but if you really want to, you can customize the indexed locations in the Indexing Options section of the Control Panel.

As noted above, by default, file contents are only included in the search if the location is indexed. This is so that the search is always fast. However, if you don't like this, you can change it so that file contents are always used, irrespective of whether the location is indexed. See the Search options section for details.

Word matching

You can use either complete words or the beginnings of words as search terms. So, for example, the search term cat would match both cat and catch.

Note that for the purposes of searching, the following characters separate words: space, period, -, @, _, and \. So the search term mp3 would match files with the filenames: mp3 patents.doc, patents-for-mp3.doc, and cooleddie.mp3

You can use wildcard characters in the search, which match against any character or characters:

File properties

As described above, each search term is normally matched against either filenames alone, or filenames and file contents, depending on whether the location is indexed, and the search options. However you can also search for files which have a specific property which matches a search term using the format property:search term. Note that there must not be any spaces either side of the colon. You can do this in any location, regardless of whether it's indexed, and of the search options. If the location isn't indexed, then the search just takes longer.

For example, modified:7/6/08, would match files modified on 7/6/08, and author:david would match files whose author matched david. You can use any of the properties which are listed in the Choose Details dialog box, which is opened from the View menu. They don't have to be checked in the dialog, and you don't have to be using the Details view.

There are abbreviations for a number of commonly used properties, including:

If the property consists of more than one word, then all the examples given by Microsoft show that you should omit the spaces between the words when searching using this property. So for example, if you're looking for contacts whose first name is susan, then you'd type firstname:susan. However, in practice it seems to work both without and with the spaces.

If you're using more than one search term for the value of a property, then the following examples show the need to use either parenthesis or quotes. Assuming that you're searching a location where normally both filenames and file contents are searched then:

Ranges of dates and sizes

To specify ranges of dates or sizes, you can use the following operators: <, >, <=, >=, and .. . For example:

Special values for dates

You can use the following values for specifying dates:

Kinds of files

Anther way of refining a search is to specify the kind of file you're looking for. As in the case of using properties, you can do this in any location, regardless of whether it's indexed, and of your search options.

Note that if the kind of file ends in the letter s, than this can be omitted: kind:docs and kind:doc both match files which contain text.

So, for example:

OR and NOT

Libraries

A library is a combined view of one or more folders which are included in the library. For example, if you have music files on both your computer's hard disk and an external hard disk, you can create a combined view of all your music files.

These are some important properties of libraries:

By default there are four libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. Each of these contain a folder which is in your personal folder, and a folder which is in the Public folder. This latter folder is accessible to anyone who can log-in to the computer. In all cases it's the folder in your personal folder which is the default save location. For example, the Documents library includes the folders My Documents and Public Documents. In the case of the Music, Pictures, and Video libraries, the public folder contains a Sample folder containing a small number of sample files.

Before describing various tasks such as including a folder in a library and creating a new library, the next section described a library's properties dialog, which is used in most of these tasks.

Library properties dialog

You can open the dialog by selecting a library in either the Tree view or the Items view, and selecting Properties from its context menu. The dialog contains the following:

Including a folder in a library

In the library's property dialog:

  1. Press the Include a folder button.
  2. An Include a folder dialog opens which has the structure of a standard Open dialog. Select a folder in the Items view, Tab to the Include folder button, and press it.

Note that after including a folder in a new empty library or one of the default libraries, the library is automatically set to be grouped by the included folders in the library. To switch this grouping off, choose None from the Group By sub menu which is on the View menu. Once the grouping has been turned off for a particular library, it doesn't automatically turn on again.

An alternative way of including a folder is in the Windows Explorer window:

  1. Select the folder in either the Tree view or the Items view.
  2. Open its context menu, open the Include in library sub menu, and choose a library.

Changing the default save location

In the library's properties dialog:

  1. Select the folder in the list view.
  2. Either choose Set as default save location on its context menu, or Tab to the Set save location button, and press it. Note that if the selected location is already the default save location, then both the command on the menu and the button are not shown.

Removing a folder from a library

In the library's properties dialog:

  1. Select the folder in the list view.
  2. Either choose Remove from its context menu, or Tab to the Remove button, and press it.
  3. If the removed folder was the default save location, then the first remaining folder in the list view becomes the new default save location.

Creating a new library

  1. Select the Libraries folder in the Tree view
  2. Open its context menu, open the New sub menu and choose Library (the only option).
  3. Type in the name for the new library and press Enter.
  4. You can now include folders in the library.

