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.
This is a guide to Windows Explorer on Windows Vista. Its uses include browsing or searching the contents of disks and folders, 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.
Assuming the Preview and Details panes are hidden, as described in the Hide preview and details panes section, which is in the Customizing section, the main window contains the following components:
Most of the window is divided into two columns. The left hand column contains the Favorite links, followed by either a Collapse folders button, and then the Tree view, or just an Expand folders button. The right hand column contains the Folder view.
There are a number of ways of opening Windows Explorer: the initial focus is always the Folder view, but the initial location, whose contents are shown in the Folder view, varies.
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, drives can contain folders, and folders can contain folders, drives, and networked computers.
The top level location is the Desktop folder, and this contains the following folders: your personal folder, Public, Computer, Network, Control Panel, and Recycle bin.
Windows Explorer provides several ways of moving around this hierarchy of locations. You don't have to learn all of them to be able to use Windows Explorer. For many tasks, being able to navigate to locations using the Folder view is all you'll need.
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 Folder 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 Folder view and Tree view, you can still navigate to a hidden folder using the address bar in its edit combo box mode.
The Folder view list view contains the files, folders, disks, etc which are in the location shown in the address bar. When you move to the Folder view, the focus is the first item, and it's unselected. If you need to select it, then press Spacebar.
In the Folder 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. Before describing how to do these things, the next few sections describe the Folder view in more detail, and point out some customizations which are helpful for users of screen readers.
The names of nearly all files include an extension, which is the last characters in a name after the period. The extension 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 or drives don't have extensions.
The Folder view contains both files and locations, and it's important to be able to tell which is which. A sighted user can tell whether an item is a folder or a disk, rather than a file, either by the small icon which appears before the name of the item and which indicates the type of the item, or by whether the name has an extension. Because of this, 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.
For each location, the Folder view can have a number of different views: Extra Large Icons, Large Icons, Medium Icons, Small Icons, List, Details, and Tiles. Keyboard navigation is much easier for the List and Details views than for the other views. For the List and Details views, you can navigate to all the items using the Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys, whereas in the other views you often have to use the Left Arrow and Right Arrow keys as well.
The list view displays only the item's name, but the Details view also displays additional information. The information is laid out as a table: each row describes an item, and the first column is the item's name.
By default, the views of many locations are not either List or Details, and changing this is described in the Views of the Folder view section of the customization section. Note that it requires an understanding of Folder types, which are described after the next section.
Along the top of the list view there's a header bar which contains one or more column headings. If the Folder view is the focus, then you can move to the header bar by pressing TAB, and you can move through the column headings (which Jaws calls titles) by pressing Left Arrow or Right Arrow. These column headings both indicate what information is available for the items in the Folder view, and can be used for sorting and filtering the items.
The column headings determine the information which is displayed in the Details view. In addition, in any view you can get Jaws to read the the value of a column for the selected item by using the keystrokes Ctrl + Insert + 1, Ctrl + Insert + 2, etc.
Although the column headings can be used for sorting and filtering the items in the Folder view, for user of screen readers, it's easier to sort by using the Sort By sub-menu on the View menu, as described in the Sorting section, and you can achieve similar results for filtering using the Search box.
You can change which column headings are present for a location, and this is described in the Column headings of the folder view section in the Customizing section.
Nearly all folders have a folder type. The exceptions to this are some of the folders at the top of the location hierarchy.
These are the possible folder types:
After installing Vista, all the folders with the same folder type have the same view and column headings, and these are appropriate to their contents. For example, by default, folders with folder type document have a Details view, and their column headings are name, date modified, type, and size. Folders with folder type Music details, which usually contain music files, have a Details view, and the column headings are name, artist, album, track number, genre, and rating.
When you customize the view and/or column headings of a location, you can then apply these settings to all the folders with the the same folder type. See the Views of the folder view and the Column headings of the folder view sections of the Customizing section for details.
Windows automatically sets the folder type of a folder based on the types of the files in that folder. However, you can manually change the folder type as follows:
For all the tasks described in the Tasks section, such as copying and deleting items, you need to able to select one or more items in the Folder view. The following sections describe how to do this.
You can select a single item using the keystrokes: Up Arrow, Down Arrow, Home, End, and the first character or characters of an item.
Press Ctrl + A.
Choose Invert Selection from the Edit menu.
In the Folder view, you can move either down or up the location hierarchy:
By default the items in the Folder view are sorted by Name, in ascending order. You can change how the items are sorted by using the Sort By sub-menu on the View menu, which contains two groups of options. The first is the columns headings by which the items can be sorted by, and the second group 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.
The Address bar both shows the current location, and enables you to change it. You can always read the current location by pressing Insert + T.