Finding out where an item is stored

Because a library is a combined view of one or more folders, when you're in a library, you may not know where a particular file or folder is actually stored. To find out where it's stored:

  1. Open its context menu, and choose Open file location or Open folder location.
  2. The current location is changed to the folder where the item is stored, and you can then Tab to the address bar and read the split buttons.

Zip files – compressed folders

A zip file contains files which have been compressed to reduce their size, and it has the extension .zip. It can also contain the folder hierarchy associated with the files. For example, you could create a zip file which contained a folder, and all the folders and files beneath this folder in the folder hierarchy. The main uses of zip files are for sending files by email, downloading files from the web, and archiving.

Although a zip file really is a file, Windows also treats it as a folder, and refers to it as a Compressed (zipped) folder. This allows you to view and manage the contents of a zip file as if it were a folder:

The following sections describe the wizard for extracting all the items from a zip file, and two ways of creating one.

Extracting all the items

To extract all the items from a zip file, you can just select all the items, and then use copy and paste. Alternatively, you can use the Extract Compressed folders wizard:

  1. Either select the zip file and choose Extract all from its context menu, or set the zip file as your current location, and choose Extract All on the File menu.
  2. The wizard for extracting all the files opens, and it consists of a single page which contains an Edit box which contains the default folder where the files are extracted, a Browse button, and a “Show extracted files when complete”check box. The default folder is in the same location as the zip file, and has the same name, except that the .zip extension has been removed. If you're happy with the default folder, then just Tab to the Extract button, and press it.
  3. If you don't want to extract to the folder suggested, Tab to the Browse button, and press it. A Select destination dialog opens, which contains a tree view for selecting a location, and also a Make New folder button for creating a new folder. When you're finished, press the OK button, which returns you to the wizard. Tab to the Extract button, and press it.

Creating a new zip file containing existing files and/or folders

  1. Select the files and/or folders. The zip file will be created in the same location as these selected items.
  2. Open their context menu, open the Send To sub-menu, and choose Compressed (Zipped) Folder.
  3. You're taken to an edit box, which contains the default name of the folder, which is the name of one of the files or folders, with a .zip extension. The text up to the .zip is selected, so if you type in a name without and extension, and then press Enter, the file will have a .zip extension

Creating a new empty zip file

  1. Move to the location which you want to contain the new zip file.
  2. Open the File menu, then open the New sub-menu, and choose Compressed (Zipped) Folder.
  3. You're taken to an edit box where you can type in a name for the file. The default name is “Compressed (Zipped) Folder.zip”, and the text up to the .zip is selected. So if you type in a name with no extension, and press Enter, the file will have a .zip extension.

Customizing Windows Explorer

Folder options dialog

Many of the options for customizing Windows Explorer are set in the Folder Options dialog, which has three pages: General, View, and Search. You can open the Folder Options dialog by choosing Folder Options on the Tools menu of Windows Explorer, or typing Folder Options in the Start menu and pressing Enter.

Hiding panes

To simplify the navigation around the Windows Explorer window, you may want to hide the following three panes. In all cases the information and or functionality they provide is also available elsewhere.

To set the visibility of these panes:

  1. Tab to the Organise menu button, and press it. (The organise menu button is the first control on the toolbar, and is the next control after the Search box.)
  2. Open the layout sub menu. This contains options for the visibility of various panes, and a pane is visible if it's checked. To hide a pane which is visible, select it and then press Enter.

Show the status bar

By default, the status bar is not shown. To show it, open the View menu, and if the Status bar option is not checked, select it and press Enter.

Show file extensions

To show the extensions of files in the Items view, so that you can easily tell what type of file it is, or whether it's a folder or a library:

  1. Go to the View page of the Folder Options dialog.
  2. In the tree view, find the item “Hide extensions for known file types”. If this option is on, then press Spacebar to switch it off.

Show or hide hidden files and folders

To change whether hidden files and folders are shown or hidden:

  1. Go to the View page of the Folder Options dialog.
  2. In the tree view, find the item “Hidden files and folders”. This contains two options: Do not show hidden files and folders; and Show hidden files and folders. One of these is on, and the other off, and by default the first option is on. To set the option which is off, select it, and press Spacebar.

Tree view options

To set either the Show all folders option or the Expand to current folder option which are described in the Tree view section:

  1. Go the General page of the Folder Options dialog.
  2. In the Navigation pane section of this page there is a group of two check boxes: Show all folders, and Expand to current folder. You can Tab to the first of these check boxes, and then use Arrow keys to move between them. Both are unchecked by default.

Search options

The Search page of the Folder options dialog contains a number of controls for setting search options, and two of these will be described.

What to search

There's a What to search group of two radio buttons:

By default, the first option is selected, and this searches as much information as possible, whilst still ensuring that the search is very fast.

How to search

The How to search section of the page includes the “Include subfolders when typing in the search box”, which is checked by default.

View options of the Items view

In this section, the term view options will be used for the following group of options of a location in the Items view: its view, the details present in the details view, sorting, and grouping. How to set these options is described above in the Views, Details view, Sorting, and Grouping section of the Items view section. In addition, some of the common customizations are described in the Views section, and this may well be all the information you need. This section provides further details about setting view options which will enable you to fully customize your view settings.

Issues such as the default view options, whether changing the view options of a location automatically changes the view options of other locations, and whether you can manually apply the view options of a location to other locations, all depend on the type of the location. These types are:

For Libraries, and File folders, the default view options are determined by what kind of files they're optimized for, and this will be described in the next section, which is then followed by sections for the different types of location.

Optimization for kinds of files

All libraries and file folders have a setting for optimizing them for the kind of files which are expected to be in that location, and the options are General Items, Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos. This setting determines the library's or folder's default view, and the default details present in the Details view.

View options of Libraries

There are a few of important points to understand about the behaviour of the view options of libraries.

  1. A library is a combined view of one or more folders which are included in the library. The view options of the library are completely independent of the view options of the included folders, and all the folders which these folders contain. For example, if you change any of the view options of your My Documents folder, this has no effect on the view options of your Documents library.
  2. A library, and all the locations below it in the location hierarchy share the same view settings. So for example, if you first go to your Documents library, and then open a folder in the Items view to go down to that folder, both these locations have the same view options. If you change the view options whilst in either location, the options in the other location will then be the same.
  3. Libraries which are optimized for the same kind of file share the same view settings.

As you might have guessed, by default the Document library is optimized for documents, the Music library for music, the Pictures library for pictures, and the Video library for videos. The default view options for the various kinds of files were given in the previous section.

For a library, the setting of its optimization for kinds of files is found in the library's properties dialog. This dialog can be opened by selecting a library in either the Tree view of the Items view, and selecting Properties from its context menu. In the dialog, there's a “Optimize the library for:” combo box.

View options of File Folders

For a file folder, the setting of its optimization for the kind of files it contains is found on the Customize page of the folder's properties dialog. There are a couple of ways of getting to this page:

The first control on the Customize page is an “Optimize the folder for: ” combo box. Note that if you change the setting, the following control is a check box for applying the setting to all the subfolders.

By default, these are the optimizations for some common folders: Downloads is optimized for General items, My Documents for documents, My Music for music, My Pictures for pictures, and My Videos for videos.

When you change the view options of a folder, this does not affect the view settings of any other folder. However, you can manually apply all the views options of a folder, ie view, details, sorting and grouping, to all the other folders which are optimized for the same kinds of files:

  1. Open the Folder Options dialog from the Tools menu.
  2. Move to the View page.
  3. Press the Apply to Folders button. A Folder views dialog opens asking you whether you want all folders of this type to match this folder's view settings. Press Enter to press the Yes button.
  4. Tab to the OK button and press it.

Note that this also determines the view options of new folders of that type.

View options of System Folders

The Desktop folder at the top of the location hierarchy, and the folders which it contains, for example Libraries and Computer, are all special system folders. Although not set to have a Details view by default, in many cases the details present in the details view are particular to that folder. For example, the details for the Computer folder include total size and free space. Because of this, these folders don't have a setting for optimizing them for the standard kinds of files.

By default, your personal folder has a Medium icons view, and the following have a Tiles view: Desktop, Libraries, Computer, Network, and Recycle Bin. It's recommended that for these locations the view is changed to Details, or possibly List in the case of the Libraries folder.

View options of Disks and devices

In general, the view options of disks and devices behave in the same way as file folders, and by default they are optimized for General Items. One exception to this is the disk which contains Windows 7, and this doesn't have a optimization for kinds of files setting.

Keystrokes

Command Keystrokes
Cycle around: Address bar in split button mode, Search box, Toolbar, Tree view, Items view, and if this has a Details view, a Name split button, which is the first of the column headings. Tab, or Shift + Tab
Move to Search box Ctrl + E
In the Items view, move up a location Alt + Up Arrow
Back to previous location Alt + Left Arrow
Forward Alt + Right Arrow
Create a new folder Ctrl + Shift + N
Move to Address bar in edit combo box mode Alt + D
In the address bar, switch to split buttons mode Esc
In the address bar, switch to edit combo box mode Alt + D, or with focus on desktop split button, Spacebar
If necessary, expand the tree view so that the current location is shown, and then select this folder. Ctrl + Shift + E