The address bar has two different modes: a series of split buttons, and an edit combo box, and these will be described in detail in the following two sections below. The ways you change the current location in the two modes are quite different, and they each have their advantages and disadvantages. 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:
The address bar contains one or more split buttons. These split buttons show the current location, together with its place in the location hierarchy. For example, if the current location is your Documents folder, then the split buttons are: Desktop, “Username”, and Documents. You can read this as Desktop contains “Username”, which contains Documents.
The initial focus is the first split button, which is always the Desktop split button, and you can move between the split buttons using Left Arrow and Right Arrow.
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.
To change the current location using the split buttons:
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 below, and then pressing Enter. The focus then normally moves to the Folder view.
In fact the location hierarchy it shows is often different from the usual one, and is a hierarchy which reflects the physical hierarchy of the folders on the disk drives. For example, if your current location is your Documents folder, then the text in the edit combo box will be something like C:\Users\“Username”\Documents. However, if you're typing in new locations, you can also use the normal hierarchy, and all the examples given below will do this.
To type in a new location, you can use its complete place in the location hierarchy. For example, a user with username Susan can type in desktop\susan\documents to go to her documents folder. However, life is much easier than this, as you can take advantage of the following abbreviations:
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.
The Favorite links list provides a fast way of moving to your favourite locations, and is particularly useful for locations which are deep down in the location hierarchy. There's a default set of links, and you can also add and remove links from the list.
The Favorite links list appears at the top of the left hand column of Windows Explorer, and when tabbing it's after the organize button, and before the Collapse/Expand folders button. When you move to the list, the first item is the focus, and Jaws reads the name of this item. Unfortunately, Jaws doesn't also say that it's the Favourite links list.
There are a couple of ways to select and open a link in the list:
If there's not enough screen space for all the links, then the last item is a More button, which Jaws reads as Show hidden items. Pressing Enter opens a context menu containing the hidden items. Note that if the Tree view beneath the Favorite links is shown, then hiding the Tree view using the Collapse folders button may free up enough space so that all the Favorite links can be shown, so removing the need for a Show hidden items link.
The following sections describe how to add to and manage the Favorite links.
The Favorite links are stored as shortcuts in the Links folder, which is a subfolder of your personal folder. Here are a couple of ways of adding a shortcut to a location to this folder.
Note that a useful side effect of adding a link to this list, is that it will also appear in the favorite links sections of the standard Open and Save dialogs which are used by most applications. These dialogs are described in the separate Open and Save dialogs (Vista) guide.
To remove an link from the list:
To sort the list by name, select any link and choose Sort by Name from its context menu.
The Tree view displays the hierarchy of locations which was described above. Note that in Microsoft's documentation, this tree view is called the Folders list, but since Jaws reads the control as “tree view tree view”, this guide refers to it simply as the Tree view.
As noted in the Main Window section, the Tree view can either be shown or hidden, and this is controlled by the Expand/Collapse Folders button, which is the previous control. If the Tree view is hidden, then just press the Expand Folders button.
To change the current location using this tree view, select a location, and then press Enter. Note that in previous versions of Windows, pressing Enter was not needed.
You can use all the standard keystrokes for selecting a location:
A more detailed description of tree view controls 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 Vista.
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 Folder 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.
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.
When you delete items, they're moved to the Recycle bin, which gives you a chance to retrieve them them if in future you realise that you need them. Exceptions to this are that if you delete items from removable storage like CDs or USB flash drives, or from the Recycle bin, they are permanently deleted.
To delete one or more items:
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 Folder view.
By default the second column heading of the Folder 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.
To rename an item:
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).
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:
When you create a new folder, it's created in the current location.
If one or more files are selected in the Folder view, then sometimes their total size is shown in the status bar (Insert + Page Down), and sometimes it's the correct value.
For folders with folder type Documents or All items then by default the fourth column heading is the size of the file, so you can read this by pressing Ctrl + Insert + 4.
You can also find the size of a file in its properties dialog:
There are two main ways of searching for files and folders:
As you'll see in the remainder of this section, the Search box is a very powerful tool, and for most searches, that's all you'll need to use. However, for a couple of particular cases, searching CDs and DVDs and searching for hidden system files and folders, it's easier to use the Search folder, as described in the Search folder section below.
To search the current location using the search box:
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.
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 personal folder, then all its sub-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.
For reasons best known to Microsoft, if you search CDs or DVDs, then subfolders are only searched if the Search pane is shown, as it is in the Search folder. See the Searching CDs and DVDs section of the Search folder section.
When you search, the information searched 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, the Start menu and your personal folder are indexed, and this includes all the folders contained in your personal folder like Documents and Music. For most people, these defaults are fine, but you can change the indexed locations as described in the Indexing options section.
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 either filenames or filenames and contents are always used, irrespective of whether the location is indexed. See the Search options section for details.
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:
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:
To specify ranges of dates or sizes, you can use the following operators: <, >, <=, >=, and .. . For example:
You can use the following values for specifying dates:
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:
As stated in the last section, for searching it's normally easiest to use the Search box in Windows Explorer. However, in a couple of specific cases, the search pane is needed, and it's easier to access this in the Search folder than in Windows Explorer.
The Search folder is a version of Windows Explorer which is designed specifically for searching. Window's help sometimes refers to a Windows Explorer window as a folder window, so that's probably where the name of Search folder comes from.
The main differences between the Search folder and Windows Explorer are:
There are a number of ways of opening the Search folder, including:
Before going on to describe two types of search which are best done using the Search folder, the next section describes the Search pane.
A number of the controls in the Search pane are not properly readable by Jaws, but fortunately their functionality is also available using the Search box.
The Search pane contain the following controls:
If you search CDs or DVDs using the Search box in Windows Explorer, then the subfolders of the location are not searched. However, if the Search pane is shown, as it is by default in the Search folder, then the subfolders are searched.
So, to search a CD or DVD and include subfolders in the search:
You can search for hidden files and folders using the Search box in Windows Explorer, as long as you set the option to show hidden files and folders, as described in the Show or hide hidden files and folders section. However to search for system files and folders which may also be hidden, you have to use one of the controls in the search pane of the Search folder:
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 your Documents folder, and all the folders and files beneath the document 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.
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:
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.
The Preview pane displays the contents of some types of text documents if one of them is selected in the Folder view. The Details pane shows some of the properties of the file selected in the Folder view, but the details which are read-only are not read by Jaws. However you can read them in the item's properties dialog.
So because the presence of these panes complicates the navigation around the main window using Tab, and the information is available elsewhere, it's recommended that you hide these panes. This can be done using the Task radio buttons on the General page of the Folder Options dialog. The two options are:
The first option is set by default, and the second hides the Preview and Details panes. Note that if for some reason you do want to use the first option, then the visibility of the Preview and Details panes can be modified by using the Layout sub-menu which is opened by the Organize button on the toolbar. This also changes the visibility for all the folders which share the same folder type as the current location.
To show the extensions of files in the Folder view, so that you can easily tell what type of file it is, or whether it's a folder:
To change whether hidden files and folders are shown or hidden:
By default, the views of many locations in the Folder view are not either List or Details, which are the best views for the users of screen readers.
To change the view of the Folder view for a particular location, choose either List or Details from the options on the View menu. If a location is a folder which has a folder type, you can then easily apply this setting to all the folders of the same folder type. Because of this, customizing the views of all the locations consists of two parts: customizing the folders which have a folder type, and then customizing the folders that don't have a folder type along with other locations such as disks. A explanation of Folder types, was given in the Folder types section of the Folder view section.
The default views of the different folder types are as follows:
One way of customising the folders of the various folder types is to go to various example folders which have these folder types and then in each case, change the view, and then apply this setting to all the other folders of that type as follows:
The following are example folders of each of the folder types. In each case the default view is also given, and for all except the Music Details folder type, the example folder is a subfolder of your personal folder.
An alternative method of customizing the folders of the various folder types is to move to a folder, and then for each folder type: change the folder type of the folder to that type; change the view; and then apply it to all the folders of that type. Finally, return the folder to its original folder type. The Contacts folder is the best folder to use for this method, as only a folder containing contacts can be set to have the Contacts folder type.
The following locations near the top of the location hierarchy don't have a folder type, and so you can only change their views individually. By default all their views are Tiles, except for the Public folder which has a Details view.
To change the column headings for a particular location:
As in the case of a location's view in the Folder view, if the location is a folder which has a folder type, then after changing the column headings for that location, you can then apply them to all the other folders of the same folder type. Note that this will also apply the current location's view as well:
The Search page of the Folder options dialog contains a number of controls for setting search options, and two of these will be described.
There's a What to search group of three 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.
The How to search section of the page includes the “Include subfolders when typing in the search box”, which is checked by default.
You can open the Indexing Options dialog, either by typing indexing options on the Start menu, or from the Control panel.
The Indexing Options dialog includes the following components:
Note that Jaws cannot properly read this dialog, unless you've logged in under an Administrator account.
This dialog contains a tree view and a list view which are initially empty. To show their contents, you have to press the Show all locations button. A User Account Control dialog opens, where you can Tab to the Continue button and press it.
The two controls which help you to change the indexed locations are:
When you've finished, press the default OK button which returns you to the Indexing Options dialog.
|Move to Address bar (edit combo box mode)||Alt + D|
|Move to Search box||Ctrl + E|
|Cycle round address bar, search box, toolbar, favorite links, Expand/Collapse folders button, Tree view if shown, Folder view, and the Folder view's header bar||Tab, or Shift + Tab|
|In the Folder view, move up a location||Alt + Up Arrow|
|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|